You have to start off with the fact that there are
enemies. We were attacked and, at the moment, the dominant thing that people have to deal with is the grief, the sorrow, and the sense of loss, not only of the lives lost but of our lost innocence.
We have perched up on this high catbird seat of our own special privilege, wealth, and safety since the Second World War-- even during that war. But, as the Buddha reminds us, life is suffering. Most human beings live in daily danger, with wars and rumor of wars, with refugee problems. We thought that we were just about to enter into the alabaster city undimmed by human tears. We've suddenly been jolted into reality, and from now on we're going to be living with a sense of danger.
So what do we do? Our first response is to use a very old idea of the enemy to try to get us back to the old world. With the old faces of the enemy--the ones I talked about in my book, "Faces of the Enemy" (Harper and Row 1986)--we're dealing primarily with the emotion of fear and hate. Here's an enemy, we fear him. We know who he is. He's a Hun, he's a Jap, or he's an American pig but he has a face. Over that face we put another face, of an atheist or a barbarian or some kind of an animal, and this allows us to kill him. We retaliate, we strike out, which makes us feel better; it relieves our anxiety.
Now what's happened is very different. I'm just talking psychology, not actual fact, but, according to the mass mind, we have been hit by somebody. We don't know who they are. We don't know where they came from. We don't know why and we don't know when they will strike again. All we know is that everything is different.
What that has created is not fear but anxiety, and there is a vast difference between fear and anxiety. Fear has a concrete object, anxiety doesn't. You can't marshal much against anxiety. When we use the old image of the monster, of Satan, and of pure evil, we're trying to get into that old enemy psychology. We would feel so much better if we can bomb somebody and especially if it's Osama bin Laden.
As I tried to point out in my book, the only way to lessen the eternal circle of violence is by stopping knee-jerk retaliation; We have to sit and think for a long time about what we want to do, how to punish those who are guilty.
There was a picture in the paper that showed followers of Osama bin Laden holding up a great big sign that says, "Americans, think. Why are you hated all over the world?"
That's a hard question for us at a time like this. But it's the only question that is going to get us out of the mind set of war and get us into dealing with what the real issues are. The real issues have to do with American success and the envy and the resentment of it, and the way that we have ignored the Middle East except for Israel. But before we know how to respond in a creative way, we have to know how they see us.
Naturally right now, we're looking at the incredible sorrow and outrage of this monstrous destruction and loss of lives, and it is well and inevitable that we should do that. But we have to ask ourselves what are we not seeing when we use this image of the enemy. The most embarrassing thing that we don't want to talk about is that, in the Iraqi war, we killed nobody knows how many people and we rained destruction on Baghdad.
This is not to say that Saddam Hussein was not an evil man. He was doing evil things. But our response to it was so massive that it was an overreaction. Then we walked away and forgot about it. They haven't forgotten. When they look at us, that's what's on their mind. And when they attacked the World Trade Center, what they see is that we have ruthlessly attacked people in the Mideast.
I think also--and this is very hard to say because there are certain things we can't say--that we are unfairly pro-Israel. Our media is unfairly pro-Israel, our religious leaders are unfairly pro-Israel. Now, I don't know why we can't say that when all of the Arab world knows it and feels it and hates us for it. We have to say that out loud; we have to say to Israel, no more support from us until you give the Palestinians a homeland. How many Americans realize that we give Israel $3 billion a year?
We're way too timid in these things. The Wall Street Journal outlined the reasons why we're hated: for what we did to Iraq; for the way in which, although we talk about civil rights, we support kings and tyrants as long as they keep our oil supply going; and because of our uncritical support of Israel.
If we want to change, we've got to change those things. We've never talked about Iraq in terms of what our aims were, what the threats were versus what our response was. Do you remember those horrible pictures of the Highway of Death. We killed everything living and then bombed everything else.That is not a way to wage war. You know, even if you go to war, there are rules of warfare and we broke the rules of warfare.
Understanding the enemy is very crucial because only then can we prepare creative, reasonable, and just responses. But I think that as long as you have an image of the enemy, you don't make a distinction between reaction and responding. We do
have to respond, we do
have to seek justice but a reaction is not a response, it's unthinking.
Nationally, our process has to be, first of all, our grief; we need to feel the loss and mourn the people who were killed, mourn the destruction of those symbols and grieve our lost innocence.
The second thing to do is do nothing. Sit. Pause. Wait. There's no reason that we have to respond militarily right away; that is, no good reason.
The third thing is to study the enemy. Pay attention. Who is it? The Wall Street Journal had it right. They had a headline on one article, "Why Do They Hate Us So Much?" We need to know the answer to that before we are prepared to give a good response.
Then after that I would say deal with the guilty, but not with the innocent. The final thing is we really have to rethink our entire foreign policy and the way that we're going to be in the world. It will never be the same and that means that the old Marlboro Man of America, the independent, nation standing tall and alone, is gone.