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Let hope, wisdom not guns point the way

Stunned and shocked, we grieve. We mourn with the rest of the nation, indeed, with the rest of the world.

At first too horrified to weep, the most we could do was watch in disbelief. Over and over again. This was a new and unthinkable way of killing: using innocent lives as parts of flying bombs aimed at mercilessly taking countless more thousands of innocent lives.

There was something fiendish about it. Not just a cold cruelty, but a chilling evil.

As the days passed, the grief turned to a search for answers -- few were quickly to be found. Outrage grew, but the times cry out for cautious thought and restraint.

The nation makes the effort to go about its work, but we are in a state of shock.

The void, the loss, will not be easily filled. Pledges of retaliation might offer salve to the wounds, feed banal instincts, but they miss a much deeper point. The cycle of violence must somehow be broken. It is a time for deeper assessments.

Still, serious questions, deeper assessments seem not to be the order of the day. By print time, the urging to war was becoming feverish in some quarters. The FBI was hot on a trail of an operation approaching unbelievable dimensions leading quickly to the Middle East. The news fueled mindless prejudice at home. A rash of incidents against individual Arab-Americans and Arab-American institutions was reported as the week wore on. Television images continued to dance between those who are charged with the awful task of rummaging through remains of this evil assault, and the faces of official Washington, to whom everyone was looking for guidance, perhaps resolve, ultimately some answer to the question of how to respond.

Between the poles of death and the resolve to answer in kind, one has to wonder if we have the inclination or the will to take the time to seek the wisdom in our religious and spiritual traditions with the same enthusiasm with which we pursue military answers.

If the ancient urge is to strike back, it may be that the ancient trail of unremitting violence holds the reason to stay the hand this time. Another set of armed camps seems woefully inadequate as a solution.

For we are a single human family. There is no “other.” We will make it or not only when we see each other and live with each other and treat each other as one.

We need the wisdom and solace of the Old Testament and the risk-taking of the New Testament’s call for love and forgiveness. Is it too much to ask? Too much to hope for? What else have we Christians to offer?

Immediately, we need solace. Time to cry. We need patience. Time to reflect. We need each other.

Our brothers and sisters were on those planes. Our brothers and sisters were in those towers. Our brothers and sisters aimed those planes. That’s the hard truth.

This is not a time for quick judgment. It is a time to call out to each other, to listen to each other, to deepen our understanding of each other as never before.

National Catholic Reporter, September 21, 2001