September 11, 2001

Three weeks later ...

 ... reprehensible killing or no, save the innocent

by Don Norris

It is three weeks later. We've had that time, here in Melrose, to absorb the initial blow of terrorism, to digest the loss of 6800 people, to realize that such recognizable American edifices as the Twin Towers and the Pentagon have not been exempt from an unseen enemy.

The enemy is among us. Trouble is, he looks like so many of the good guys.

Millions of words have been written, more spoken on radio and television, about what will happen next. Yet no one knows, really. The terrorists awoke a sleeping giant. They offended the entire civilized world. Perhaps they even began World War III. An unconventional war of hide and seek.

All this remains to be seen. We still wait to hear what action our leaders will take. Will it be an atomic bomb? Most of us in Melrose pray this will not be the case. Will the world leaders join us in an invasion of Afganistan, and if so, what good will that do -- other than perhaps capture the current figurehead of terrorism.

He will only be replaced by someone else. Kill him too.

Invade Afganistan -- just the word rings of poverty, destruction of recent wars, and even lack of enlightenment -- a land of nothingness and poor people who have suffered enough. Does anybody care?

But one thing a few of us have discussed here in Melrose. What a magnificent statement the terrorists have made: the United States must consider the plight of millions of people in this world, people who have been on the other side of the fence in this period of modern history. Israel, the terrorists say, is not the only nation that deserves the helping hand that America has already offered to so many others.

Raise the standard of living, and there will be less violence. Sounds reasonable.

But yes, the consensus here is to rid ourselves of the murderers. Seek them out where they hide and kill them, so that they can commit no more evil. Ironically, our group of seniors, only four weeks ago, voted to do away with the death penalty altogether -- McVeigh, the killer of 168 people in Oklahoma, would be left alive to rot away in a dark, damp cell. Punishment, not retribution.

The sheer magnitude of the September 11th attack causes us to set aside all our judicial rules, to forget our peaceful ways, ignore a commandment and to kill these new enemies before they themselves take more innocent lives. Somehow that statement doesn't ring true, but it is what we, the civilized world, will do -- probably for the next ten or 20 years. Hide and seek, seek and kill.

And who is the enemy? According to our local poll, it is all terrorists and all the people of the world who support them.

And how do we identify these bad people? They wear no uniform, no badges, little identification. It will be a challenge and more innocents are due to die in the battle, no doubt.

But some day, when this war is mostly over, we can turn our attention from war and killing to a war on poverty, illiteracy, hunger and misunderstanding. Are we dreaming? Are we humans capable of this? Are we worthy of a lasting peace and a sharing of the produce of all civilization?

Perhaps. We'll just have to wait and see. Work toward peace and understanding. Please.

October 5, 2001


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