Friday, September 11, 2009
Originally written September 19, 2001
Can our children be soldiers of peace?
We reach for new words; we have beheld and endured an unprecedented level of horror, and the old words are inadequate to honour our sorrow and sense of unspeakable loss and fear. We have been compelled to acknowledge, not only the tangibility of evil, but its capability and unmerciful force. That members of our own human family could feel and act upon such immeasurable hatred is incomprehensible and unbearably heartbreaking.
It is unbearable to contemplate the agony and deaths, the terror felt so keenly; it is unbearable to ponder the desolation of orphans and widows and widowers...friends and lovers lost. The regrets, the guilt, the hardships. Yes, even from such a distance from which I sit, it is unbearable.
On September 11th, my small town in North Eastern Canada lay as still as a country night as people sat stunned in homes and business, witnessing second-hand the terror in the United States. I broke down upon reflecting on the massive consequence of the losses and suffering. But I felt embarrassed by my tears...as though I had no right to mourn so deeply for losses that are not my own. How can I feel so much, so intensely? I didn't understand, and hid my tears from others. How could I help my children understand?
Within hours of the tragedy, Canadians across the country sought for ways to help, inquiring about blood contributions to the Red Cross and relief-fund donations. Many folks went to airports to be with the thousands of passengers who were diverted there; we offered solace and company, food, blankets and whatever comfort that could be shared. A group of musicians gave an impromptu concert to passengers, singing songs to lift spirits or help tears flow --mostly to share in the best way they knew. Businesses and individuals have made monetary donations. Vigils held; Prayers spoken; Silence observed. American flags fly half-mast alongside our Canadian flag. And many cry.
The counter-action to the depravity and inhumanity has been human compassion and strength it its full might. Just as joy and sorrow are twins, so, too, it seems are tragedy and triumph. Who cannot be moved by, and proud of, the large and small acts of courage, bravery, leadership, kindness and caring that highlight the aftermath of this abomination? Just as the dead are countless, so, too, are the heroes.
But one distressing result has been the increase in racially motivated assaults on individuals across Canada and the United States. Aside from speaking of the attackers’ moral bankruptcy, these crimes also speak of the attackers ignorance and their willingness to be puppets to the hate-mongers who would see their destruction. If we allow terrorists to turn us against one another, against peaceful members of our North American "melting pot", who, in the end should we fear more? We mustn't assist the evil that yearns to see us butchered!
But how do we combat an enemy that is more an idea than a party? More deaths are to follow as we practice "an eye for an eye" and soon the whole world will be blind with hatred. We are at a crossroads in our human history, and all paths seem washed in blood! Surely this cannot be the outcome. We are living in a new world, seeking sense and new words...and we cannot go back in time no matter how much we yearn for lost loved ones, security and innocence. But surely more blood cannot be the outcome!
I will soon bring a new baby into our world, and my fresh understanding of the globe made me panicked ! How could I bring another innocent into this insanity? . But now I welcome the opportunity to add one more citizen who will be part of a generation who will seek peace and sense in the shadow of this madness that stretches across the planet.
No--I should not be uncomfortable with my tears. Tragedy has no borders; borders cannot not arrest the sweep of sadness. Our compassion is not only rightful but essential to the other war which must be fought: a war against hatred itself. Globally we are moved and we share the loss. Our interpretation of the world may never heal -- but we are bound to one another even more strongly today. We are bound in defiance to the murderous assault on the human spirit.