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Blog: What I said after September 11, 2001

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    It seems the press has finally exhausted every angle of the controversy of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's words after September 11th, 2001. The irony is that preachers of many faiths are saying radical things from their pulpits every week. Like the prophets and sages that we have followed for millennia, we preach words that challenge those who will listen and act to be their best selves.


    As I mentioned in the discussion of a previous post, 19th-century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said to the congregation at the ordination of a colleague in 1841:
    You may hire you servants to preach as you bid; to spare your vices and flatter your follies; to prophecy smooth things, and say, It is peace when there is no peace. Yet in so doing, you weaken and enthrall yourselves. . . . But, on the other hand, you may encourage your servants to tell you the truth. You will then have their best words, brightest thoughts, and most hearty prayers.
    Here is what I said from the pulpit in the weeks after September 11, 2001. Like Reverend Wright, I was critical of the United States. But I hope these were my best words, brightest thoughts, and most hearty prayers.

    What Will We Do?
    The world changed two weeks ago. The United States experienced the worst attack on its soil in its history. Our world changed and we have been grieving. We have been grieving either the loss of a loved one, co-worker, or acquaintance...or if we knew none of the victims personally or indirectly, we have been grieving for our lost sense of security and the inescapable sorrow of the magnitude of the human loss of September 11th. Let us continue to grieve as long as is necessary for our individual and collective health. But let us today also begin the process of deciding what we will do as a religious community in response to this tragedy.

    I will tell you that in the past weeks I have become angry. But I am not angry that New York and Washington were attacked. For that I am sorrowful and grieving. I am not angry that the U.S. is retaliating, for that I am praying for the best from a horrible situation. I am angry because I feel pressure to support unconditionally, unquestioningly, the current fervor of patriotism and nationalism that has swept America. I am angry that the mayor of New York returned a $10 million dollar charitable donation because the contributor spoke critically of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Isn't this a country of dialogue and disagreement and freedom of speech? I think back to an often heard Unitarian Universalist sentiment that "Unanswered questions are far less dangerous that unquestioned answers."

    A few days ago was America and Patriotism Day in Champaign County, Illinois. The University of Illinois participated, encouraged its interested employees to wear red, white, and blue, and gave American flag pins to all who made a donation to the American Red Cross. They released a campus wide memo urging everyone to support all Americans...I was terribly embarrassed. Don't get me wrong. I love this country, I cherish the good fortune of being an American, I recognize the unequaled and maybe unfair advantage that we as Americans enjoy. I served for many years on active duty in the Navy and have been in harm's way in the defense of this country and our allies. But I was embarrassed with the institutionally supported American patriotism and nationalism in a community and institution that is incredibly international and ethnically diverse. I thought immediately of those foreign nationals, naturalized citizens, or Americans of non-European heritage who are already frightened, who aren't feeling safe leaving their homes, who have been excluded from our national day of solidarity in response to an event that affected the entire world, an event in which citizens of dozens of countries were killed, an event that most of the world has been mourning and against which most of the world has rallied in opposition.

    A few days ago, I was called a terrorist lover. I had received a series of inflammatory pictures from a friend in the military. They depicted such things as a lake in the place of Afghanistan, a wanted poster of Osama Bin Laden, and a fighter jet together with a quote from Deuteronomy intimating that military retaliation was the stuff of God. I replied to the sender and all others on the mailing list, most of whom I know, and asked that I be removed from the list, that I had no room in my life such vengeful statements in the face of continued grieving and on the eve of a dangerous and arguable military action. Someone on the list who I don't know replied with a colorful expletive to describe me and wondering whether there was an especially hot place in hell for terrorist lovers.

    I do not understand hate in the name of patriotism and ignorance in the name of righteousness. The rhetoric is strong, the stakes are high, and the death of many people of many nationalities is imminent.

    American soil was attacked, and mostly Americans were killed. But this was an assault on the entire world, not just the United States of America. I fear that our overzealous patriotism lacks humility in name of righteousness. We have been a country ideologically divided in recent years, and were in great need of unity. Ironically, we now have unity in the face of a common enemy.

    We have heard this attack likened to Pearl Harbor. This wasn't Pearl Harbor. This was more insidious. Pearl Harbor was an attack on a U.S. military facility on a U.S. territory, not a state, by a hostile military force, during an ongoing war which many thought we should have already joined. Almost all of the deaths were of U.S. citizens - military personnel who knew the risks of their service. I don't mean to diminish the seriousness of Pearl Harbor, I simply hope that we can keep these tragedies in their own contexts. On September 11th, many thousands of civilians of many nationalities and ethnicities were targeted and killed. America is united like it has not been in many years, but our common enemy is not just an enemy of America. Terrorism is the enemy of humanity, of human freedom. It preys on our most basic needs by threatening our physical and psychological security. But it is not an American problem. And this is where we can learn from the world. Indeed, we are perhaps the least experienced nation on the planet in responding to international terrorism.

    I have been asked in the past weeks - "how can anyone hate so much?" It's easy for us to forget, or deny, or be unaware, that many places in the world live with fear, hunger, lack of resources, oppression, and war all the time. In some perverse way, the attacks of the 11th were an extreme "in your face" wake-up call that our lifestyles and policies in the United States are questioned and disliked by many around the world. When people feel abused, they tend to either withdraw or abuse others. These terrorists chose to abuse others.

    Americans are using an unfair share of the world's resources, considered arrogant, self-centered, and greedy, and seen as caring more about their economy than about each other. Disregard for our fellow human beings begets disregard for our fellow human beings.

    Leadership is required. Unitarians and Universalists have led this country many times during periods of tragedy or conflict. They were among the promoters of American independence. There is the timeless and influential work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Margaret Fuller, a friend of Emerson's, who wrote the first treatment of women's issues in the U.S. "Women in the 19th Century." Susan B. Anthony worked tirelessly for women's suffrage. Clara Barton was an organizer of the American Red Cross. William Ellery Channing embraced the derogatory label of Unitarian and moved forward in vision of an inclusive church. Dorothea Dix, a parishioner of Channing's, was a leading advocate for quality care for the mentally ill. Horace Mann, a founder of free, public education. The Rev. James Reeb lost his life because he saw no other alternative than to walk with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The list goes on and on until today.

    The founder of American Universalism, the Rev. John Murray, said: "Give the people something of your vision. You may possess only a small light, but uncover it, let it shine, use it to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Do not preach so as to deepen their theological despair. Give them not hell, but hope and courage."

    It is time to lead again.....

    We can do the basics of writing to our elected leaders, participating in the relief effort in whatever way we are able. We can move to personal non-acceptance of intolerance, stereotyping and blanket hate. We can act publicly, we can educate, we can comfort, we can lead. Most importantly, we must be in relationship with our families, friends, our communities, and with strangers. Each of us must decide our level of commitment in action. We must then decide how to be a unified voice of concern and compassionate action.

    The nation and the world are on the verge of a new era, a new global reality that will define our future and that of our children, and their children. We have over the past century, shrunk our world into a global community in terms of information, commerce, international relations, immigration. We are a global village, but we have not learned to live in global peace and justice. That is our task as Unitarian-Universalists, as Americans, as inhabitants of this earth. The American government is responding to this crisis, I pray that this response moves beyond military action into one concerned with the state of the world.

    I ask you to look beyond the obvious, look beyond the popular, ask questions, question the answers, what is it that will allow us to live in a safe world free not only of terrorism, but of intolerance, injustice, oppression, inequality. Reject the path of least resistance in favor of that which depicts the divine, which embraces the unexplainable, which gives meaning to life as our lives take on new meaning, as we try to live in this world that has jolted us into a new realization of the precious and fragile nature of life.

    Amen.




    Posted by Matt Tittle at April 17, 2008 05:36 PM

    http://blogs.chron.com/keepthefaith/2008/04/what_i_said_after_september_11.html
  2. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    once again ...... its "partly" our fault.

    Americans being selfish begets murdering thousands of women and children.

    That blogger is Awesome.
  3. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    So once again it's America's fault for 9/11. Because many people don't like our policies they choose to "abuse" us. (Not murder, but abuse).

    We use up more than our fair share of the worlds resources so therefore. We care more about the economy than others.

    Wow! How ignorant can this guy be. We give more aid in terms of money, food and clothing to more nations than all the other nations combined but we are selfish.

    This guy is in dire need of an education.

    He says we need unification, but his own words are divisive. Just another in the long line of people who only want unity on their own terms. That is a joke.
  4. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    And before the claws come out ..... I understand that this article does not necessarily express the views of the original poster.

    I was commenting on the text ..... not the OP
  5. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    Ditto. Did I sound like I was????


    :laugh2: @ the claws thingy.
  6. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    I didn't take it you were addressing me. I just thought it was an interesting read and was sharing...

    I guess I could start adding disclaimers to all my posted articles. "The points expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the original poster or the Zone staff." :)
  7. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Just wanted to make sure you knew that. And I agree its an interesting read.

    I just totally disagree with him.

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