In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it is difficult to know what to think! I've been trying to reconcile my desire for peace with the desire to safeguard our way of life. This is how I see it:
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. showed that the way to make changes in a society that esteems human rights is civil disobedience and nonviolent protest.
Terrorists have every right to use the nonviolent method to painfully point out the areas in which Western society falls short of its own mark. They are not invoking this method. They invoke another, older method: violence and terror.
This makes me very sad. Terrorists do not realize that embarrassing us with our own hypocrisy would be far more effective than violently attacking us.
I do not know why they take the violent path. I suspect they are unable to take the nonviolent path. The terrorists define and reveal themselves by their choice of the violent path.
Here's how it is for me: We are each cells in the body of humanity. As in a human body, there are cancerous cells that arise every day and are naturally destroyed by the immune system. There will always be some errant cells in the body; the body can live with that. It's the balance that counts. Such a body is healthy.
But when the body gets cancer, the best solution is to do whatever it takes to remove the cancer. Cancer is a disease that crosses a threshold. By that I mean that it is not prudent to tolerate large numbers of errant cells together.
Indeed, some people choose to let the cancer run its course, especially if they are elderly and content to die. But the body of humanity is young, with a long future. If we meet a grave challenge with an ambiguous response, that future may be bleak. (Imagine the whole world being like Afghanistan!)
If you got cancer, would you cut it out, or simply question what it was that you did to get the cancer? I, personally, would do both.
In like manner, questioning what brought on this terrorism is appropriate, right from the start.
But our appropriate response to terrorists is: "What you did was wrong. The damage you inflicted is not justifiable under any circumstances. Your stated goal is to topple our way of life. You use our own extraordinary freedoms, technology, and open society as weapons against us. We shall remove your ability to harm us."
We must treat terrorists like cancer: eradicate the cancer, while asking how to avoid producing more cancer in the future.
P.S. — Explaining to kids what is happening is a challenge. Using the cancer analogy can be helpful. Kids know what cancer is, they know that medical treatment can sometimes be scary and painful, and they know that we have to "do what it takes" to get better.
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