Have we returned to “normal”? Because if this is normal, I think we have a problem.
I’ll never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. In between seminary classes, I realized that people were crowding the halls around offices between classrooms, and soon discovered that news about the crashing of several airplanes was coming in. We huddled and prayed, and tried to reach family around the country, but especially on the East Coast. We worried about travel and what might happen next.
And we watched as people gravitated toward peace and love in their community, or finger-pointing and hate.
As time passed, even within the first week, the country vowed to “not give into fear” and to return to life as normal. But I wonder what ‘normal’ is anymore?
I recently talked to a woman who emigrated from Lebanon in 1987, toward the end of the civil war that tore the country apart. She remembered leaving school early on days that bombing occurred and moving to the U.S. where extended relatives lived; she was fourteen. Almost twenty years later, she’s a single mother of a high school senior who wants to join the military so that he can serve the country they love so much.
But she has darker skin than I do. And she speaks with an accent. And she’s been told that she’s stealing jobs or ‘not from here’… and sometimes, she’s afraid to speak.
I John 4:16 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Or try it Yoda’s way: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Whichever way you spin it, fear is the thing that drives us to act and react in violence toward others, to the ‘other,’ that which we are unfamiliar or don’t know.
I pray today for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and who have lost loved ones defending this country against tyranny, oppression, and terrorism. I also pray for those who we paint as terrorists and ‘other’ and enemies who mean us no harm but who do not look or speak or act like us. And I pray for our enemies, too.
Be brave, America. You have led, you do lead, and you may lead again. I beg you not to confuse violence and force with leadership, to view the other as evil. There are enough evils in the world without fearing what you do not know.
One day, this world will end, and we will all be accountable for what we did while we were here. Some will have clearcut blood on their hands; others will have blood on their hands by what they did or didn’t do, did or didn’t say. I pray to God today that we would grow to truly love, and I believe the first step in that is to drive out our fear.
Start a conversation.
Say a prayer.
Build a friendship.
Make peace a reality.