Seek relationship, not revenge
by David Cortright, assistant professor of peace, justice and
GC felt the impact of the planes that slammed into the twin towers
of New York City's World Trade Center and a wing of the Pentagon
in Washington, D.C., and crashed in Pennsylvania on the morning
of Sept. 11, 2001. Students and employees lost friends and family
in the attacks. Through the shock and mourning, GC sprang to action,
remembering those suffering and rallying for reconciliation rather
The images of planes striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
are indelibly marked in our consciousness. No words can express
the enormity of the loss this nation has experienced and the horror
we witnessed. We feel a natural instinct of revulsion, anger and
bewilderment. We want to stamp out this monstrous evil.
We want revenge. But revenge is a desire we must resist.
Certainly nothing can justify these vicious attacks, or excuse the
horrific actions that have left thousands of innocents dead and
injured and their friends and families devastated. Our first actions
must be to ameliorate the suffering and console those who have lost
loved ones and are in pain.
But it is important for us to try to discern what could have prompted
human beings to plot and carry out such gigantic crimes against
humanity. How could people have such anger and violent resentment
toward our nation? What beliefs or motivations led these people
to sacrifice their lives and the lives of so many others?
President Bush has called for punishing those responsible. Commentators
have suggested the possibility of military attack. One overnight
poll reported 90 percent of those polled willing to support the
use of military force to strike back.
I hope we as a nation will understand how much sympathy and support
we have all over the world for bringing these criminals to justice
using the tools available to track them down. Our country has opposed
the idea of an International Criminal Court, but we could use the
court to mobilize the United Nations and the international community
to track down and imprison those responsible for the destruction
in New York and Washington, D.C.
A multilateral, cooperative international response to this crime
would be far superior to a unilateral military strike. Unilateral
military action would only inflame anti-American hatred and sow
the seeds of new, horrendous attacks in the future.
Terrorists have given us a stark vision of the kind of violent world
they believe in. We must deny them the victory that they seek. We
must resist the fears and the forces within us - the insecurities
and vulnerabilities - that would have us respond with more violence.
The action-reaction cycle, as exhibited most obviously in Israel
and Palestine, leads only to more destruction. Martin Luther King
said the policy of an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
Christ's vision of pacifism and nonresistance is clearly defined
by our Anabaptist ideals.
Our best security is not through more military force or greater
defenses, but to turn those who view us as enemies into friends.
Our greatest protection is in cooperation and friendship with other
peoples all over the world.
We can build understanding and cooperation by asserting a vision
of community, by promoting tolerance, compassion, justice and respect
for the sacredness of all life while seeking to understand and heal
the wounds behind this tragedy.
Let us vow here and now, as individuals, as a community, as a nation
and as a world, that we will renounce all violent solutions; that
we will strive for understanding and reconciliation; that we will
uphold international law and the United Nations; and that we will
strive for a genuine solution of nonviolence and reconciliation
as we seek justice for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Adapted from an address at an all-school convocation Sept. 12
by David Cortright, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict
studies at Goshen College and president of Fourth Freedom Forum,