The Amish response to the brutal slaying of five of their own offspring in an old fashioned, one-roomed school house was a blueprint for how President George Walker Bush should have responded to the slaughter of nearly 3,000 of our own citizens in the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
The merciful decision to forgive a deranged man who, for whatever reason, chose to project a self-inflicted sense of hate upon a classroom of nothing but innocent children was exactly as God would have had it, exactly how he would have responded if it had been one of his own children who had been slain.
Something like that of “the cross” when his son, Jesus, spoke the immortal words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” A message for the ages, one for all of mankind to hear, even to understand. A reminder that hate might well rule the day, but, in the end, only love has the genuine capacity to heal a world caught up in the agonizing grip of pain and suffering.
However, such was not to be the case for our president as he chose not to travel the path of peace, but rather a way traversed by men determined to mete out justice according to an eye-for-an-eye, clenched-fist law of lex talionis, one that led a world of onlookers to condemn what turned out to be a shameful display of “shock and awe,” a merciless attack (by the greatest military power the world has ever seen) upon a country of folks preveniently bombed into a near stone-age existence, proving our country to be that of a true bully, one motivated by national glory and corporate greed, all in order to prove to the world who the boss really is, who it is that shall have “the last say.”
However, as it turns out, having “the last say” depends not so much upon who is able to throw the final punch, but rather who it is that is most wise, who is able to impel folks to be a friend of he who happens to be crowned as victor.
Almost as if the world had been caught short in some sort of sleeping (counting its peace dividend) slumber, 9/11 pounced upon the body-politik as if slapped in the face. Everyone, except for those of Al-Qaeda (and a complement of heedlessly, inattentive Bush administration officials), was shocked, stricken to the core of their being, put on notice that the world had been irrevocably changed, modified to such an extent that nothing would ever be the same, that a new world order would from this point on be required.
If only the Bush administration had done its homework. If only they had been prepared. If only George Walker Bush had been, as he had so routinely claimed to be, that of a true Christian, a resolute, born-again believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, the world may have been spared the unfathomable travesty of a “nation of believers” driven insane by an uncontrollable urge to kill in the name of an all-loving (yet, no doubt, rather ill-tempered) God.
If only George Walker Bush had taken the time to read the same Bible as that of the Amish, a simple pastoral community wanting to carry out the merciful requests of a loving God, a people who took to heart the words of one who so clearly taught that the wisdom of the world is no more than mere foolishness to God, that the urge to take revenge upon those who might choose to hurt another is nothing short of folly, that the decision to strike back is like pouring kerosene on a lighted fire, a catalyst that transforms enmity to into a certain desire to kill.
If only our president would have had the capacity to comprehend that having been attacked, the world, for the first time since the days of Pearl Harbor, seemed to feel sorry for us, were more than ready to help us. We had the world in the very palm of our hand, and all that was required was to simply place the so-called terrorist problem in that of their own lap, and, out of an empathic concern for us as a people, they would have immediately come to our rescue.
The United Nations had placed inspectors in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction had been found, and, for the cost of merely one week of war in Iraq, we could have financed the work of a phalanx of inspectors for decades to come. And with the balance of money having been spent on a war lasting longer than that of our involvement in World War II (an amount nearing one half trillion dollars!) we could have paved “the roads of the world” with the glittering gold of gracious and benevolent concern for others by constructing medical clinics for the sick, schools for those without education, water wells for those living in parched lands, and by feeding the tens of millions of staving children around the world… random acts of kindness that would have generated enough good will to last until the end of time.
And all of such while having pretended to be a noble, Christ-centered, nation, aided and abetted by a sanctimonious undercurrent of jack-booted, xenophobic apologists having marched their way into the bloodstained jaws of empire, we will one day be taken to task, forced, by all of humanity, to take responsibility for having allowed ourselves to have become a venerable “den of thieves,” a nation condemned for having led the world into an apocalypse of horrors, an astonishingly brutal abolition of the world… as we now know it.”
Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at Wharton County Junior College in Wharton, Texas.