On the surface it appears somewhat ironic that silence should figure so significantly on this day of memory in the United States while, at the same time, Osama bin Laden should use the occasion as an opportunity to release a 47-minute video eulogizing Walid al-Shehri, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, the first jet to crash into the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. In order to find perspective for that day when "everything changed," I found myself digging into al-Shehri's own words (thanks to translated passages provided by Al Jazeera English), where I found the following:
As for our own fortune, it is not in this world. And we are not competing with you for this world, because it does not equal in Allah's eyes the wing of a mosquito.
Yes, this is a typical example of that transcendent thinking without which martyrdom would not be possible; but is it not, also, a statement of negligence, if not denial, of "this world?" That being the case, do we not also find such negligence in an American policy that refused to honor the proposals of the Kyoto Agreement (one of the key points in the rhetoric of bin Laden's own recent video) or ratify the authority of the International Criminal Court? Were not both of these acts an assertion of the self-interests of the powerful over a few faltering steps, taken on a global scale, to deal with the pressing problems of "this world?" Is not the very foundation of faith-based policy one of a transcendence, which, when viewed by those of us who do not share the faith, just as easily interpreted as negligence? Walt Kelly was famous for saying, "We have met the enemy, and they is us." Have we the courage to acknowledge the parallels between our attacks on such abstract concepts as climate control and international justice and the more concrete attacks of 9/11/2001? If we have that courage, can we summon the will to bring about a course-change away from this continuing negligence of "this world?"
9/11/2001 was not the day when "everything changed." Things were already changing on Election Day of 2000, when those governed by faith alone began to chip away at those processes of our government that had been set in place by our Constitution. We were already witnessing the change in mind-set in the summer of 2001; but the only reactions to those changes were minor demonstrations that did not equal "the wing of a mosquito." Then nineteen terrorists applied their negligence of "this world" to implement a demonstration on a scale that exceeded "the wing of a mosquito" by an unthinkable magnitude. After 9/11/2001 we could no longer ignore a change that was already in the works. Unfortunately, we could be dissuaded from reflecting on it; and our government and media achieved that dissuasion with businesslike alacrity. Six years later it seems as if all capacity for reflection has been sapped from us. Yet faith-based terrorism derives its very strength from a similar suppression of reflective thinking, masquerading a brutal negligence of "this world" as transcendence. Both sides are stuck in the same muck. Only by extricating ourselves can we have the substantive grounds to prevail over the negligence that lies at the heart of terrorist convictions.