late tomorrow night, the crescendo will begin to subside. And thankfully so, I
imagine both the cold-hearted cynic and the compassionately conscious will agree.
There will be no shortage of public 9/11 anniversary events. But as someone
whose life is saturated in news and information, I plan to commemorate the day
in the privacy of my apartment -- when I get out of work, that is.
In the weeks leading up to now, I've had conversations with lots of folks in
different parts of the country who have been making cautious plans on how not
to OD on the opium of mass despair expected to be injected into the veins of the
body politic -- the mass media serving as the syringe. So in this column today,
I offer some off-the-beaten-9/11-path observations:
International peace leaders, including Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias and
Gandhi's grandson Arun Gandhi, have put out the "Call for Sept. 11 Commemoration
Events That Say No to Terrorism and War."
Jason Marks of Global Exchange, a non-profit human rights organization, informed
me last week that in response to that call, as the nation prepares to mark the
one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, more than 150 communities in 36
states will be hosting peace events to mark the tragedy.
"All the events have been organized locally, and so each one has its own character
and feel. The events are connected through a new coalition called United for Peace,
founded by Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Global Exchange," he said
in an e-mail message.
"The response to this idea has been overwhelming, in large part as a response
to President Bush's call for an attack on Iraq," said Medea Benjamin, founding
director of Global Exchange and a co-founder of United for Peace.
These not-your-typical commemorations "are honoring those who died on Sept.
11 by calling for no more innocent victims," she added. (For more information
Gandhi once said: "Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible
is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the
amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt
of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence."
To the hawks, I ask: Why not bring the same vigor to bear on the development
of non-violent theory and practice that we have on the advancement of military
science? I envision a peace Pentagon that would be responsible for the recruitment
and training of a non-violent army that would be deployed to troubled spots around
After all, the intelligent pacifist and the wise general aren't so far apart.
Sun Tzu's Art of War declares: "Complete victory is when the army does not fight,
the city is not besieged, the destruction does not go long, but in each case the
enemy is overcome by strategy."
Non-violent "truth-force" or civil disobedience is often confused with passive
resistance, which has led to the widespread misperception that it is the philosophy
and practice of cowards unwilling to combat evil. And that's why Gandhi was adamant
in his belief that nothing could be done with a coward, and that a violent person
could more easily be transformed into a person of non-violence than a pacifist
with no courage.
"I do believe," Gandhi said, "where there is only a choice between cowardice
and violence, I would advise violence."
He lauded the courage of soldiers and thought their willingness to sacrifice
life and limb for the cause of freedom was worth our collective admiration. It's
a lesson the peace movement ought to remember.
"Whilst I should not take any direct part in any war, I can conceive occasions
when it would be my duty to vote for the military training of those who wish to
take it. For I know that all its members do not believe in non-violence to the
extent I do. It is not possible to make a person or a society non-violent by compulsion."
Peace organizations all across America ought to find one needy war vet, retired
police officer or firefighter and commit to him or her some kind of no-strings-attached
financial assistance or service, or at the very least offer a one-time gift of
thanks, perhaps a donation to a local Veterans for Peace chapter or Police Athletic
Voltaire said the optimist and pessimist have one thing in common: They both
think this is the best of all possible worlds. Well, I don't. And so while self-proclaimed
"realists" see only "cold, harsh facts" like Dickens' Gradgrind, possibilities
I interviewed a Christian minister two weeks ago who told me about a couple
in her congregation whose twin granddaughters were born on 9/11. For them, she
said, that day will forever be "bittersweet," realizing that even amid death,
new life can emerge.
And that, ultimately, is our hope for the future. I like how Kierkegaard put
it. "Hope," he said, "is the passion for what is possible."
Sean Gonsalves is a columnist with the Cape Cod Times. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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