Op-Ed: Respond with justice to violent attacks

With due respect to Bill Eldridge’s perspective that those who want peace are bringing dissension (“Wrong to protest retaliation for terror,” Sept. 17, p. 5), let me say peace is patriotic. All of us were devastated and terrorized by the events of Sept. 11. All of us mourn, and all of us are hurting. And all of us are clear that such atrocities must be addressed courageously.

But to assume aggression against terrorist activities is the only patriotic response is to simplistically reduce our options to war or nothing else. To say those of us who ask whether there are better, more long-lasting, creative and just solutions than war are un-American is naive and destructive.

Americans are unified in the idea that terrorism has no place in our lives. But this unity does not mean that we all agree about what our response should be. I for one, am clear that the United States has a choice to escalate the violence already done here by going to war or to work with countries all over the world – from Pakistan to Russia, Cuba, Ireland, Germany and others – to bring the criminals to justice.

I do not believe bombing anyone is going to solve the complex and wrenching problems before us. To want peace at this time is to say that there are those of us who believe we can be wise and strong, showing the world we will take the lead in eradicating terrorism from all of our lives, not by doing more violence, but by more long-lasting strategies based on justice.

In addition to all the fear and pain felt around the world last week, we now have the added burden of anxiety and panic about what the U.S. government will do and whether we will soon be in an all-out war. To work for peace is not wimpy, is not unpatriotic, is not cowardly as so much of the rhetoric flying around would have it.

Peace is actually a hard option because it means we must really ask ourselves what true justice would look like, and do we have the chutzpah to make it real. To work in peace for a nation that is truly living as one – one humanity, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all – is indeed patriotic.

-The writer is a member of GW’s Interfaith Board of Chaplains.

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