Looking back on Sept. 11

The 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks is a chance for all of us to reflect productively.

Daily Editorial Board

The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 is this Sunday. This anniversary should be an opportunity for us to take a step back, analyze what happened that day 10 years ago, consult our values and reset our course.

In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, after mourning the victims, many Americans demanded retaliation against the terrorists. But those attacks showed us what happens when people resort to violence to achieve their objectives.

Reflecting on the pain and suffering the violence of Sept. 11 caused should check our instinct to retaliate against it with violence of our own. We should be above the bloodlust of revenge; we should reject the doctrine of âÄúan eye for an eyeâÄù precisely because weâÄôve seen its tragic consequences on our own soil.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, âÄúThe end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community.âÄù Violent and bitter reactions to the attacks are understandable, but they play directly into the terroristsâÄô game. Taking that bait has led to a cycle of violence that has only taken thousands more innocent American men and women from us, not to mention thousands of other innocents overseas.

The last 10 years are a reminder that violence destroys, whether it is done in the name of a distortion of religion or in the name of liberty and democracy. If we want the cycle of violence and aggression to stop, we must be the ones to stop it.

Instead of our reaction being anger and vengeful hatred toward the perpetrators of the attack when the video footage is inevitably played and replayed this weekend, we should take our cue from the reaction of the heroic first responders. We should challenge ourselves to react as they did âÄî with compassion for their fellow men and women, with bravery and courage in the face of danger, and by setting aside their self-interest for the good of others. If we can react to events with these same qualities, rather than dwelling on the understandable immediate emotions of anger or hurt, we will have gained the moral high ground. Retaliating with anger and force cedes that ground.

Furthermore, we shouldnâÄôt let others use the attacks to sell us the myth of âÄúsecurity.âÄù When someone says they are selling security, what they are really selling is the fear of insecurity, and fear is what makes us retaliate with violence and anger.

We should not settle for security; we should strive for peace. The two are not the same. Erecting walls, physical, social and otherwise, against others out of fear may give the illusion of security, but it is not a solution. It does not only lock âÄúthemâÄù out; it locks âÄúusâÄù in. As Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote, âÄúA tranquil life is also had in dungeons.âÄù

Rather than locking ourselves in a tighter and tighter cell, we should use the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 to remember those lost, reflect on that excruciating pain, and firmly reject anything that causes more of that pain and loss.

Rather than coiling into a ball of fear and anger, we can show our moral character. We can defy the terrorists who attacked us that day and refuse to let them rule over us by rejecting fear and embracing love, by opening ourselves up instead of shutting ourselves off and by replacing desire for revenge with compassion for each other. Embracing that spirit of unity and togetherness is the way to truly honor those we lost on Sept. 11, 2001.