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----- Original Message -----
From: Charles Gaby <cgaby@stlukes-hou.org>
To: <edcope@swbell.net>; <SWIMMER8@swbell.net>; <ckhoward@swbell.net>
Sent: Thursday, September 13, 2001 3:02 PM
Subject: Monday Message on a Sad Thursday


September 13, 2001

Dear friends,
I normally limit my communication with you to a weekly letter but I have
been responding to a number of emails full of hatred and vengeful
threats and I need to express some things.  I too am struggling with how
America should respond to the attacks sustained this week and the threat
of continued violence.  My blood is stirred to defend my homeland and
loved ones.  But in the rhetoric that I am reading and hearing I find
myself resisting the mindset of violence and the sentimentality of
hatred.  I refuse to once again bond with my brothers and sisters
through common hatred of an enemy.  There must be a better way.
America is not an island, and nationalistic spirit with this kind of
vengeful attitude is problematic.  We are hated by millions across the
world because of their perceptions of our government's actions and our
people's lack of concern for the millions who have died over the last 20
years on their shores.  We should not simply dismiss their hatred of us
as irrelevant.  Strong people listen to their critics.  This attack did
not come "out of the blue."

This morning I cried as I saw American children on TV weeping for their
lost parents.  I am filled with anger and sadness but I will not join
with those who want to praise our past use of nuclear weapons or
threaten a repeat performance in this crisis.  When we lose all empathy
for others and lack the ability to seek an understanding of their
attacks then we are capable of doing the same kind of evil as that which
we are now enduring.

There needs to be a measured response that will be directed at those
responsible.  Let us not join in the killing of innocents.  If we must
kill the snake that has bitten our child before it bites her again that
is one thing... to set out on a campaign against snakes is another.  And
do not take pleasure in the loss of life even of your enemy.  Otherwise
you are no better than the groups of Palestinians dancing and passing
out sweets on the streets after the World Trade Center Towers fell. 

Our country has a shadow just as each of us does.  We have things that
we have done at our weaker moments of which we are not proud.  At
moments like this we are tempted to turn a blind eye to our own faults
and kill others for theirs.   The shadow of our country is a lot like
our individual shadows.  When we hurt people unknowingly or
intentionally to serve our own interests we make enemies.  As any
alcoholic in recovery will tell you, when you wake up to the damage your
addiction has caused in your life it is really hard to face it.  It
takes the kind of courage that has made America famous.  Though we are
not responsible for the actions of these suicide pilots, we must
honestly and courageously face our part in the hatred that fuels their
commitment.

America is strong enough to face its shadow... and if necessary making
amends is a part of the 12 step process.  If we look closely enough at
the anger of our enemies we may discover a need to confess our faults
and ask forgiveness as we have in some situations (slavery, native
American treatment, WWII treatment of Japanese, etc...).  And in those
cases where we feel justified in our actions and have nothing over which
to apologize, we can agree to disagree with those who hate us.  At times
maybe we even have to fight with them in order to limit their ability to
harm us.   But if the spirit of the American people is one of conscious
awareness of our shadow... that is an awareness of our capacity to do
evil ... we can continue to model the very kind of American Spirit to
which I believe this nation is called.  And we will avoid the
disproportionate actions that lead to escalation and the loss of
innocent life.  We must avoid giving in to the simplistic and childish
mentality of blind allegiance to often misguided sentiment.   Are we not
a thoughtful and humble people who are called to live in peace and
harmony with our world neighbors?  Let us allow our current suffering to
open our hearts and minds to the suffering of the world and let us take
the high road of discernment in this battle.  In doing so we will have
won already.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I am a proud American.  I am thankful
for those who have died to provide freedom to this country.  I believe
in defending myself and others from harm.   My instinctual response to
the tragedy is to go out to defend the village!  But I believe we are
coming to a new level of consciousness.  This is not the same America
that existed in 1950.  We now live in a world with much more complexity
of international interdependency.  The environment and our own financial
interests all share an interwoven future with the rest of the planet.
Let us not allow our fears to rule our lives.  Instead we must join
together to set forward a positive dialogue between the polarized
perspectives that exist on our planet today.  We need to allow this
tragedy to awaken the urgency for dialogue between people not just
nations.  America should be the leader in that effort... we are the
place where these nationalities are our neighbors.  We have the most
voice in government.

Fear is an interesting thing.  I would define it as the emotional
response to imagining a negative future.  We don't fear the present...
we fear what will happen next.  It is possible to change our automatic
response in this situation... we can stop the cycles of violence through
conscious choice.  We must feel the fear... it is our natural unedited
response to an attack.  But once we feel it we can change it by joining
together to imagine a more positive direction.  If fear is imagining a
negative future, then it can be changed by imagining a positive one.  I
think that is what prayer is for.  Jesus talked about all these things.
This is from the 11th Chapter of Mark:  "So I tell you, whatever you ask
for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against
anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your
trespasses."

Let us join in prayer and in dialogue with those of polarized
perspectives and through imagining and believing in a positive future
for our world.  Let us join in building bridges between the those who
would be enemies and find other options to our conflicts than violence.
Let us wage peace together. 

Godspeed,
Charles

PS:  There will be a prayer service at St. Luke's tomorrow (Friday) at
noon.  The labyrinth garden is also open throughout each day for prayers
for peace.  Over the coming weeks and months I invite you to visit
www.wagepeace.org for information on dialogues between those with
polarized perspectives.  I invite you to contact someone of a different
race, religion or nationality and invite them to dinner.

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