for release September 6, 2002
by Melodie Davis
How Have We Changed? How Have We Not?
I had to fly last year about three weeks after September 11. For the
first time in my life, I did not look forward to it, and in fact considered
canceling or driving.
The first was the experience of having armed National Guardsman patrolling U.S. airports, even tiny airports like our local hangar. It was a little reassuring, but at the same time frightening and otherworldly: this was supposed to happen in "third" world or Middle East countries, not in rural Virginia. In the airport, several advertising images struck me with their horrible irony, posted long before September 11, I'm sure. One showed a huge nose cone of a jet coming right at you with the headline, "Your jet is waiting. United." I wonder how long that particular advertising message was deemed appropriate or effective.
But perhaps the most touching experience was after I boarded the plane flying from Washington, D.C. to Columbus, Ohio. The pilot entered the cabin and addressed us all with a quiet, reassuring voice: "Good evening. Thanks for traveling with us. We anticipate a safe trip." It was the standard pilot message, but delivered in person, it calmed my nerves and made me feel a common humanity with all in that plane. Everyone seemed so quiet, polite and patient. But you could almost sense that we were all looking each other over: could that nice looking Grandma be carrying something?
It is interesting to note how quickly these initial changes give way to routine. The initial surge in people going to church, attending prayer meetings and vigils, slipped away. The inclination to draw family members closer to us and be thankful that we still had family members-no one dead-gave way to arguments, petty jealousies, being too busy to enjoy each other.
How time glosses over the dire messages of September 11: Everyone in the post-September 11 world is vulnerable. Some feelings of personal safety may have resumed, but it is a false security. Even if there is little we can do to increase our safety on the grand scale of things, we can pay attention to the little things we have control over: keep putting priority on family, spend time together. Take time for the spiritual: keep an active prayer life, read the Bible, go to worship services, volunteer in the community.
Keep looking for ways to build understanding and respect for people who are different and believe differently. We don't have to get to the place where any belief is okay-but that doesn't mean we can't seek to understand and love other human beings. One of the ugliest personal stories I heard was when one of my daughters observed a verbal attack on a Middle-Eastern family sitting in heavy beach traffic. There was a group of motorcyclists revving their engines. One of the cyclists yelled and cursed repeatedly at the family, "Get out of here. Go back to where you came from." The family just sat there in bewilderment. My daughter said it looked like they were terrified about what was going to happen next. These are some changes in our society we don't like to see that spread venom rather than solutions.
We need to keep looking for the reasons behind the September attacks: deep-seated resentment and hatred because of things we've done, and even misunderstandings about intentions. We have been the rich man that Jesus speaks of in the New Testament, ignoring the pleas and cries of the poor man at the gate. War doesn't solve problems permanently: it just creates more victims, more misunderstanding, more saber rattling.
John Paul Lederach, an internationally known peacemaker says, "We need to think differently about the challenges of terror. We must not give the movements we deplore gratuitous fuel for self-regeneration, fulfilling their prophecies by providing them with martyrs and justification. They changed the game, entered our lives, our homes and our workplaces, and turned our own tools to our demise. We will not win this struggle for justice, peace, and human dignity with the traditional weapons of war. We need to change the game again. Let us give birth to the unexpected." ("The Challenge of Terror," Where was God on September 11, Herald Press, 2002.)
One way to speak up for finding new alternatives is to let our leaders and elected officials know where we stand. A growing tide of voices is urging U.S. President Bush to avoid invading Iraq because it will likely provoke more terrorism. I urge U.S. readers especially to send a letter to let your views be known. Send to: George W. Bush, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20500.
What do you think? You can read Lederach's full essay and others on this subject at www.thirdway.com/peace/ <http://www.thirdway.com/peace/> Click on "A New Patriotism." Or write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 850 words; end material = 105 words
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