No Shelter

Vengeance isnt justice

One of my friends suspects the attacks were carried out by the protesters who were rioting outside the G8 meeting in Genoa. And I can see how she might think that, since American TV ignored the hours of TV footage Europeans saw, of the Italian police rioting and beating prostrate elderly protesters.

How much do Americans even know about the discord in the Middle East, the likely spur of this terrorist attack? In U.S. newspaper accounts, every Israeli killed has a face and a story, while the Palestinian dead are just tallied numbers. They were all just as alive, and they're all just as dead. And it helps not a whit for us to label the murderers with rocks "terrorists" while calling the murderers supplied with our jets and rockets "security forces."

President Bush is promising vengeance, the marvelous solution that is working so well on a daily basis from Belfast to the West Bank. And no one is asking where such horror begins.

There is no shortage of nuts in the world. Didn't even one of the Columbine kids have plans to hijack a plane and crash it into a crowded building? And for what reason? Acne? We will never be safe from wackos.

But there are still more people driven mad by the injustices in the world. If you've seen children on your block killed by a helicopter gunship, you might be less inclined to see the evil in killing people whose nation helped pay for that gunship.

Again, nothing could excuse what was done to those twin towers holding thousands of lives: some of them supported Israel, some Palestine. Some loved scampi, some dim sum. Some read Reader's Digest, some The Village Voice. Some loved their work; some dreamed of five o'clock. Some aspired to write rock operas; some were probably content burping their babies. And all of them are now forever melded with collapsed concrete and steel in the biggest single heap of misery since World War II.

Even if our leaders paint a sufficiently large target to rack up a numerically equivalent retribution—raining on the farmer who loves falafel and another mother who finds joy in burping her infant—that would just up the ante for the next terrorist attack.

Why, at this tragic moment, would I even think of writing an article critical of our country? Because we are the only factor here we can change. We can't kill all the terrorists or shield ourselves against them.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. As we're finding this week, there's little protection in the vigilance we direct outward toward perceived enemies, "rogue states" or "terrorist nations." Rather, if anything protects us, it will be the vigilance we apply to our own souls and the institutions that should be representing us. Martin Luther King Jr. asserted that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere. This is not a liberal homily or something to put off while watching "reality" TV; it may be the only equation we have for making this world survive. Look to South Africa, where the horrors and injustices have been as great as any in the world; yet with their reconciliation committees, they're replacing vengeance with understanding because it is the only way to go on.

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