Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Rediculous notions about 9-11 attacks

Angry and grieving American patriots need look no further in assigning blame for Sept. 11’s devastating terrorist attacks upon the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the World Trade Center in New York.

It’s all my fault.

I don’t actually remember ordering teams of armed hijackers to take over four planes and turn them into guided bombs. I don’t remember ordering that one plane smash into the Pentagon and that two more take out the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

Nevertheless, it’s my fault, and the fault of people like me. Religious extremists and would-be prophets Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson say so.

During Thursday’s broadcast of “The 700 Club,” Mr. Falwell blamed the terrorist attacks on pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union and the People for the American Way. If Mr. Falwell is right, then as a member of at least two, and possibly even three, of these scapegoated groups, I have no choice but to accept responsibility for what has happened.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve tried to be as good a person as possible, that I’ve tried to behave morally and ethically, and tried to treat other people fairly and with respect. Apparently I’ve helped to “secularize” the United States. As a result, “God Almighty is lifting His protection from us,” as Mr. Robertson said in a four-page statement issued Thursday.

Of course, if you seriously believe Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson -- and there are people in this country who do -- then I encourage you to follow their arguments to their logical conclusions.

If the events of Sept. 11, 2001 were indeed God’s Will, then there can be no retaliation against the terrorists who caused the deaths of what could be thousands of innocent civilians. Instead we must honor these heroic martyrs as the agents of God’s Divine Retribution.

By planning retaliation, President Bush is jeopardizing his immortal soul, as are the members of the U.S. Congress who have endorsed his actions. By supporting our government in seeking justice we, as a nation, are also flouting God’s Will.

I’m hoping that when thought out completely, the rhetoric spouted by Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson will seem a lot less plausible. About as plausible, in fact, as harboring suspicion toward community members of Middle Eastern origin.

I’d love to report that such suspicion isn’t happening here, but I’ve seen evidence to the contrary. On Thursday, an irate caller told a newsroom staffer, “All foreigners have 30 days to leave the country.”

“Is that a presidential order, or your opinion?” she responded.

The FBI has identified 19 men as suspects in the hijack attacks and the U.S. government has apparently decided that exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden was also involved. But of all the people of Middle Eastern descent who are living in the United States, the possibility that someone in our community is connected to one of those suspects -- or even to bin Laden himself -- is so remote that to seriously entertain such a notion would be ridiculous.

America’s citizens, of whatever ethnicity, will have a hard enough time coping with the aftermath of Sept. 11’s tragedy. If ever there was a time to look past individual differences, this is surely that time. I can’t help but feel that by encouraging divisiveness and pointing a finger of blame at convenient scapegoats, people like Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson are committing a grave injustice in the name of the God they claim to speak for.

Published Sept. 18, 2001 in the Lake County Record-Bee