Saturday, September 04, 2004

Helplessness Does Not (Necessarily) Equal Hopelessness

I won't post any links to the Russian school tragedy. Anyone with the ability to get to this blog already has more than enough skill to find all the stories and gut-wrenching images that I've seen myself. I've had my fill and will look no further.

As one who grew up during the Cold War, the demarcation seemed pretty clear. The "bad guys" wore bland clothes, spoke with eastern European accents, used a lot of red in their flags and symbolism, and were decidedly Communist. Terrorists were fringe. They were confined to arabian deserts, or parts of Ireland (I could never remember whether it was north or south). They were relatively easy to dismiss as lunatics. They wouldn't be a problem so long as I never travelled to those parts of the world. I was more concerned about the Commies.

The 1972 Olympic games in Munich arrived. The Israeli team was taken hostage. The end was not pretty. For several days I, along with the rest of the civilized world, watched in stunned disbelief as the terrorists made a statement. We may be lunatics, the statement read, but we're closer than you think. And suddenly I didn't feel quite as safe anymore.

Then came adulthood and all the distractions of establishing myself and my family. Much too busy to do more than try to keep up with the mainstream media and the 12-second sound bite journalists. I rejoiced with everyone else when the Berlin wall was torn down, but was still only marginally aware of the terrorists' imminent threat.

Finally, as a father, world dangers gradually came into sharper focus. I began to be aware that there were risks to my children's lives all around us. My own neighborhood may well have harbored people who would do my children harm, and I began to trust fewer souls. Gangs followed me from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert and threatened to turn us into another slum. Public schools teemed with immaturity, drugs, guns, and sex. Explosive combinations to which I was supposed to subject my sweet children.

Suddenly, terrorists took center stage in my consciousness. No longer merely fringe players, they took on the traits of sentient, calculating beings, capable of death and destruction in varying degrees. Still, I reasoned, I was relatively safe living in the United States. True, working for a major defense contractor meant that any nut with a nuke and a missile might make my workplace a target, but what were the chances of that?

Enter 9/11. Suddenly, the very thing I had been led to believe would never happen, happened. We were attacked on our own shores by the terrorists. Terrorists that we, in our naivete, had supported when once upon a time they fought against our "common" enemies. We really didn't understand then about their motivations, abilities, and copious amounts of patience. They could afford to wait.

There are those who say we should have seen it coming long before it happened. Probably true. They also say that we brought it on ourselves. At least partly true. Our patriotic arrogance had blinded us to the realities of the dangers of the terrorists, and our over-confidence in our military might gave us an inflated sense of security.


Nothing justifies what these animals have shown themselves capable of doing. Nothing. Critics who say that the United States and her allies made the terrorists who they are need to study their history. Maybe even read their bibles. Terrorists have a much longer history than we do as a nation, and their aims have never wavered. They're just better equipped now. They have the ability, and the willingness, to use our own technologies against us. They have the motivation that combines their warped interpretations of their religion with a fanaticism bred into them through generations long past. Where we grew up believing that violence should be a last resort, they grew up believing that violence was the only way, and that a glorious future awaited those who perished in the cause.

You cannot reason with such people.

The obvious answer is painful. It will never be universally acceptable because there are so many pacifists among us. Even with such a preponderance of evidence, they will never accept that such people cannot be reasoned with, or "rehabilitated." Terrorists will never modify or abdicate any part of their goal, because Allah would never forgive them for doing so. They would far rather die than compromise. And they have done so repeatedly.

It is also unacceptable to blame this merely on "religion," as some would have us do. Many terrorists have no religious affiliation. I happen to consider gangs in this country to be a form of terrorist. For those terrorists who claim to adhere to a religion, they represent one or more extreme factions of that religion. As a religion to be studied, Islam has many fine qualities. So do Irish Catholics and Protestants, for that matter. Regardless of their motivation, terrorists must be dealt with. Severely.

The pacifists of the world seem not to accept that innocent people are always part of the terrorists' planned victims. Those innocent victims will always include children. Your children. My children. It makes no difference to the terrorists, because they even use their own children. And kill them. In the name of Allah. Or whomever they worship.

As I say, the obvious answer is painful and probably not politic. But I will ultimately support it, if ever it becomes the answer of this government. We do seem to be leaning in that direction.

God help us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said! I've never been so sickened, and there's been some awfully sick things happening these last few years.