Another anniversary of September 11th has now come and gone. This is what I wrote on the day after the event, September 12, 2001.
Discussing security strategy, tactics and response misses the main point that yesterday showed: ultimately, there is no way of keeping an event such as this from happening except by making the people of the world love us more.
I know it sounds absurd. But in the end, there is no other prevention.
We think we are good and right almost always. Maybe that's so. But we are unable to understand the deeper motivations of the perpetrators.
We are people of the highest privilege; and yet it surprises us to find that others in the world are unimpressed by our statements that we are the world's beacon of freedom. That is not impressive to them? Why not?
Let me suggest that when we walk away from international treaties, when we hold nations captive to debt, and with a thousand other acts less noticed by us, we are causing resentments.
What comes foremost to my mind is that we need to be sweet and highly generous - to a fault. Not to these perpetrators, obviously, but generally to the world at large.
Prior to this event, I've joked that if you take a poverty-wracked enemy of the United States like, say North Korea or Cuba (now add Afghanistan), we'd be better off strategically and financially if we paid every citizen there a personal check for $5,000 from the US taxpayers, rather than spending our money on the perpetual war machine. We'd save so much effort, stress and cash if we just bought the friendship of the populace!
Obviously, I was being facetious. But think about it, ask yourself -- what did we spend yesterday? What will it cost us to remain so long aloof and oblivious to the wretched of the world outside? Trillions?
I have not released this writing before now because frankly it lacks sophistication in the matter of explaining the alchemy of how our conduct in relation to the Arab-Muslim world contributed to the atmosphere of fear and desperation that brought fundamentalist-extremist terrorists into being there. That is, I had felt that what I wrote then was too easily susceptible to the fearmongering charge that the author is justifying the terrorists’ actions or “blaming America first.” A fine rendering of this relationship was recently given by Karen Armstrong (“Our Role in the Terror”, Guardian/UK, September 18, 2003) and I feel that, backed by the reader’s understanding that I am entirely in agreement with the view she expresses, I no longer need to worry that my position is not well-represented.
What matters most to me now is the central point that mattered most to me then: not what our government did or didn’t do previously that might make us “responsible”, nor what the hell was/is going on in the minds of the terrorists. The thing that matters is the heart’s measure of what our nation is doing today and tomorrow. Are we serving love?
I’ve seen scant national progress by that measure from September 12, 2001 to today - the national policy is more about fear and dreams of domination. Coming from an unloved, unloving place. Yet if America would bring love, we would get love, and though I suppose it would be better if we were not so selfishly motivated for reciprocity, still that would be a great step forward from the quality of our actions over the past two years. Maybe money can’t buy us love, but love can; would that our only fault were to be that understandably and forgivably self-serving.
The only way to create a safer world is to ensure that it is more just." - Karen Armstrong