Dear Joseph,
Since the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, it's become apparent that many people around the world hate the United States. An enormous banner, photographed at a demonstration in Pakistan and shown in The New York Times read, "Americans, think. Why are you hated all over the world?" Shouldn't the widespread nature of such hatred prompt us to do some real soul-searching as to the evils we have done that could cause such animosity?
Feeling Guilty

Dear Feeling Guilty,

Shortly after World War II, Golda Meir, who later became Israel's prime minister but who was then a member of the Jewish Agency, met with a high-ranking British official (at the time, Britain ruled over Palestine). In the course of their meeting, the man commented in passing to Mrs. Meir, "But don't you agree that if the Nazis hated the Jews so much, the Jews must have been somewhat responsible for provoking such hatred?" Mrs. Meir walked out and, to the man's utter astonishment, never spoke to him again.

Mrs. Meir's behavior was correct, in my view; saying that the Jews were in some way responsible for the Nazis hatred and gassing of them is immoral. So too is it immoral to say that the hatred unleashed against America on Sept. 11 is somehow America's fault.

I don't say this as a naïve defender of all that the United States does and has done. All people, Americans and non-Americans alike, have a right to be angry at the United States over policies it has taken and which they feel are wrong.

But anger is one thing, hatred and murder another. A person who thinks it is all right to murder Americans simply for being American reflects pathological, evil, hatred. The question, "What is it about America that could so have angered a Charles Manson that he could order so brutal a slaying of Sharon Tate and her friends?" is obnoxious and cruel. So too is it morally outrageous to say that America needs to look into its soul because of the Sept. 11th bombing.

Consider the beliefs held by those who raised that banner. Likely, they count the equality granted to American women one of the despicable features of American life. Severe restrictions on women's rights are features of countries controlled by fundamentalist Islam. The restrictive Taliban regime in Afghanistan, among other highly immoral restrictions on women, limits the education of girls beyond age eight. Are we to understand that because radical Islam sees a great evil in the equal rights of American women that we should do some soul-searching and maybe reconsider the high status of women in the West?

In short, people who believe that no Americans are innocent have told us something profoundly important about themselves; they are evil. And if I want to do soul-searching, I am apt to do so when a good person points out something wrong that I have done, not when evil people spew forth hate-filled invective against me. Chinese literature records the following Confucian dialogue:
"Tse Kung asked Confucius: "What would you say if all the people in a village like a person?"
"That is not enough," replied Confucius.
"What would you say if all the people in a village dislike a person?"
"That is not enough," said Confucius. "It is better that the good people of the village like him, and the bad people of the village dislike him. When you are disliked by the bad person, you are a good person"

It is the bombers and their (apparently many) supporters who should ask themselves: "How can I claim to believe in God and treat other of God's children so evilly?"

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