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First they came for the communists,
but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists
and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they
came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they
came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.
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|Have We Forgotten 9/11? - Thursday, September 09, 2010 at 00:01|
1) Iran is building nuclear bombs: 2) Some people are burning Korans:
1) Iran is building nuclear bombs:
2) Some people are burning Korans:
Have We Forgotten 9/11?
David C. Stolinsky, MD
Nine years later, I am still angry about 9/11. Many people are not. In fact, many people barely remember 9/11. They see nothing wrong with building a mosque at Ground Zero. They do not realize that Ground Zero is already a holy place. They do not realize that it would be similar to building a Japanese Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor, near the USS Arizona Memorial. They do not realize that, like our troops raising our flag on Iwo Jima, it would be a symbol of victory − but not our victory.
The problem with 9/10 thinking is that it leads to 9/11.
One reason for our confusion is that we get conflicting advice on what to do with our anger. Many “experts” tell us that anger is a negative emotion – one to be avoided. Assorted gurus teach us to “put anger aside,” “find closure” and “get on with our lives.” Clergy may give similar advice. Friends may say, “Just get over it.”
But is this good advice? Is it good psychologically? Is it good morally? Even if we can “just get over it,” should we?
The Bible tells us to calm our anger over minor injuries done to us. Nowhere are we told to forgive those who do not ask forgiveness. Nowhere are we told to forgive those who inflict horrible suffering on others. To forgive such people isn't kindness – it’s cruelty to all those who will be hurt by the evil that we didn’t stop.
The only aspect of 9/11 that I have a right to forgive is the emotional distress I felt watching it on TV – a microscopic part of that event.
If you are beaten up, I have no right to forgive the attacker. But at least I have some understanding of what it means to be beaten up. What can I grasp about 9/11?
For me to usurp the right to forgive the terrorists would be arrogant and egotistical. Only the victims have the right to forgive. And they aren’t here.
Ethical principles tell us to do difficult things for others, not easy things for ourselves. We should be suspicious of a principle that tells us to do nothing when others are in peril. It is unlikely to be an ethical principle, and more likely to be a rationalization for our own selfishness and cowardice.
Doing nothing after almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens were horribly murdered – that’s ethical? No, it’s cowardly.
Having more sympathy for terrorists who were killed in a war that they started than for our own people – that’s ethical? No, it’s an excuse for cowardice.
Emphasizing our defects rather than our enemies’ atrocities – that’s ethical? No, it’s an excuse for inaction.
Clearly, the relatives and friends of the victims of 9/11 should do whatever helps to allay their pain. If forgiving the terrorists serves to mitigate the suffering, let them do so. But what about the rest of us, who didn’t lose anyone we knew on 9/11? Should we “get on with our lives” and “let go of our anger”?
We have confused the proper response of relatives and friends with what everyone else should do. We have confused what is psychologically best for the relatives with what is morally best for all the rest of us.
Psychology tells us what we should do to relieve emotional pain. It tells us nothing about what we should do to fulfill our obligations to others. This used to be taught by parents, who now work two jobs and have little time to teach anything. It used to be taught by teachers, who now can barely teach English and mathematics. It used to be taught by clergy, many of whom now preach how to feel good, not how to do good.
True, doing good often makes us feel good. But sometimes doing good is difficult, or even painful and dangerous.
Sometimes doing good requires us to recognize evil, despite the ugliness.
Sometimes doing good requires us to fight evil, despite the danger.
Sometimes doing good is the opposite of feeling good. This is a lesson you will rarely hear from New Age gurus or liberal clergy.
Rather than babbling about “getting rid of anger,” competent psychologists help us to find the real source of our anger. Then we can attempt to remedy the situation, rather than bottling up our anger – only to have it burst out unexpectedly.
If we are inhibited from expressing anger at those who deserve it, we may express it at those who don’t. Perhaps this is one reason for domestic violence, workplace violence and road rage. If we expressed more anger at criminals and terrorists, we might express less anger at spouses, children, coworkers or motorists.
Instead we are told, “Have sympathy for all humanity.” Sympathy can be beautiful, but if misdirected it can turn ugly. Sympathy for criminals can lead to more criminals going free, and therefore more crime. Sympathy for terrorists can induce us to “see their point of view,” which hampers efforts to combat terrorism. If we squander our sympathy on criminals, we will have none left for victims.
And we are told that anger is always destructive. Of course anger can be destructive, but if properly directed it can also be constructive.
· Anger at child molesters can lead to stronger laws, and fewer children kidnapped from their bedrooms or dragged from their front yards.
· Anger at criminals can lead to more criminals living behind prison bars, and fewer law-abiding citizens living behind window bars.
· Anger at terrorists can lead to dismantling their network and preventing another 9/11.
Anger at the perpetrators of 9/11 may have been part of the motivation for waterboarding one of the chief planners, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As a result of information he revealed, a plot to crash a plane into the Los Angeles Library Tower was broken up, saving thousands of lives. Now known as the U.S. Bank Tower, it is the tallest building west of Chicago. Those who reject this idea should realize that the only way to prove it conclusively would have been to let the plot go forward and watch the people die.
Saints may be able to rid themselves of all anger, but most of us are very far from being saints. For us, the realistic goal is not to eliminate our anger, but to control it and direct it properly. For us, 9/11 was not only a sin and an act of war – it was also a horribly costly lesson.
Let’s not waste it. Let’s use it to relearn what we used to know – the difference between petty anger and righteous indignation.
Yes, nine years later I am still angry about 9/11, and I will be until the terrorist network has been rooted out. Only then can I allow myself to “just get over it.”
But if I am tempted to forget about 9/11, I can remind myself of the scenes that caused our enemies so much joy that they danced in the streets:
The motto of Scotland is “Nemo me impune lacessit.” It is usually translated as “No one attacks me and goes unpunished.” The Scots render it colloquially as “Who dares meddle with me?” We Americans tend to be even more direct, as witness “The Ballad of Mike Moran.”
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.