We all know what causes war. It's always hatred and revenge and we never fail to cultivate both very carefully to make sure we are able to make other people want to die to protect us.
Deception is the fuel which sustains the madness.
What is it about revenge which makes it such a powerful source for violence and injustice?
Nietzsche said, "Let me whisper a word in the ear of the psychologists, if they would fain study revenge itself at close quarters: this plant blooms its prettiest at present among Anarchists and anti-Semites, a hidden flower, as it has ever been, like the violet, though, forsooth, with another perfume. And as like must necessarily emanate from like, it will not be a matter for surprise that it is just in such circles that we see the birth of endeavours to sanctify revenge under the name of justice and thus with the rehabilitation of revenge to reinstate generally and collectively all the reactive emotions."
Today, this plant blooms its prettiest among Anarchists and anti-Moslems.
Revenge is the reaction which inevitably conquers the spirit of justice in the manner that author Gary Zukav revealed in his book, Soul to Soul: Communications From the Heart.
Speaking about the lost opportunity to mend the wounds that 911 produced in an appropriate manner, rather than to become overwhelmed by hatred and feelings of revenge, Zukav said;
The individuals who attacked us could not grasp our humanity -the humanity of those they attacked. They could not step into the horror of a family suddenly without a father or a mother, a loved one gone without good-bye, or terrible thoughts of those who were dearest in terror and pain. They saw instead, inhuman, unholy infidels, blasphemers of the holy, scourges of the Earth, and enemies of Good. They struck mercilessly because they believed themselves to be superior, to be right, to be good, and to be warriors with the Divine on their side.
They celebrated because, at last, revenge was theirs. They rejoyced because, at last, the pain of others was great. They laughed because, at last, the humiliation of others was deep. They danced because, in their powerlessness, they found a brief moment of relief, of bringing righteousness to the unrighteous, of imposing themselves.
They could not feel the pain they created, but we did, and so did many others around the world. In the tender weeks following the attacks, Americans opened to each other and the world opened to America. Deep bonds of mutual suffering replaced impoliteness, competition and animosity. The impact of so many souls suddenly gone from the Earth, and the malicious intent behind their death made us vulnerable. Our arrogance disappeared. That was our moment of hope. That was our opportunity to change the course of American history, interntional relations and human evolution. It was the opportunity to see our brief colletive experience of grief and loss -of the consequence of brutality -as another wave in the ocean of grief and loss that was washed over millions upon millions of humans, including those who struck us without mercy.
This tender moment was our opportunity to return compassion for violence, kindness for brutality, and humanity for inhumanity. It called to us in our pain and our horror. It said to each of us, "This is what revenge feels like to those who receive it. This is what cruelty feels like to those who experience it. Do not inflict these terrible experiences upon others. Do not participate in the evolution of violence. Create another path through history. Do you have the courage?"
If we had heard that call, the consequences that we are now encountering would have been very different. If we had the courage to feel our pain, our humiliation, and the agony of our losses, we would not have been able to create those same experiences in others. Instead, we saw ourselves as victims. We sought revenge. We imposed ourselves self-righteously upon the unrighteous. We perceived ourselves as right, as good, and as Warriors with the Divine on our side and, in the process, we created more families without husbands and wives, more loved ones gone without good-byes, and more terrible thoughts of those who attacked us.
The tender moment after the attacks is gone, but another tender moment can be created. It can be created in you by you. It requires the courage to feel your pain instead of hiding it from yourself with rage, to feel your humiliation without concealing it from yourself with self-righteousness, and your humanity. It requires that you see with compassion, because if you have no compassion for those who have no compassion you become one of them.
When we were attacked, we reacted rather predictably, and Nietzsche described the typical response when he said "the justest individual only requires a little dose of hostility, malice, or innuendo to drive the blood into his brain and the fairness from it." The challenge of course is, will we be able to find the courage and the compassion which is necessary to end the current cycle of revenge and violence or will it go on and on until there is nothing left to defend.
The choice is ours to make. Do we choose compassion or will we continue to act like "them"?
Next: Acknowledging the contribution of inspiring Americans.