Against the grain

What are you remembering? Why?

Going against the grain usually won’t get you anything but splinters and ugly wood. Nonetheless, as on every September 11 since 2001, that’s where I find myself. Feeling full of splinters … wondering why my wood seems to look different than most everyone else’s.

That’s a small problem … but it is unfortunately indicative of much larger problems.

What have our wars since 2001 really achieved, besides an additional massive loss of life, and a huge outlay of money?

Do we better understand any of our neighbors, any of their challenges? Have we increased the chances of peace, or just damped down the possibility of upwellings of violence in places we don’t want it?

Do we grieve the losses of other mother’s children? Ones who don’t look like us, or ours?

Are we still using words like “us” and “other” and thinking they represent something useful?

What questions were you asking on September 11, 2001? Have you gotten any answers?

Here’s one of the questions I was asking: Who did this, and why? As information began to trickle into the media — some of it proved false, and some useful — I began to wonder, too, what did we do? I knew there were causes and effects being perceived, and probably misperceived by both sides.

I am not going much further with that line of thought, because at this point anyone reading this blog entry has long ago formed their opinion on these topics. I will say that before you argue with me, I would invite you to read Mark Juergensmeyer’s Terror in the Mind of God, one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read. Then get back to me.

I am going to say this: based on what I’ve learned in the last ten years, I am convinced that economic lack — and the lack of a path toward economic adequacy and wherewithal — is the chief recruiting card of both our military and of radical religious militants around the world (not to mention urban gangs).

It is right to honor the choices people make to serve in our military: when these people are actually making choices, and when military service pays an adequate wage. Unfortunately, too many young people are going into the military not because they want to but because other paths to sufficient wage-earning capability and education are not available. I think that’s wrong. Every young person who wants an education should be able to choose whether they want to get it through civilian or military institutions, following vocational or collegiate educational paths.

Young men in some predominantly Islamic countries face similar challenges. Unable in their economies to find work that lets them marry and have livelihoods and families, they are easier prey for religious leaders looking for foot-soldiers for their campaigns, terrorist or otherwise.

Economic lack benefits those who want wars to continue to be fought, those who need cannon-fodder.

If we don’t understand that our economies have become enmeshed, and that we have to find ways to live and work together, and that we’ll all need to change to move toward more just ways of being, then we’ll just keep dying together.

That breaks my heart. What do you think I should do about it?

What are you doing to make sure there is not another 9/11, anywhere in the world?

Isn’t that what the Holocaust taught us? Never forget; never again.

We are pretty good at the never forgetting. How are we doing on the “never again” part?

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4 Responses to Against the grain

  1. sparks1943 says:

    I agree with much of what you have said. One small dispute, or perhaps, additive…..The phrase regarding the Holocaust actually is ” Never Again”. It is based, in part, on a quote from Winston Churchill, which was “a crime that has no name”. referring to the systematic slaughter of millions, or genocide, when Churchill admonished the world to face the awful consequences of ignoring Hitler’s unimpeded march across Europe. The United States finally engaged in Europe well after more than a one million Jews and other “impures” had already been murdered by the Nazis. The phrase “never again” means, to many in America, that we must never again turn away from our responsibility when such genocide occurs anywhere in the world. Certainly, the “never forget” admonition is a call to all of us…to remember, to be aware, to step forward, to “protect and serve”, and , in your terms, to love….not just the “us” in our USA….but all of us.
    I grieve for all those who lost their lives on 9-11 and all those gave their lives that same day. No, I do not extend my compassion to the perimeter you envision…..perhaps one day my heart will grow enough capacity to do that. For now, my arms reach out to and around the Americans, adult, child and infant who were burned, blown apart and buried that day. My tears are for them.

  2. I found this very thought provoking. Very well wrote and thought out. I love the point that religion and the military recruit in very similar ways. I am glad I found your site.

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