I have been listening to NPR reporting and watching network TV off and on this morning, monitoring the aftermath of the second major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Al-Quaida operatives have claimed responsibility for four bombs that were set off in London's mass transit system during morning rush hour. I have been reminded of my feelings and responses on 9/11. I have also been thinking about what we have--or might have--learned since then.
A few immediate gut-level responses:
- I offer prayer and condolenses for all victims of this attack. It seems like all Americans should be able to empathize with our British neighbors in this hour of grief, anger, vigilance, and resolve.
- Trying to blame this attack on holes or weaknesses in British intelligence and security is a misplaced agenda. There is no wall high enough to keep out determined terrorists. All reactionary political hysteria will do is (a) reduce legitimate civil liberties and (b) produce an environment of increased and irrational fear.
- Anger must not be permitted to give birth to resolve for retaliation, bigotry, and hysteria. Anger should be directed into an increased resolve for seeking justice through legitimate police and court action and through addressing the sources of terrorism.
- It seems that, for all the American and European efforts at increased security since 9/11, as long as Islamic activists have significant hurts and hopes that go ignored, unaddressed, and are continuously trampled on by the West, all we will be able to do is react to more such acts of terrorism.
- We have not made progress in drying up Islamic terrorism. We have denied, ignored, or criticized the clearly-stated concerns of the people who act in terrorism or who are sympathetic with activist's concerns. We have not taken seriously the religious and spiritual dimensions and sensitivities of Islamic society. In the nature and manner of our reactions to initital Islamic terrorism, we have fommented further terrorist reactions and mentality.
- It would not be a sign of weakness in the West's resolve to end terrorism if leaders would move beyond political rhetoric ("they are evil," "they hate our freedom," etc.) and begin to address the sources of Islamic grief that lead to and sustain terrorism. It would, in fact, be a sign of real intelligence, authentic courage, and genuine foresight. The world awaits such international leadership.