The Third Year

It’s been three years since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and it doesn’t seem we’ve learned the lessons or looked for the answers that this tragic event should have prompted. Have we, as societies, looked for the true and complex causes of this and other violence? Have we looked to see how people in our own countries have caused such hatred? Have we gained a greater compassion for those peoples who suffer far worse losses each and every year? It saddens me that the answer I keep returning to is no.

It seems to me that most of us have not yet realized that the suffering of people throughout this world is immense. Compare, if you will, the terrorist attacks of 2001 with the loss of innocent lives in Iraq alone since it was invaded. 10,000 civilians have been killed by American forces and Iraqi resistance. Yes, the nearly 3,000 lives lost on this day three years ago was a terrible tragedy and should never be allowed to happen again but, when seen from a global perspective, it pales in comparison with the suffering of other nations. We are lucky in the west that we don’t have consistant terrorism, plagues of AIDS and other disease, famine, wide-spread poverty and wars. We should be mindful of the suffering of the billions of other people in this world and look for opportunities to enact our compassion in all ways we are able. If we do not carry compassion for others in this world we can adopt thinking as cold and vile as those who have reveled in the deaths and damage we have witnessed.

We can not ignore the fact that terrorism is merely a tactic, not a physical enemy. Who then is our enemy? I would say our enemy, the enemy of peace, love and compassion, is anyone who embraces violence, no matter the side they claim to support. It’s wrong for terrorism to be committed and it’s also wrong to indescriminately harm innocent people who happen to know or be near a terrorist. That is what both terrorists and political leaders have done, confused and attacked innocent people along with those who willingly hurt others for personal gain.
It is wrong to believe that violence can be a constructive tool. Even in the rare cases when it is the only means of defence, it always breeds more violence and strife. We need to find non-violent means to resolve conflicts and to live our lives. We need to combat the causes of violence and hatred in order to limit and eventually defeat them.
What then are the roots of the violence and hatred between the west and the middle east? It’s a far too complicated situation to explain by only a few causes. One could argue that the crusades caused the original conflict between peoples of the middle east and Christians who unjustly invaded their lands. The crusades and many other historical events have snowballed to fuel the current situation. Dwelling on this horrible past does not serve us well, however, since we are unable to change the past, only learn and heal from it, so we need to look at the recent past and the present.
There are a lot of recent events that have caused the current conflict. Western business and governments have committed actions which harmed civilians of the middle eastern nations quite often. Governments and factions of these nations are often extremely corrupt, but are widely supported and funded by foreign businesses and governments which ignore poor governance (and often human rights violations) for economic and political gain. The citizens of these countries often do not see any benefit from their resources being sold to the west and thus feel cheated by their own governments and us, who live luxurious lives at their expense. The terrible conditions which spawn hatred and violence make them seem like the only option for many poor and oppressed people to improve their lives and gain freedoms we in the west take for granted.
We must find ways to show compassion to the people of the middle east, to help improve their lives and allow them fairer compensation for all they have lost, while at the same time not rewarding or endorsing violence. This is a difficult proposal, and not one that can be fulfilled immediately or without extensive care, but it is the only way to create a lasting peace. In establishing a sincerely kind relationship with the people of the middle east we can not allow our governments and corporations to treat them poorly or inflict violence, especially upon innocents. We must be working to remove harmful leaders from their midst by aiding these people in positive initiatives they undertake themselves. We can not force our culture and systems upon these people, because that will only cause resentment and distrust, much like that which has fed terrorist organizations. We must also remember that when a people accomplishes peace or fair governance by their own means, the effects will be far more lasting and meaningful than if such things are brought about by an alien force.

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