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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

530 May we all be more successful in leaving those who follow us an abundance of peaceful tomorrows

Day 530: Saturday August 28th, 2021

May we all be more successful in leaving those who follow us an abundance of peaceful tomorrows.


a reflection by Brother Toby

Dear friends,

With the Taliban retaking Afghanistan so quickly, 9/11 came early this year. 550,000 men, women, and children were immediately rendered homeless. Everyone remembers images of the recent deadly chaos. One that sticks in my memory is a girl standing outside her school crying when she found it had been closed. Then there was the father handing his baby over a barbed wire wall to an American Marine. The thoughts that must have been going through the minds of the father and the Marine.

How many times must the world witness attempts to successfully fight wars in Afghanistan? Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Dr. Watson was walking down the street and encountered a dazed man. The doctor asked if he had just returned from fighting in Afghanistan. Thus began the friendship between Holmes and Watson. The wars go on, soldiers are killed or return dazed, and unfortunately we forget easily. However, there are often many compassionate Dr. Watsons who briefly appear.

Many people who come to Starcross were only toddlers on 9/11/2001. They may have seen the pictures of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, but they didn't experience the sense of togetherness and kindness that came afterwards. Sister Marti and I were flying back from Europe. Our plane was diverted to Edmonton, Alberta. It was cold. Strangers brought us sweaters and scarves. The next day, the plane was going to be returning to Europe.

A watchman, against all rules, opened the luggage room and helped us find our suitcases. Someone at a car rental forgot about regulations and gave us a car. As we traveled south, we got a bit lost and a young Hutterite woman, who was not supposed to speak to us, gave us directions and sandwiches. Finally arriving in the city closest to Starcross, we went to the rental car place hoping we had enough money to cover the long journey. The clerk heard our story and said since she didn't have any record of the original sale, there would be no cost.

People all over the country experienced similar acts of kindness. Friends told me about talking to strangers on the subways in New York and giving each other hugs as they parted.

Our better selves came forward when we recognized our vulnerability. I can’t help but contrast this to what has happened in the COVID pandemic.

By 2002, some public figures decided that Americans must never appear vulnerable and the “War on Terror” was in full swing. It was a war of revenge which we have paid for with thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Many, perhaps most, who lost loved ones on 9/11/2001 reacted with anger — but not all.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (PT) was a project of the Fellowship of Reconciliation-USA. Full Disclosure: I belong to FOR-USA.

PT’s name comes from a statement made by Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968): “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” Most of our friends who suffered deep sorrow on 9/11 resonate with PT’s statement that,

“The violence that took our loved ones’ lives can spin out of control, and fear can be manipulated by politicians and the media to justify foreign and domestic policies that increase violence while decreasing U.S. citizens' rights and liberties over the years to come.”

The events of the last few days prove this to be an accurate prediction.

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared that the War on Terror was successfully over. He was on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and appeared under a large banner that read “Mission Accomplished” — he was very wrong!

In a recent issue of The Atlantic, award-winning journalist George Packer (1960- ) listed the clearest results of our revenge wars that I have seen:

  • The years after September 11 plunged us into the rough stream of history. Shock after shock followed that first one:

  • the militarization of the homeland;

  • The Iraq War, with its early arrogance and prolonged agony;

  • the use of torture, which undermined Bush’s ever high-flown phrases;

  • the financial crisis, which destroyed Americans’ wealth and trust in the system;

  • the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan,

  • the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,

  • and the rise of right-wing populism in America;

  • Donald Trump’s frantic assaults on democracy;

  • and the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed well over 200 times as many Americans as the terrorist attacks did.

Assuming that we were able to prove that no one can mess with us and even that we are invincible — was it all worth it? We cannot undo the past but hopefully we don't have to repeat it.

I remember the Islamic psychologist, Mona Amer, saying bluntly after 9/11, “It's a bad time to be a Muslim in the United States!” She was right. That's why I have been so deeply impressed with those who suffered a great loss on 9/11 and yet have been active in combating the anti-Muslim hysteria fanned by some public figures. The members of Peaceful Tomorrows have been especially active in reminding the public of the humanity of our Muslim citizens.

J. Michael Mullins, a longtime friend and active force in the extended Starcross community, was the District Attorney of our county on 9/11. He is a veteran born in Texas and raised as an Irish-Catholic. The first thing Mike did after 9/11 was visit the small mosque in our county. His purpose was to reassure the frightened members and convey his respect for their human dignity and the spiritual path on which they walked.

May we all be more successful in leaving those who follow us an abundance of peaceful tomorrows.

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