|Photo credit (I believe) to James Nachtwey.|
Not the actual terrorist attacks--that was tragic, no doubt. Unthinkably crazy and tragic. Well, at least relative to the wealth and security standards of the United States. Still, you know that there are bad people in the world and they want to do bad things. Sometimes they will try. And sometimes they will succeed.
But what really makes me sad, what really gives me cause to mourn, still, today, is the aftermath. The immediate aftermath. The hate and venom and blood in the eyes of everyday Americans who turned purple with Tybalt-like rage and calls for revenge. ("...peace? I hate the word...") My neighbors. My coreligionists. My family.
I was overwhelmed. I was fearful. I didn't know the capacity for such hate and violence rested in so many seemingly normal, kind, relatively compassionate humans. In the majority. A majority, it seemed, that couldn't be relied on to pursue a path to peace. There were calls for war. For massive and indiscriminate devastation. For nukes! No one was clamoring for justice under the law, rather it was a primal, primitive justice everyone lusted for. It was a head for an eye; an arm for a hand. Mob-boss justice: do me a small harm and I'll rip the limbs off the bodies of those you love.
And you still see this ugly, violent, hateful, revenge-hungry sentiment today in how we "memorialize" the events of 9-11. Love of country more than love of humanity. The words "Never Forget" emblazoned on images of violence and destruction. (What does it mean to "never forget" anyway? That we'll never get over it? That we'll never move on? That we'll store up that anger and hate and unleash it whenever the opportunity arises?)
We call ourselves a Christian nation, and we are, I suppose (polls confirm it, minorities feel it), but we, as a nation, are hardly followers of Jesus. We'd much rather worship the Gods of War than follow a Prince of Peace. We lust for unlimited power and eschew true humility. We're simply incapable, as a people, to acknowledge the tree trunk growing from our eye as we strain to find the imperfections in others; kicking unmercifully the world's unfortunates while patting ourselves on the back for our pittance in alms.
Those are the sorts of thoughts that jiggle around my skull on days like today. And now my head hurts.