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13 September 2001
Personal reflections and a call for reason in response to the recent atrocities in Washington and New York.
I am still shocked by the images that have come into my house today. No matter that they are not strange---I have seen similar from Vietnam, the Gulf War, ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and other places of war and violence. What was so frightening was really how close to home the actions were. A complex of buildings I've visited was destroyed by hi-jacked planes. A building I've protested at was damaged by a hi-jacked plane. Other places, including an airport near Pittsburgh, were mentioned by news broadcasts as being attacked by a hi-jacked plane. Friends of mine have flown out of that airport.
There are images of women and children and men injured. There are reports thousands of fatalities. I am frightened and angry and confused. I understand, viscerally, the desire for revenge, to track down those responsible for causes so much suffering. Until I was able to talk directly to friends in the United States I was close to panic wondering if those I care about were injured or dead. I never want to go through that sensation again.
But I am sure that there are people in East Timor and Tibet and Chiapas and Zimbabwe who have felt that sensation before, repeatedly and without the hope that fear was as a response to an isolated effort. Perhaps they learned anger and a desire for revenge due to their exposure to political violence. I certainly felt it with my small experience.
And I felt, even at this distance, the effects of terror. I didn't want my wife and son to go to the library, fearing a permanent separation being possible. I wanted to withdraw all my money from the credit union in the event that the banking system closes down. I saw some of the evacuation of downtown Toronto as businesses sent their staff house. And we are hundreds of miles away from the attacks, attacks that occurred in a different country.
However understandable anger and a desire for revenge are, this desire can not and should not guide my response. Nor should it govern the response of the United States and its allies such as Canada. What happened in New York and Washington and near Pittsburgh and possibly elsewhere are unacceptable acts of violence.
But threatening war is a conscious escalation and addition to violence. It will not heal the victims of violence. It will not prevent future attacks. What will be the inevitable results of any retaliatory attack by the U.S. will be yet additional deaths of innocent people and a growth in fear and anger around the world.
In these times of growing violence, in our homes and between nations, it is time to seriously reflect on our personal and collective desire to meet violence with violence. This is not a time to have political leaders claim that they will take revenge for the attack. It is not a time to accept cracking down on dissenting voices or accepting increased police powers in the name of security. It is time for reflection. It is time for consideration.
It is time to understand that the experiences in New York and Washington are not unique and perhaps it is time to finally seek to put an end to violence as a political tool. It may be an idealistic demand---but in is perhaps time to be realistic and demand the impossible.