In the Midst of Tears
by Karl Soehnlein

image of man leaning on his desk with his hand to his heart

The horror of the WTC and Pentagon continues to expand as the human interest stories start to fill the news.  I feel like I might not stop crying for a long time. In the midst of the tears, the calls for blood revenge escalate in Congress and among our devastated brothers and sisters. This is what I want to address.

Yesterday I went to a peace vigil downtown co-sponsored by Jewish and Arab groups who have been working together toward promoting peaceful solutions to the strife in the middle east for some time. It was small and hushed and, in the moment, not much comfort; later, I found myself feeling stronger from the experience. Voices for pacifism must be heard at this time. Violence creates more violence, and the bombings in New York and Washington are evidence of this very fact. Let's remember that the U.S. has been bombing Iraq for ten years, and invariably civilians--who are no more responsible for the crimes of Saddam Hussein than you and I are for slavery--have been killed by these bombs. After the U.S. embassies in Africa were destroyed by terrorists, Clinton retaliated with bombs on Sudan and Afghanistan--which by all accounts killed civilians and only reinvigorated the fanatics. Our "retribution" is just driving more people toward the fanatics, giving their hatred validation. We are contributing to the next generation of terrorists.

I am very concerned that the calls for "retaliation" will lead to only more loss of innocent lives. Let's not be driven into irrational anger by politicians and media sensationalists. The chilling "polls" saying that 75 percent of Americans support retaliation "even if innocent lives are lost" is just more barbarism on top of barbarism and will only continue the cycle. (And where do these statistics come from, anyway? No one I know has ever been polled for anything, ever.) Let's remember that all human life is equal, even if the men who hijacked those planes didn't believe it.

I very much hope that our law enforcement officials can find the people who did this and punish them. As contradictory as it may seem, I believe they should be executed---not kept alive in prison at a great cost to the very people whose lives they hold in such contempt. I just can't imagine keeping alive a terrorist network inside the American prison system. I don't usually support the death penalty, so I suppose I am guilty of my own bloodthirsty need for vengence. But I do not want bombs dropped on Afghanistan, or anywhere else. It won't bring back the dead. It will only create more suffering, around the world and here.

Karl Soehnlein


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