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This is an essay I published on September 15, 2001.

What Would Gandhi Do?
I'm fine here on Ninth Street, but like everybody in New York, every day I'm finding out about more friends-of-friends who were lost in the World Trade Center.
Tuesday morning I was having my first cup of coffee when the first plane went over our building 400 feet up, at 500 mph. I had time to think, "it's going to crash into our building." Unaccountably I ran to the window. For some reason I started counting. At "seven" I heard the BOOM. It shook the floor here. And I live 26 blocks north of the WTC.
It was a terrifying couple of hours as my family and I tracked down my brother, who's a pilot for American Airlines. We were lucky.  He was in Houston that morning.
Life in the city since then has been strange beyond strange. First for me was the unforgettable parade of people fleeing the financial district, many covered in that awful gray ash, some of them dropping from exhaustion or heart attacks after running all the way here from there.
Paper from the WTC is still blowing all over Manhattan. I found a paper with a burned edge, a memo about building security.
Frequent bomb scares and unconfirmed rumors have everybody pretty unsettled all the time.  The cloud of noxious smoke comes and goes. The jet fighters scream over the city.
Rudy Giuliani has helped us all get through. He shows us what a leader does.
But my pacifism has had a hard time surviving this week. After watching the second jet slam into the building, my first thought was, whoever did this has to die.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that "who has to die" is not a decision for me to make. More war, more violence and death are no answer. I checked out the Bible and the writings of Gandhi. The Bible says: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." Meaning, leave it up to God, he will sort it all out for us.
Mohandas Gandhi had a hard time defending his pacifism in the time of Hitler and his own brand of evil. A biography states: AGandhi was aware of the apotheosis of violence which Nazi and Fascist regimes represented, but he did not accept that Hitler and Mussolini were beyond redemption. A fundamental assumption in the non-violent technique was that human nature in essence was one and must ultimately respond to love. 'If the enemy realized,' wrote Gandhi, >that you have not the remotest thought in your mind of raising your hand against him even for the sake of your life, he will lack the zest to kill you. Every hunter has had this experience. No one has heard of anyone hunting cows.'
It's a radical idea, no? Maybe still too radical for us, in our time. The idea that we could defeat this evil with love -- impossible, dovish, tree-hugging nonsense, right?
But imagine if we took all the money we're about to spend on weapons and war, and sent it to the poor of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya. Imagine if we absorbed the blows of those who want to destroy us, and returned their expressions of hatred with unconditional love.
What these terrorists want is to bring on the end of the world.
The question we have to ask ourselves is: Do we want to help them do it?
Were were you, 12 years ago tonight, before the world changed?



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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 07:13:26 PM PDT

  •  i selected faded despite that i have not and do (0+ / 0-)

    not plan to watch any documentaries this year - not sure when i last did.

    I had 1/2 dozen family members that might have been on site.  one brother was scheduled to be there in the afternoon, my other brother (his boss) wasn't planning on being at this job.  two cousins were FDNY - one was on duty.  He lost his entire company (he was the driver - dove under his truck when the buildings came down and had to dig out).  The one that was off duty headed in, he spent weeks on the pile.  Another younger cousin was in the police academy (having not been able to get into the FD) - he was put on the street right out of training class and was inducted into FDNY on 12/31/01 - Guiliani's last act as mayor.  my nephew was headed there, but had woken up late and was 12-15 blocks away when the planes hit.  took him till dinnertime to get back home on LI.

    No, I will never forget.  for many reasons, but mostly because i spent hours trying to track family members.  I also will never forget watching dozens of FDNY entering the towers that morning - looking at all those backs of uniforms and wondering if 1 or 2 were my cousins.

    Several neighbors of my childhood home (mom is still there) lost family members, though having been gone for over two decades I did not know them.  One acquaintance of mine was killed.

    yes, the memories will continue to fade, but they will never go away.

    "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

    by MRA NY on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:49:31 PM PDT

  •  Where I Was Now '01 Was In Position to Realize (0+ / 0-)

    by 10 AM next morning 9/11 what the US rightwing-driven military-industrial-media-intel response would be, and how incalculably more it would injure us than Al Qaeda had.

    Gandhi lived through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which was depicted in the movie named for him, with casualties into a thousand or so, into the same order of magnitude of casualties of innocents as 9/11.  But these were inflicted by alien occupying soldiers, not occupation-fighting terrorists or freedom fighters.

    Gandhi's life work was about nonviolent resistance against oppression by the state and system; 9/11 is a response to what was perceived as state oppression or imposition, by a tiny cult faction of people feeling themselves and their people to be the victims of such oppression.

    Both he and his later follower Dr. Martin Luther King experienced incidents of some of the oppressed people on whose behalf they struggled, turning to the path of violence instead of the nonviolent struggle these 2 men taught. Both worked to turn their people aside from that path.

    I feel safe expecting that both these champions of nonviolence would have been appalled at and outraged by 9/11; but we are limited in our ability to refer to them because both leaders were focused on transforming society's power structures from oppression toward serving and fostering the many, and not so much on fighting the darker forces among the oppressed.

    I'm a Celtic trad musician and I do a regular paying hobby trade in wedding and funeral music. The Scots Dragoons Guards pipe band gave the world "Amazing Grace" as a pop hit bagpipe tune around 1971, and it immediately became a staple for memorial occasions not only for pipes, but every other style and instrument of music.

    There was a notable change on 9/12. "Amazing Grace" became simultaneously the song most requested of me to play, and most requested of me not to play, because of its use in so many 9/11 memorials. I faced this controversy across the country from Ohio to Florida to Washington State.

    For several historic reasons bagpipes became associated with US urban police and fire units. Here's a pipe lament from the old times, military "lights out" and frequent funeral or graveside tune, "Sleep, Dearie, Sleep." It's often been played by "the Lone Piper" atop the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle at the conclusion of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

    Bonnets-off to all those killed, wounded and family of the 9/11.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:28:01 PM PDT

  •  Gandhi was wrong about that, of course. (0+ / 0-)

    He was an admirable figure but he was wrong.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 03:58:41 AM PDT

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