Monday, September 13, 2010

On 9/11, Remembering the Meaning of Freedom

This weekend the anniversary of the horrible event that occurred just nine years ago and rocked our nation to its core was lost amid the shuffle of a Notre Dame home game and the opening weekend of the NFL. But now that the weekend has come to a close (and we’ve begun to recover from the tough Notre Dame loss) it’s time to remember 9/11 and what it means for us today.

Nine years ago, 2,977 people were killed in an attack by Islamic terrorists. It was a painful day for my country. I can so vividly remember coming home that day and talking to my mom on the phone to ask when she would pick me up and take me to soccer practice. She told me that there wouldn’t be soccer practice that day. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. It was a defining moment for our country. And yet in some ways we as a nation still haven’t figured out what it really meant. Was it an attack by Muslims or an attack by terrorists? Today we still fight over that answer.

So, let’s start with the basics, what is a terrorist? According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a terrorist is a person who systematically uses terror (a state of intense fear) especially as a means of coercion. Yes violence is the tool, but fear, and the control fear gives to terrorists, is the ultimate goal. Fear can lead the smartest men to make foolish and irresponsible decisions. Fear leads us to complete irrationality and that is what terrorists are counting on. So is America controlled by fear?

This brings us to the crux of my problem, the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque. Let’s think about some of the fundamental guiding principles of our nation, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is an important concept that is not so easily explained. Fortunately, someone realized that and soon enough we were given the Bill of Rights. It guarantees, among many valuable things, freedom of religion. And yet so many of us are now ready to throw that concept away. Principles are not laid out for just the easy times. They aren’t intended to be dropped at the very first sign of trouble. They are meant to guide us through the darkest of times when we want to give in to the terror that consumes us. And when we lose our principles to fear, terrorists win.

We always say that “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” But every time that we associate Muslims with terrorists and persecute them as such, we’ve spoken in the languages of fear and terror. It’s a different form of negotiation, but nevertheless, it’s something that we cannot allow. When we think as the terrorists expect us to think, when we speak as they expect us to speak, and when we do as they expect us to do, that’s something worse than negotiation, that’s surrender. And America doesn’t stand for that.

The fact of the matter is not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims. While no attack in this country could ever equal the horror that was perpetrated on 9/11, there are terrorists in this country who have attacked far more often than any Muslims ever have. According to the NAF (National Abortion Federation), since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers. The property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with "stink bombs". And worst of all, at least eight people have been killed.

I am not here to take any kind of stance on the debate of abortion (in fact I have yet to fully develop a position of my own the matter); instead I merely wish to point out that these crimes which constitute “terrorism” have been committed throughout our country, and often they been performed in the name of Jesus. How many of these places were blocks away from a church? I don’t know the answer with regards to most of these incidents, but I do know that Dr. George Tiller was gunned down on May 31, 2009 while serving as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kansas. If we are to blame the mainstream religion for its extremists, then why does this church still stand? When a priest says he would not condone such violence we understand the separation between the Church, and those who use its name to do wrong. Why should we act differently in the case of Islam? Why should we allow the terrorists their victory? Instead of responding with fear, we must respond with love, with embrace. We must prove that while we do not tolerate terrorists, we also do not let them determine how we think and act. We must show the world, that we do not let terror guide our judgments.

To close out my first official post, I would like to link to a poem, which I saw on the internet recently that summed up all my feelings with more beauty than I could ever hope to muster. It was written by a 26 year veteran of the armed forces. Read it and tell me if you can really say that it’s okay to prevent the creation of a mosque, whether it’s two blocks away from Ground Zero, or anyone else in this beautiful country. “In Arlington we lay to rest…


Anonymous said...

Well done. Thanks. Thought you might also like this from Saturday's paper:

The following appeared on
Headline: People of the book
Date: Sep 13, 2010

"Nine years later, we are still haunted by Sept. 11, and in some ways it's getting worse. All summer, a shrill debate over whether to build a mosque near the Ground Zero site was fueled by pundits on the right, who drummed up a chorus of invective that made it impossible to focus on the modest facts of the case. ..."

Kerry said...

Fantastic piece, Gordon! Proud of you.

Mary Singer Huffer said...

Great article Gordon! Well written & reasoned. Keep it up-I look forward to checking out your future blogs :)