Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vengeance

-quiet in the evening-

I can still vividly remember that morning 12 years ago. I sat and watched in horror as the first of the two Twin Towers came tumbling to the ground. I had been in those towers many times. I knew people that worked there. I had been to the restaurant on top of the tower and looked out at the vast expanse of the bustling city below. Now, in an instant, nothing but a pile of rubble - a tomb for the thousands of souls trapped beneath it all.

I recall my first reaction upon seeing that tower crashing to the ground - I was so angry, actually I was enraged. I basically think of myself as "peace-loving," but sitting there that morning, like so many of my fellow citizens, I was filled with a bitter spirit of vengeance and the only thing I could think about was retaliation.  

My guess is that the people of this country were so eager and so willing to support an attack because we were all so angry - revenge seemed like the only option. So we did attack Iraq, and then Afghanistan, and were "almost giddy" with joy when Bin Laden was killed. 

And where did all the vengeance lead? Is the world a safer place today because we lashed out  and responded to violence with even greater violence? I actually don't think so. Violence and vengeance have given birth to even more violence and an ever greater need for revenge in return - the cycle is endless. 

As I browse around the social media today, I see countless pictures of the New York City skyline, most with the caption, "we will always remember."  For me, it's true, I will always remember September 11, 2001. The thing I remember most about that day was the almost irrational hate-filled response that it provoked in me. The thing I will always remember about September 11, 2001 was my passionate need for revenge. The thing I will always remember is the lesson I learned in the wake of the events of that terrible morning - vengeance provokes vengeance.

Today I have been thinking about people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. These were all people who certainly had a right to be enraged. These were people who, by any standard, would have been justified to wage a response of violent retaliation for the way they and their people were treated.

However, instead of waging war,  they waged peace - a hunger strike, a "civil-rights" march. They went to prison. They endured beatings and they sat sacrificially as they were sprayed with fire hoses. To what end? The world was changed- it became a better place where justice prevailed and human dignity was elevated to a grand new level. 

Jesus taught:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

The Buddha taught:


Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love;
this is an eternal truth.

I will "always remember" September 11, 2001.


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2 comments:

  1. I remember being with you, Karen, and Cherie at St. David's as we tried to keep up with the news that morning. In your defense, I do not recall the service you planned for that evening as being in any way about revenge but as a chance to come together in shock and grief.

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  2. very interesting. By the time I got to the service, I had basically worked through my anger.

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