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Motivations are comprehensible

George Palen
Friday September 14, 2001


The tragic loss of life Tuesday in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania is numbing. One cannot begin to understand the hurt that the terrorist attack brings upon people of America and the world.  

One can understand, though, the motivations behind the attack. And while I was truly saddened by the tragedy that occurred in the planes and the Pentagon and World Trade Center, I was also, once again, disappointed at the reactions by both the White House and the mainstream press. In painting this tragedy as a story of good against evil, we in America refuse to own up to the destruction that we are causing the rest of the world. We are refusing to take on the responsibilities incumbent of the most powerful nation in the world.  

While the party directly responsible for the hijackings has not come forth, we must in America bear some of the responsibility. We are a country, especially since George W. Bush moved into the White House, that refuses to make compromises with anyone. We have pulled out of middle east peace talks. We have backed out of the Kyoto protocols. We refused to discuss racial equity issues in South Africa. The Bush administration has insisted that the world play by our rules, no matter how unjust.  

Today”s society is one of oppressors and the oppressed. Those with power in America are using that power to gain more power and are doing so with little regard for any lives that get in the way. We should not be surprised at the violence that happened on Tuesday. In fact that violence is no different than the destruction that the United States has visited upon Nicaragua, upon Iraq, upon the Palestinian state, upon the rainforests in the Americas, upon countless societies and environments of the world plundered in the name of economic growth. Tuesday”s violence is no different than the oppression that we visit upon the poor in our own country when we deprive them of health care, environmental safety, welfare and indeed dignity with which to run their lives. Tuesday’s violence is no different with one exception: those in power in America control the media. They control the message. They get to say who is right and who is wrong. 

Let us learn a lesson from Tuesday’s tragedy. Let us realize that every person in this world deserves power over his or her own life, and that a healthy society allows for mechanisms in which that power can be expressed. Let us stop relying on military answers to human problems. Let us stop insisting that the winners are those with the most power and money. Let us stop pretending that the ends justify the means. Let us start to build a world where justice is universal, where human life is valued over corporate profit, where reason and compassion take the place of death and destruction.  

As we saw Tuesday, global power exercised in the absence of global responsibility brings about violent retribution. Let us not kid ourselves into thinking that increased security will provide us with a safe country in which to live. Only when we allow for justice in the world, when we allow for human concerns to be addressed with honor, dignity and respect, will we live in a world where people do not see the need to resort to terrorism. 

Let us find safety in justice, not in oppression. 

George Palen