Since 2001, the anniversary of that day has become a national day of mourning and reflection; actually, it is a global day of mourning. We’ll remember where we were when it happened or when we found out in addition to the people whose lives were lost, we may reflect on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we can reflect on how that terrible day changed us. I want to take this opportunity to ponder this day and reconcile my thoughts with my recent exposure to Franciscan tradition.
A quick side note: This last week, I finally started working (Full Time) at Neumann University, a school founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Part of the orientation includes a discussion of Franciscan values. Historically, St. Francis changed the course of his life when he hugged a leper. This encouraged him to focus his attention on these unfortunate people who were forbidden inside the walls of the city or castle. Usually the walls kept in the desirables, i.e., the affluent, and kept out invaders and the unfortunate.
In this discussion, I was struck by the comment that Sister Marguerite said, that she wonders who would be on the outside of her or society’s walls today, and that these are the people we should now be focused on helping and accepting. I was reminded of personal prejudices and how I should be more accepting of people who fall into these categories. Today I remember my struggle to accept the reality of life following the attacks and come to terms with my feelings and perspectives about these Muslim-extremist terrorists.
I’ve wondered if I can accept Al Qaeda as being worthy of anything positive. I’ve struggled to understand their point of view and why they think it is acceptable to randomly kill people to publicize their causes. In them, and in us, I can see a fear of the future as the world we live in has changed so rapidly and will continue to evolve. I also see a common fear of the degeneration of society and tradition as a whole. Many of us desire to return to a time where life was “simpler” with more absolutes. For us the goal seems to be around the 1950s. For Muslim Arabs I surmise the world was better before European Colonialization or before the Zionists went into Palestine to create or reestablish Israel.
Of course, not everyone would agree that these were the respective golden ages of society. At least here in the US we had more overt racism and sexism (never mind anything regarding sexuality). I firmly believe many of the points of discussion about social issues existed then; they were mostly ignored by the majority (at least that’s what I think occurred). These social issues I refer to include racism and sexism, in addition to physical and sexual abuse by loved ones, rape, pedophilia, incest, etc. As I don’t know enough about the Islamic nations before colonial times, I cannot conjecture about their realities other than to say human nature does not truly change.
As to their views on Europe and the United States, I can understand their anger at our imposing our world view on the Islamic states, and their anger at our act to send our undesired future Israelis to impose their own rules on an area considered to be Muslim. Remember during the early 1900s the US had deep distrust of Jews and firmly believed in segregation. Much of that feeling still exists in Europe as well. Unfortunately, several Americans continue to distrust Jews.
We must accept as fact that Americans are a rather arrogant nation. These extremists believe this to be true, and as our allies also believe this I don’t think we can deny this aspect of ourselves. Our patriotism is good, but our blindness to other perspectives is a major weakness. We must also accept the times are changing and will continue to do so. We must determine how to thrive and succeed in today instead of clinging to nostalgia. In fact, everyone needs to do so, not just the Americans. We also need to understand or try to understand other perspectives and use this knowledge to our benefit, if not everyone’s benefit. I know this point of view is idealistic, but I truly believe this is the only way to defeat the terrorists as well as to continue to be a world power.
As these terrorists are certainly on the outside of my internal city walls, I’d like to think I’ve come to accept their opinions and beliefs about almost everything. To this day I continue to struggle with their belief that attacking random innocents to promote the terrorists’ cause. The beliefs of St. Francis suggest we should work with these outsiders to improve their lives and therefore our lives, without destroying another group’s lives. Probably this opportunity existed back in the 1980s. Today I don’t think we can help these terrorists. Yes they’re outside the walls, but they’re not outsiders but rather invaders. I doubt St. Francis meant for us to accept their violence. Al Qaeda certainly indicates we’re outside their city walls.
I still can’t accept the violence.