After 9/11 one of my thoughts was that we would become like Israel: a country on high alert at all time, small scale terrorist attacks here and there and security measures that permanently disrupt routine living. But my real fear was that we would become used to it. And so we have 15yrs post 9/11.
Whenever I hear of another terrorist attack whether at home or abroad my thoughts go out to the families of the potential victims. When 9/11 touched us here and when we learned that Gary Bird might have been in one of the towers a frantic search ensued to find out if he was one of the survivors or not. Calls to hospitals, law enforcement, looking at published lists of those either identified as killed or hospitalized turned up nothing. After a few days the obvious had to be considered and then painfully accepted. So when the Night Club in Orlando or the Office in San Bernardino or anywhere else was hit I immediately knew that sinking feeling of dread that the friends and family would have as they frantically tried to find out if their loved one was there and whether they were a survivor or a murdered victim.
Harder to stomach is that the leadership in the US just seems to take it all in stride. No outrage, no anger just a shrug of the shoulders and the usual lecture about why this was not the fault of Muslims. And what is truly galling is to hear the President of the US say that more people die in bathtub accidents each year in the US than terror related attacks: ergo as we accept the deaths each year that happen in bathtub accidents we should accept the deaths that happen at the hands of terrorists? To me it seems like he is saying just get over it, that is the way the world is now and is going to be for the foreseeable future. President Obama’s “bathtub accidents are worse than terrorism” is every bit as idiotic as President Bush’s advice immediately after 9/11 that we should all go shopping. Is it really any wonder why 15yrs post 9/11 we are at the same place?
We have also yet to see any trials for the 9/11 masterminds and associates held at Guantanamo Prison. Why?
What we are being asked to do is to pretend “as if” none of this is really happening. But the truth is it is and it has disrupted our daily lives. It does cause people to be suspicious of people dressed in Islamic garb or with Arab accents. The failure to deal with terrorism effectively has hurt peaceful Muslims living in our country as much as the rest of us. In a sense those Muslims who have come to America to live peacefully away from the violence of their homelands have been betrayed by America with a toxic notion of tolerance that causes them to labeled with the very same extremism they sought to flee.
In order to stop the body count from getting any higher we in the West have to have a serious intellectual engagement with Islam. Specifically we have to figure out whether the violent political ideology that is associated with Islam is constitutive of Islam or has hijacked the religion. The answer to that determines the response.
The second part of ending the chaos terrorism causes is to have a united political response. Leaders in every Western nation should say to all Muslims: you are welcomed to live in our lands and peacefully and sincerely seek God according to the dictates of your religion but only if you do so within the context of the values intrinsic to liberal democracies. These values include the freedom of religion, the freedom to change religion, the equal dignity of men and women, the freedom of speech including the right to criticize religion and to seek religious converts without coercion.
The final part to ending the chaos terrorism causes is evangelization. Christians need to live in such a way that our lives, families, and communities become beacons attracting people to the Christian life. If each of us truly lived St. Francis Prayer and become a channel or an instrument of peace then there will be peace on earth.
In October of 2017 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. During the apparitions she foretold of a hundred years or so of turmoil, war and suffering. Let’s pray that as we approach this centennial we will see the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a new era of peace on earth.
Fr. John B.