Musings: Post September 11

"Think it's time we stop…hey…what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down…"

–Buffalo Springfield

An overzealous writer called to inquire if his article would finally be printed in the next issue of Spirit of Change since, as he put it, "all the September 11 stuff has died down." Guess this writer doesn't realize that "September 11th" is not going away…

It has been four months since the fateful day in September, 2001 that an alarm was sounded and heard around the world. Two skyscrapers in the heart of New York City, the mecca of the American corporate financial world, were intentionally struck and demolished by suicide bombers who used commercial airliners filled with people and fuel to accomplish their mission. The Pentagon in Washington, DC, the symbol of American military dominance throughout the world was also struck by another airliner at the same time.

The loss of life and property has been staggering; the effects of the emotional and economic wounds haven't even yet fully registered. Those of us not living in New York City or Washington, DC, who do not live with the wreckage day by day or personally know one of the thousands of souls snuffed out in an instant whose pictures and stories have filled weeks of obituary pages in the New York Times, cannot even imagine the loss and bewilderment of our fellow citizens who are living it. Yet, the shock and outrage has united us and directed even the average American's attention to matters of global concern. Thus, the people responsible for these attacks have succeeded, in part, and sent a message loud and clear that they are angry – angry enough to ignite wars which could potentially destroy all life on the planet as we know it. Yet their carefully calculated actions, estimated by some to have been in the planning for over two decades, suggest that at least for them, no cost is too great to bear in settling the long-standing grievances which they hold.

What are these people so angry about and why are they blaming the United States?

Clearly, the answers to these questions are varied and complex and no one individual or even government department could possibly know their full implications, otherwise positive solutions would already have been put forth to halt the escalating violence. Yet from news reports we've read or discussions in general conversation, we are aware that deeply held religious, economic, military and ethical issues are working at cross-purposes here to bring about these deadly clashes in worldviews. In general, the average citizen knows nothing about the world of international politics other than what we are told, so many of us are feeling helpless, hoodwinked and blind. Who is in charge here and how did things get so out of control that the world's biggest superpower sustained such a devastating blow at home?

But, is the average citizen really so blind? While we may not be privy to the details of international treaties and military agreements, we certainly have eyes to see for ourselves what is going on around the world and hearts and minds to make our choices with. The average American enjoys an unprecedented standard of living with potentially unlimited access to every conceivable kind of staple good and luxury item each and every day. At the same time, we are also vaguely aware that thousands of people around the world are dying from starvation, preventable diseases, environmental degradation and war each and every second of those days. In addition, millions of people are living in squalid refugee camps because the world can't decide what to do with them even though they were intentionally displaced. Most Americans choose to ignore these uncomfortable realities because we are able to – out of sight, out of mind – and continue, instead, to refine our own standards of living with more comforts, more entertainment and more enticements. We do this simply because we are able to and because they make our corporate economy and prosperous lifestyle possible. Besides, we tell ourselves, "we've earned it, we've worked for it, we deserve it." Even though we know we could do without yet another pair of shoes or another night out and donate the $40 to relieve suffering somewhere on the planet instead, we still choose to spend it on ourselves anyway. Do we really care?

The attack on America has been declared by many to be a wake-up call that it is time for Americans to start caring. Former President Clinton spoke at Harvard University this past November and explicitly stated: "America must share more of what they have with the rest of the world for any progress of peace to be made," a statement thick with serious implications when considered in the light of his extensive previous experience. This is not a political message. It is not an uncompassionate message towards those who suffered personal loss in the attacks of September 11. It is certainly not an endorsement of the barbaric, selfish acts of terrorism committed against humanity on that day last September. This is a reality check and wake up call for Americans to realize that our addiction to materialism has blinded us to the destructive effects of our actions worldwide. As a nation, our lavish, unrestrained lifestyle is causing irreparable damage not only to the ecosystems of the planet, but the human race as well, breeding competition, oppression and sowing the seeds of hatred and genocide. As individuals, we have lost our vision and our hearts if we are still filling our lives with trinkets and opening our wallets to cash registers while turning away requests from those without food, heat, medicine or homes, asking us to share even a little. The jarring and painful events of the past few months are forcing us to reevaluate what matters most in our lives and follow through with the choices we make. September 11, 2001 will not just slip away like another day, another year.

History is said to be the best teacher of all, but only unless we are willing to honor its truth. We cannot learn from that which we refuse to recognize, which is why so many Americans are puzzled that we could be so despised in other parts of the world. "Hey, we're the good guys!" we tell ourselves and the rest of the world. Few citizens would characterize the United States as a tyrannical nation – what, with our freedoms and liberties and humanitarian aid to other countries and all – yet our support of and involvement with genocide and other crimes against humanity is well-documented and ongoing. For example, one and a half million Armenians were murdered by the Turks during the first genocide of the 20th century between 1915-1918. Yet even to this day the United States refuses to officially recognize this historic fact because of our sensitive political and military ties to Turkey which denies this holocaust ever took place.

Likewise, the United States has never fully admitted or made restitution to the Indian people of North America for its grievous offenses against them as waves of our European ancestors arrived on these shores to "settle" the land as our own. Estimates include up to 20 million Indians killed, all of their land forcibly stolen, and countless individual and highly developed cultures left in ruins. To this day, the fruits of the thievery and barbarism on which this great nation was founded still ripen and rot on their vines in the form of poverty-stricken Indian reservations which also serve as nuclear waste dumps in parts of the country. Instead of our deepest apology, compassion and hefty remuneration for crimes committed against their people and cultures, we continue to marginalize, oppress and annihilate Indians wherever possible.

But the truth of these injustices will not die because the truth can never be extinguished. It will continue to express itself in loud and subtle ways until justice and balance are once again restored. The angry, desperate measures of disenfranchised Arabs cannot be condoned, nor can they be ignored or silenced. We do so at our own peril. Ironically, the message of the terrorists – meant to place a divide between "us" (the bad Americans) and "them" (holy Muslims) – actually draws us closer together. Their actions illuminate the reality that the entire planet is one "being" – which some would call Gaia – and the race of humanity, all one connected body. Much like our own individual bodies, if you hurt the arm, you hurt the body. Where does the arm stop and the body begin? Can the majority of humans be starving and the species still be considered healthy?

Our careless and unconscious actions around the world are now spreading misery like wildfire to all parts of the global body. We see millions of people enduring daily torment and starvation while barely surviving in refugee camps and other hellish places. Whole nations languish with infectious diseases while medicines to cure those illnesses are readily available in other countries. Mother Earth bears the fruits of our ignorance as we slowly poison and destroy Her exquisite, miraculous, life-sustaining ecosystems one by one, all in the name of making a buck and having cheap goods. How much longer can this go on? Our shield against these calamities grows thinner everyday as the containers which previously stored this planetary wretchedness grow full to overflowing and inevitably reach to our own shores. It has been mentioned with regard to the prophecies of the Hopi people that "we are no longer in the eleventh hour; the hour is now. We are the ones we have been waiting for."

These are matters of both personal and planetary concern. As individuals, there is very little we can do internationally about these situations. On a personal level, we must begin to adopt a new identity that is neither Christian nor Jew nor Muslim nor even nationalistic. We must begin to think of ourselves first as global citizens or we have no hope of peace or even survival on this planet into the future.

The most important thing you can do right now is to work with YOU! Treat every single person you come into contact with as a being deserving of your kindness and compassion. If every person in the world treated every other person in the world with this awareness and respect, there could be no wars. It would not be possible because our hearts would not allow us to disrespect another in that way. While our task in undertaking this type of personal transformation is certainly immense, it still is not impossible. This is why even our smallest, positive actions along the way are so important; they all count towards the final goal. Start now. Each time you fail, start again. And again. And again. But always keep the light of the "peace which is possible" in your mind's eye to guide you. It is there. Try to bring thoughts of prayer and meditation into your awareness at least once a day, and more often if possible. Every second spent in the light of prayer by any soul on the planet heals our world just a little bit more. Each one of us matters and is very important in this work we do together without even realizing it.

It is so easy in these racially-charged times we are living in to point fingers of blame or actually bomb, kill and destroy other cultures because we feel attacked, are attacked, fear being attacked. Violence will only bring on more violence and, ultimately, annihilation for the greater part, if not all, of the human race. Our personal contribution to the healing of this situation is to recognize our own racially-motivated negative attitudes and release them. Whatever those racial attitudes are, they are false and can only create negativity in our minds and in our lives. Let them go.

The very first rule of socialization we learned as children was to share because it fosters harmony and balance and generally makes life easier. It's a way of "keeping the peace." The signs are so clear, now, coming from points all around the globe that the answer to our problems is for those who have to share with those who don't. Whether it's food or power or knowledge or money or land, the world is in need of serious redistribution of its resources. We can lobby our legislators to support "sharing" policies around the world, we can give of our selves and our resources to aid worthy endeavors. But nothing ever happens unless we actually make the effort and do it – donate the money, donate the time, share your skills, lend your enthusiasm. Give, give, give without even stopping to think what or how much it is. Give just because it's in front of you and you are asked. In this, you discover that you are blessed with an abundance you will never even be aware of until you give it away.

Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine, New England's holistic magazine.