Last updated October 31, 2001 15:43 EST
How do we deal with events that defy our imaginations and intellects? From the first halting attempts to express our feelings and give voice to the ideals we each hold dear, to more considered voices for moderation and patience, to more strident calls to action and trenchant critiques of pacifism, the motivation for this page comes from my heart.
While I have tried everywhere to find a range of views, there is a politics to these pages, and perhaps it is nowhere more evident than on this page. As I told a friend recently, I can follow the logic of realist thinkers and realpolitik in my head, but my heart just will not work with it. When September 11 happened, I wanted to find a non-violent way to respond. Thereafter, as things have been further and further complicated, that conviction that there is a better way than anger, than indiscriminate vengeance, than apportioning blame has grown within me even as it sounds more and more idealistic and less and less feasible. I can see what the world looks like to those who disagree with my views, but I cannot believe that violence returned can create a solution.
As the air-strikes gather momentum, my feelings seem even more irrelevant, but it is not being wrong that I fear. It is being right. I want now to ask: what happens after the war?
Responding to Terror
Our first reaction to terrible disasters like this is emotional. We stare, we weep, we rail, we lament, we worry. We worry a lotfirst, about the people we know who are or may be directly affected, and then, we worry about the future. And angry that we should have to feel any of this, we also look to apportion blame.
People who chose September 11 to point out what Americans or the US had or had not done to provoke the acts spoke unwelcome words. Moments of grief are not appropriate times to teach or preach history or political science lessons. But the moments and days that follow them are times for reflection and introspection.
A message supposedly from the Dalai Lama, forwarded by email.
September 11 Reflections, by Jeanie J. Bukowski, September 23, 2001.
The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay, by John Paul Lederach, forwarded by email on September 29, 2001.
A Non-violent Response to Violence, by Swarna Rajagopalan, September 22, 2001.
Pacifists, Serious and Otherwise, by E.J.Dionne, Jr., Washington Post, October 5, 2001.
The Algebra of Infinite Justice, by Arundhati Roy, Outlook India, October 8, 2001.
Responding with Terror, by Aijaz Ahmed, Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 20, Sep. 29 - Oct. 12, 2001
Terrorism has always fed off its response, by Sir Michael Howard, The Times, September 14, 2001.
You won't win with words alone, by Raghida Dergham, Washington Post, October 14, 2001.
What I would say to Osama bin Laden, Anne Simpkinson interviews Thich Nhat Hanh.
Cultivating Compassion to Respond to Violence: The Way of Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.
And on a more familiar note....
Engaging Political Islam By Phar Kim Beng, September 20, 2001
Terrorism: America's Response by Mushahid Hussain
Fixing the politics of Afghanistan, by Rasul Baksh Rais, The News, September 29, 2001
Beware Unintended Results, by Anthony Lewis, New York Times, September 15, 2001.
Tapping Afghanistan's Peacemakers, by Patricia Gossman, Washington Post, September 27, 2001.
The U.S. and South Asia: New Priorities, Familiar Interests, by Teresita Schaffer, CSIS South Asia Monitor, October 1, 2001.
New Fears, New Alliances, by Edward Luttwak, New York Times, October 2, 2001.
Spare the Afghans, by Patricia Gossman, Dawn, October 3, 2001.
A lost battle? by R.K. Raghavan, Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 20, Sep. 29 - Oct. 12, 2001.
With a large and serious intent, by Michael Kelly, Washington Post, October 10, 2001.
America must fight against terrorism at home, By Amity Schlaes,Financial Times, October 9, 2001. (advocates a new civil rights approach)
The need for dissent, by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 18, 2001.
Wrong tool for the job, by Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, October 31, 2001.
Alternatives to war: Courts
Suing bin Laden, by Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, From the Issue of 2001-10-01 and Posted 2001-09-24.
Counter-strikes and the law, By V. S. Mani, The Hindu, October 12, 2001.
Terrorism and justice, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Financial Times; October 12, 2001.
Taliban versus Osama bin Laden: would an Islamic court convict or acquit bin Laden of murder? by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, October 9, 2001.
Alternatives to war: Sanctions
Dealing with State Sponsors of Terrorism, by Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Analysis Paper #6 Brookings Project on Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy October 25, 2001.
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Coping with fear
And when all is said and all is done, as in the beginning, there is fear. There is anxiety. There is despair. There is desolation. But beyond fear, there is freedom from fear.
On Everyday Bravery, By William Safire, New York Times, October 11, 2001
Fighting the Forces of Invisibility, by Salman Rushdie, Washington Post, October 2, 2001. Reprinted as Let's get back to life, The Guardian, October 6, 2001.
I have been trying to find links here to words and ideas that will make it possible for us to take heart even as the threats around us appear to multiply by the minute. For starters, however, here is a page of links to poetry written in the first part of the twentieth century about the wars of the time: Poetry, Literature and Other Writings. The 'war poetry' linked to this page reminds us, first of all, that every generation, every context, has experienced unimaginable insecurities and yet, our spirit has been at last resilient as our material world. We are still here. Second, poetry, any good writing, any art has the capacity to heal. So, I hope this helps a little.
On Building a Community of Love, Bell Hooks interviews Thich Nhat Hanh, January 2000.
A Remedy for Despair by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist Publication Society Newsletter cover essay #12 (Spring 1989).
Prayers and memorials on BeliefNet. Includes link to Multifaith Prayer Circle.
Without Fear, and Maybe, Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors, compiled by John Suler.
Return to main page, Contextualizing September
Email me with comments and suggestions. This page will be updated every other day.