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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

Chorus of Sanity: a collection of personal statements

Martin Luther King (1967), Judy Eda, Tom Atlee, Diana Morley, Eryn Kalish (via Tom Atlee), Kenoli Oleari, Greg Nees (via Tom Atlee), Michael Moore

Diana Morley writes:

I'm finding that opening up a conversation to the subject of the attacks--with 
clients, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintences in the park every morning--
has opened up some thought processes.

People often begin by repeating what they've heard around them and in the news 
(we must retaliate swiftly, we must put an end to terrorism, we must rid the 
world of ben Ladin and the like) but when I suggest the difficulty of ending 
terrorism with a strike of force because it would create martyrs, and inspire 
new followers to lead, others often back down and readily admit that it's not 
that simple. I point out that Afghanistani parents love their children too, and
my friends then look down at the ground and nod, saying that they hope it would 
never come to THAT. But they've seen the possibility that's been hidden and had
to acknowledge it.

I think that merely helping others find that thoughtful state within them and 
giving permission for it to come out, despite the emphasis on toughness all 
around them, is important. It gives strength to their inner thoughts and shifts
their outward perspective a bit. If many, many people experience such a shift, 
our government's show of force won't receive the outward support it might 

And when I point out that Falwell and Robertson's Christian extremism, which 
has led followers to bomb abortion clinics and kill doctors, would hardly be 
reason for anyone to bomb the South in the regions where they live, my friends 
laugh at the absurdity and again, must make a connection that brings the matter
back home.

We have an environment, already, in which not going along with the crowd raises
a general fear that can interfere with clear thinking. I suggest that addressing
this difficult subject with others, rather than respecting their silence, may 
help them clarify their own thinking a bit and therefore show another kind of 

Judy Eda wrotes:

Is it a foregone conclusion that all business and investment interests favor
military action?  Haven't the changes in the global economy made U.S. business
interests in some ways more vulnerable, not less? If September 11's attacks
really were "an act of war," no one injured could collect a nickel of insurance:
acts of war are expressly not covered....

People who disagree with our moral or political stance may yet choose peace
because it's more practical....

Tom Atlee writes:


Eryn Kalish writes:  "Young people were calling into NPR to say 
that there is more history to what just happened than is getting play on the 

My new friend Greg Nees writes:  "I watched abc news this morning as Peter 
Jennings dialogued with many children and their parents. The wisdom of these 
children was amazing. Several suggested, in articulate ways, that perhaps these
last attacks were 'us getting some of our own medicine' - those were the actual 
words one 14 or 15 year old girl used. Truly encouraging and very different 
from the hysterical cries for war from some quarters."

The child cries out, "The emperor has no clothes!"

It is time to break the cycle of violence.

Excerpts from an article by Kenoli Oleari:

We need to own our own role in generating this crisis. [...]

[...] I don't feel guilty about or discount the value of what we, as privileged
people, bring to the table. Privilege and freedom from want is a great gift and 
allows for innovation and growth in wonderful ways.  In fact, I think as people
of privilege, it is incumbent upon us to use our privilege and the products of 
it for the greater good. [...]

However, we need to be sensitive to the dynamics of privilege and the fact
that other people's suffering is one cost of our privilege.  We have not
been blessed with privilege, we have taken it.  And the people we have
taken it from have suffered for that taking and know that they have
suffered for that.  This is not something for us to feel guilty about, but
it is something for us to recognize and make right.  If we can't do this,
the pattern will perpetuate, and life will get even more unsafe.  And that
kind of suffering can make people crazy, and it can make people into
terrorists.  Safety lies in full ownership of our role, not in denial.

The question is, can we own all of this?  Can we own our wisdom and admit
our folly?  The point is not guilt or blame, whether directed at ourselves
or others.   Privilege and oppression have real world consequences and
predictable outcomes.  Can we acquire the wisdom to see this pattern, move
past it and come together in ways that are not part of this cycle of harm?
To do this, I think we have to start in authenticity, and this means owning
and understanding our own role as well as the role of others.

I wonder if we can step out of both the blame and the bluster.  In other
countries, people don't hate us for our privilege or our democracy; they
want these things.  They love us for them.  When they do hate us -- which
is not always -- they hate us for taking things for ourselves at a cost to


I would like to share a few paragraphs from someone who lived through South
African apartheid:

"Looking at all this happening in the USA reminds us of the 80's in  South
Africa. We got so used to living under such circumstances...

"Everyone was accused and blamed for the kind of life we lead and every
deed of terrorism was revenged. People were also made proud of every
successful incident of revenge. [...]

"Soon after this day they learned through the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation
Commission] how their way of thinking was their only enemy.

"Consider for a moment, what might the USA have done that was so bad that
it would trigger people to take your own plane, carrying your own people in
it and crash it into your soul. Something must be very wrong somewhere. To
just keep on blaming -- to reflect what has happened onto someone else --
is not going to solve anything. Those people are sending a clear message -
get it!

"The USA is seen as the big bully in the village -- however to see it hurt
makes everyone feel miserable..."

I was humbled to read this.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in
South Africa in no way tolerated or excused or relieved anyone of
responsibility.  What it did was to say that only by owning our
responsibility, however heinous or innocent our acts may be, can we move
forward in a way that relieves us from repeating them.  It is not
retribution, retaliation and blame that ends violence.  It is ending
violence that ends violence -- along with the mindset that drives it.

Where is our Mandela?  Where is our Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Martin Luther King taught in 1967:

Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder.
Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth.
Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate.
Darkness cannot put out darkness.  Only light can do that....

Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an
audacious faith in the future.  When our days become dreary with
low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a
thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this
universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that
is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into
bright tomorrows.  Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends toward justice.

Martin Luther King, "Where do we go from here?", August 1967

Michael Moore writes:

The man who occupies the White House cried today. Good. Keep crying, Mr.
Bush. The more you cry, the less you will go to that dark side in all humans
where anger rages to a point where we want to blindly kill. Your dad's and
Reagan's old cronies -- Eagleberger, Baker, Schultz -- are all calling for
you to bomb first and ask questions later. You must NOT do this. If only
because you do not want to stoop to these mass murderers' level. Yes, find
out who did it. Yes, see that they NEVER do it again.

But GET A GRIP, man. "Declare war?" War against whom? One guy in the desert
whom we can never seem to find? Are our leaders telling us that the most
powerful country on earth cannot dispose of one sick evil f---wad of a guy?
Because if that is what you are telling us, then we are truly screwed. If
you are unable to take out this lone ZZ Top wannabe, what on earth would you
do for us if we were attacked by a nation of millions? For chrissakes, call
the Israelis and have them do that thing they do when they want to get their
man! We pay them enough billions each year, I am SURE they would be happy to
accommodate your request.

But I beg you, Mr. Bush, stay with the tears. Go today to comfort the
wounded of New York. Tell the mayor, a guy most of us have not liked, that
he is doing an incredible job, keeping the spirits of everyone up as high as
they can be at this moment. Being there for a city I believe he loves, his
own cancer still with him, he goes beyond the call of duty.

But do not declare war and massacre more innocents. After bin Laden's
previous act of terror, our last elected president went and bombed what he
said was "bin Laden's camp" in Afghanistan -- but instead just killed
civilians. Then he bombed a factory in the Sudan, saying it was "making
chemical weapons." It turned out to be making aspirin. Innocent people
murdered by our Air Force.

Back in May, you gave the Taliban in Afghanistan $48 million dollars of our
tax money. No free nation on earth would give them a cent, but you gave them
a gift of $48 million because they said they had "banned all drugs."

Because your drug war was more important than the actual war the Taliban had
inflicted on its own people, you helped to fund the regime who had given
refuge to the very man you now say is responsible for killing my friend on
that plane and for killing the friends of families of thousands and
thousands of people. How dare you talk about more killing now! Shame! Shame!
Shame! Explain your actions in support of the Taliban! Tell us why your
father and his partner Mr. Reagan trained Mr. bin Laden in how to be a

Am I angry? You bet I am. I am an American citizen, and my leaders have
taken my money to fund mass murder. And now my friends have paid the price
with their lives.

Keep crying, Mr. Bush. Keep running to Omaha or wherever it is you go while
others die, just as you ran during Vietnam while claiming to be "on duty" in
the Air National Guard. Nine boys from my high school died in that miserable
war. And now you are asking for "unity" so you can start another one? Do not
insult me or my country like this!

Yes, I, too, will be in church at noon today, on this national day of
mourning. I will pray for you, and us, and the children of New York, and the
children of this sad and ugly world ...


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