WNIJ Commentary 9/11/02 Diana Swanson

Last September, I was full of horror, grief, and fear. One year later, the intensity of horror and grief has diminished, but I am more afraid. I also feel a moral nausea that has grown over this year. I'll try to explain why. Annie Dillard wrote that "cruelty is a waste of pain." Some pain is necessary to life. Birth is painful, change is painful, growth is often painful. Some bruises and scrapes are the price of learning to walk, run, play games. It can be painful to tell the truth, or to say you're sorry. Saying goodbye is painful, disappointment is painful. Wasteful pain is that pain which is not needed for life, growth, and community. There is such a waste of pain in the world today, such violence, exploitation, hunger, and loneliness. The attacks last September 11 created a waste of pain. War is a waste of pain, except in the very rare cases when no other solution to a dangerous situation can be found. My moral nausea has grown as I have seen our government pursue military solutions first, without pursuing all possible peaceful avenues for achieving justice. Our government has responded to violence with violence, to terrorism with actions that cause terror to innocent civilians in cities, villages, and farms half way around the world from us; we have created a waste of pain.

My fear has grown as my government's actions alienate more and more people and their leaders around the world. I see the Bush administration pursuing an illusion that the events of 9/11 ought to have shattered for good, the illusion of American invulnerability and unassailable power. No person and no country can be invulnerable in this life. Complete security is impossible. Are we then to visit wasteful pain on people in other countries in search of an illusion? Are we then to give up our civil rights for an illusion of security? The attacks of 9/11 offer us the opportunity to grow up as a moral nation, to give up our illusions and to learn that though we cannot absolutely guarantee our complete security--we cannot build a wall long enough and high enough to keep out all enemies nor ever drop enough bombs to kill all possible threats--we can control our own behavior. We can choose not to inflict wasteful pain. We can embrace our common humanity with rich and poor nations around the world. We can respond to violence with a firm demand for justice not revenge. We can work through the international institutions of the UN and the International Court of Justice. We can address with compassion and generosity the poverty and tyranny which are the root causes of terrorism. We can act on the truth that we are all in this life together and work multilaterally to solve international disputes. Despite my fear, I continue to hope that as a nation we can stop wasting our enormous potential through our own cruel actions and truly become the shining light of hope, justice, compassion, and freedom we aspire to be.