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terrorist attacks on the US
mantra, the great mantra
the planes struck I was, probably like everyone else, shocked
and unbelieving. I watched my friends' television, wondering
if this was reality or the latest Bruce Willis movie I was seeing.
It could not be real. Faced with events such as these, reactions
of anger, thoughts of revenge, fears of a sinister evil out there
somewhere, lurking to get us, are natural and inevitable. Such
feelings must and will arise. But I feel it is also important
to deeply consider the consequences of following such impulses
once again. We have evolved out of tribes warring against one
another. Humanity has, for as long as we have record, been preoccupied
with feeling right and justified to commit violence against whoever
disagrees with us. Nothing much has changed since one wandering
tribe clobbered another with clubs over territorial disputes,
except that the stakes are much much higher now.
No intelligent person could condone terrorism. In the last days we have seen the FBI and Interpol involved in a massive worldwide campaign to smoke out terrorist cells, and to rightfully bring criminals to justice. I am cheering. At the same time, to really get to the roots of the thing, rather than to just prune the branches, I am interested to find out what motivates and causes terrorism. Why is the United States, where I live, so much more a focus for these groups than, say, Canada or Sweden? What would propel someone to systematically participate in a plan over more than a year, in which they would themselves die? Is this simply insanity, the evil Satan than my teachers warned me about in Sunday school? Seeking an answer to these questions, I hit the web.
I found a PBS website (an American news
service) called "Hunting Bin Laden." [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/]
As you probably know, there has been
conflict between Arabs and Jews since the Old Testament. After
the grotesque genocide of the Jews in the war, in 1948 there
was, among all of the victorious allies, the recognition of the
need to give the Jewish people a stable home. Israel was created
out of an area that was previously a British protectorate. But,
as would happen if you tried to create a new state anywhere in
the modern world, people had to be displaced. In this case it
was Palestinians. Over the last nearly sixty years this dispute
remains unresolved. Israel has, from time to time, sought to
occupy more territory than was originally set aside. Palestinians
have fought back. For three generations their people have lived
in settlement camps. In this dispute, America has been perceived
to side more with the Israelis. After all, the US played a major
part, with Britain, in creating Israel. There are many economic
and family ties between Americans and Israelis, many Americans
have relatives living in Israel, and many Israelis have family
in the US. It is the perceived bias of the US towards Israel
in this conflict that is at the root of many terrorist acts against
us. In addition, bin Laden and his associates have quarrel with
the US, as well as the Saudi royal family, over their role in
the Gulf war against Iraq in 1991. Saudi Arabia is thought of
a Holy Land, (the land of two Mosques: Mecca and Medina) and
the American presence there angered many Muslims. Many devout
Muslims are also offended by the values (or the perceived lack
of them) promoted by Hollywood, and by the spread of large US
corporations to all corners of the globe. This is, in a nutshell,
why the US is the target more than another Western country.
Soon after reading this interview with bin Laden, I also began to hear of the response of George Bush and the government as a whole. It was natural and inevitable. The feelings of anger in the nation were given voice by our leaders. But I also could not help but notice an eerie similarity between Bush's language and the bin Laden interview. Both see themselves as good (a servant of Allah on the one hand, and of freedom and civilization on the other) both see the other as evil. Both feel justified to make strikes against the other's people in retaliation for previous acts of perceived terrorism. Both use language like "resolve determination awoken the wrath of our people." Both speak of a fight that will stop at nothing until it is won. Both describe the other as weak and cowardly, and justify this with examples. And both feel that they are in this fight for principles much bigger than just themselves (Islam and Arabs in general on the one hand, and freedom and democracy in general on the other.)
Probably you and I would agree that our view is saner, more tolerant, more popular, and certainly more familiar. And therefore more "right." But in the long run it may be a mute point. A sustained military campaign in the Middle East would certainly kill many people who had nothing to do with Tuesday's events, and would therefore become, perhaps legitimately, grounds for more retaliation. And so the world goes round, till we all fall down dead.
The crossroads where you and I stand today could be different than it seems. It may not be a choice between siding with Americans or Muslims, with Bush or bin Laden. That is the surface of the thing. There is another choice, for me a deeper one. It is the choice to go along with the 'us against them,' conflict oriented view, or to make an unfamiliar and courageous step towards a deeper understanding, towards the opening of the flower. In the Bush/Cheney/bin Laden/Taliban world view there is always an enemy out there, and our victory always implies them loosing. It is the fight of good against evil, right against wrong, where both parties think themselves to be the good guys with God on their side.
I am not suggesting that we allow acts of barbarism to go unpunished. If there is any way possible way to de-structure terrorist organizations, to bring bin Laden to justice, it appears to be an intelligent move. If it can be done without killing many more innocent people, no matter what their nationality, very few would have objection. But even if we do all that, and even if we are successful, have we really created a safer world for our children to inherit? It seems to me to be a Band-Aid. I feel that the way to eliminate terrorism is to eliminate the situations and forces which motivate terrorism. And, for me, that begins with a deep and sober examination of what those forces really are.
How can we do that? We can all start with the areas where we have direct responsibility and possibility to make a change: with our own lives. Perhaps, when you examine you life, you might find, as I do, areas of withheld communication, blame or judgement. There could be small ways that you are holding on to being right and making someone else the enemy. This instinct runs so deep in the reptilian brain that we all participate in it in some way. Separation has an atmosphere to it: a frequency. As more people are willing to move beyond separation into a direct experience of oneness, we are diffusing the seeds of conflict in our world.
What can we do?
There are many wonderful tools available today to help us dissolve the war we wage in our thoughts. Byron Katie's The Work is excellent for this, and you can do it at home on paper. It works. Gay and Kathlyn Hendrick's Conscious Loving contains exercises and principles which can be applied to any area of conflict. Marshall Rosenberg's approach of Non Violent Communication has made a huge contribution to lessening conflict in the world. And our Living Essence work also offers tools to dissolve the feeling of us against them.
We may also experience that people do things to us, or say things about us that hurt us. The instinct is to call them crazy or evil and to strike back. If we do that in our life, people feel even more justified to harm us, avoid us or speak against us. If we step back and look more honestly at ourselves, we can discover where we have been unconscious, overbearing, arrogant, where we have invited revenge. Generally, in that honest and sincere regret for being unconscious, our enemies lay down their arms, and become our friends. Hasn't that happened to you in simple ways? Then we can laugh, solutions are co created.
These are small steps we can take towards greater sanity. It begins with you and me. Until September 11th these might have seemed like luxuries. Nice little things you can do to have a cozier life. But much more is at stake now. With the likelihood of an escalation of military conflict, led by people who feel resolute, determined, who do not want to consider the possibility of backing down, it is up to you and me to do everything we can to take responsibility for the spirit of separation everywhere. There is no possibility left to postpone. Live the life now your heart knows you can live, for you may not get another chance.
We also all have ways that we participate in conflict indirectly, sometimes just by keeping quiet. The models we have inherited from countless generations all support conflict. Contemporary business is fraught with the language of medieval warfare: launching a campaign, eliminating the competition, you can fill in the rest of the list. If you notice yourself participating in a model of conflict by default, this may be your invitation to be a minister for peace. If members of your family hate each other, if your boss is waging war against the competition, by speaking out supportively, or by offering another view, you may have the chance to contribute to the healing of our wounded world. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? There may not be too many more opportunities to get this right!
And lastly, I find it important to remember that we live in a democracy. Everyone has a voice, we have free speech. We have to remember to use it. Sometimes it takes courage to speak against the status quo. At a time like this, just after a major tragedy, the country is united in a mood of patriotism. Congress is almost totally united behind the president's request to go to war. Many people have phoned me or e mailed saying they do not support a spirit of retaliation that involves killing more innocent people, but they fear being lynched by the blood thirsty majority. I say take the risk, speak out for peace. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
While I deeply mourn the senseless deaths in New York and Washington, I also have deep concern about the spirit of revenge. Having just felt the horror of innocent people suffering for religious or political principles, I have to say "enough." It does not seem to be a solution to add Afghani suffering, a people already almost totally crippled by ten years of war with the Soviet Union, to our own.
Instead I would like to see why the country I live in has been singled out, repeatedly, for acts of hatred. I am aware that in March of this year the United Nations Security Council was ready to send in a peacekeeping presence in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. There was unanimous support for this, with the single exception of the US delegate, and this one vote was enough to veto the resolution. I am aware that many more people than died on Tuesday have died in military conflicts, through trade embargoes or through other collateral damage where the US has been involved, often protecting our economic interests. I am aware that the economic imbalance in this world allows a small percentage of us to live in excess, while the vast majority live in dire poverty. I am aware that we recently boycotted a conference on racism, which was critical of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. I am aware that we withdrew, earlier this year, from a pact with Russia to ban chemical weapons. The list goes on and on and on. I have begun to update myself from a position of indifference with a few hours digging around on news sites, and by talking to people more about the world I am a part of. This is a wonderful country; I love to live here. I feel we could be much greater if we could face our own collective shadow: the things we have done, as a nation, which have got people this pissed off.
There is only one way to have the security we seek for ourselves and for our children, and that is to guarantee that same security and physical wellbeing for every citizen of this planet. Anything less will not allow you to enjoy your life in real peace, because someone, somewhere, is feeling resentful.
A nonviolent solution
If you are interested in a non-violent solution, please speak up while there is still time. Talk to your friends and neighbors, if you feel moved to, write to your senator or representative. Please take the time to inform yourself about US foreign policy, especially over the last 9 months, and find out why we have so many groups in the world pouring their time, money and precious human birth into trying to harm us. Use an Internet search engine, and seek to understand all the points of view that are colliding here. Try sites like Associated Press, The BBC, or European newspapers international editions. The US mainstream media does not always report on the things that show us with dirt on our face. Just a little humility and self reflection injected into this large nation will go a long way, and allow us to become a nation that is mature in spirit as well as in power. I have felt the seeds of that possibility in the way we rally together in the face of tragedy. We can go much further, and feel the pain of all people in the same way, no matter what passport they carry.
If you resonate with anything said here, feel free to pass in on to anyone you like. If I have offended you in any way at a difficult time for all of us, I offer my apologies, and ask you to reach for the delete key.
By Gary Zukav
The attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon are occasions of great significance. They are
opportunities for you to feel inside, to find those parts of
yourself that are in fear, and to make the decision to move forward
in your life without fear. That is the challenge for each individual
The causal chain that created this violence
is one in which compassion and wisdom are absent. Are wisdom
and compassion present in you als you watch the televison, and
read the papers? It is important to realize that you do not know
all that came to conclusion, or into karmic balance, as a result
of these events. Because your are not able to know all that can
be known about
When you are able to look at the events
of the Earth School from this perspective, you wil see clearly
the central importance of the role that you play in it. That
role is this: It is for you to decide what you will contribute
to this world. Many will be asking your opinion of these events.
If you hate those who hate, you become
like them. You add to the violence and the destructive energy
that now fills our world. As you make the decision to see with
clarity and compassion, you will see that those who committed
these acts of violence were in extreme pain themselves, and that
This is an opportunity for a massive
expression of compassion. It is also an opportunity for a massive
expression of revenge.
A letter from Neale Donald Walsch, James Twyman, James Redfield .
You are receiving this message at a very difficult time. The events of this day cause every thinking person to stop their daily lives,whatever is going on in them, and to ponder deeply the larger questions of life. We search again for not only the meaning of life, but the purpose of our individual and collective experience as we have created it - and we lookearnestly for ways in which we might recreate ourselves anew as a humanspecies, so that we will never treat each other this way again. The hour has come for us to demonstrate at the highest level our mostextraordinary thought about Who We Really Are. There are two possible responses to what has occurred today. The first comes from love, the second from fear.
If we come from fear we may panic and
do things-as individuals and as nations-that could only cause
further damage. If we come from love we will find refuge and
strength, even as we provide it to others. This is the time of
teaching. What you teach at this time, through your every word
and action right now, will remain as indelible lessons in the
hearts and minds of those whose lives you touch, both now, and
for years to come.
By Deepak Chopra
As fate would have it, I was leaving
New York on a jet flight that took
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