Teri Lee has asked me to write something about the events of September 11th.
I’m not a military expert, nor an authority on terrorism. I’m not a psychiatrist or a sociologist. I’m not any kind of an expert; I’m just someone who writes books.
But amid all the grief, all the anger, all the desire—the need—for some way to strike back at those who have perpetrated this evil, I am seeing, and feeling in myself, the proliferation of the same evil, creeping into the way Americans are thinking, and tainting what we are.
I see and hear threats against all Moslems, or even people that just LOOK like Moslems. Before there is even evidence about who is responsible, I am seeing people advocating turning entire countries into radioactive waste. “Kill them all and let God sort them out,” seems to be the prevalent opinion.
This would make us no better than the ones who massacred all those helpless souls. In fact, it would make us worse.
The fanatics of the Moslem world claim that WE are the barbarians, that WE are the ones who slaughter women and children in order to prove a point, that WE are the ones who brought this on ourselves.
So in the coming days, ask yourself: are you going to live down to that estimation?
Are you going to prove that you are just as ignorant, just as barbaric, just as self-centered as they claim you are?
Or, when you hear someone spouting off, venting his or her rage, against perfectly innocent people of good will, are you going to do the right, the brave, the AMERICAN thing?
Are you going to stand up to the bigots? Are you going to come to the defense of those of good will, the Moslems and those of Middle Eastern lineage in this country who had NOTHING to do with this atrocity? Are you willing to be called a traitor and worse, in order to defend them and the principles of justice and tolerance that are what is best about this country?
The right thing, the brave thing, the hardest thing to be done is to wait—wait until there is proof, wait until we KNOW who is responsible for this. Then, when we know, only then can we allow our rage free rein, against the appropriate target.
If you must do something, do something positive. Stand up for tolerance, stand against the bigots, stand up for reason and justice. Raise money for the families of the victims. Give blood.
There are people who lost, not family, but homes and possessions. Find ways to help them.
Be there to comfort those who have lost someone—be there for your local police and firemen. Bake a cake or make a casserole and take it to the firestation. Hundreds of firemen lost their lives in this tragedy, and firemen everywhere call each other brother and sister—the men and women of YOUR fire companies feel this loss as surely as one of blood. And because they are who and what they are, their feeling of helpless frustration, of being ineffective, is exponentially worse than it is for any of us. Be there for them.
But above all, extend the hand of American brotherhood to those who don’t look like ‘us’, who don’t worship like ‘us,’ who have strange accents and strange clothing, and customs we don’t quite understand, but who, nevertheless, are as appalled by all of this as any of ‘us.’ They came here because we are supposed to be tolerant, accepting, generous.
Don’t prove that our enemies are right about us.