Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reflecting on the 9/11 Rift

God the compassionate one, whose loving care extends to all the world, we remember this day your children of many nations and many faiths whose lives were cut short by the fierce flames of anger and hatred. Console those who continue to suffer and grieve, and give them comfort and hope as they look to the future. Out of what we have endured, give us the grace to examine our relationships with those who perceive us as the enemy, and show our leaders the way to use our power to serve the good of all for the healing of the nations. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord who, in reconciling love, was lifted up from the earth that he might draw all things to himself. Amen.
- Prepared by The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church, USA, for September 11 anniversary observances.

I remember that September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. I had a doctor's appointment and so was going to work late. I remember listening to the radio in the house, and then the car, as the drama unfolded at the World Trade Center in New York. First, one plane crashed, reported as if it were just a horrible fluke accident. Then a second plane, which made it clear this was no fluke accident. At the doctor's office, the nurses had turned on a small TV somewhere in the back. Patients wondered aloud, "What is this? What's happening?" Suddenly, one of the nurses said, "The towers are falling. Oh, my God! The towers are falling!" I was a reporter. I couldn't sit still. I went to the desk and told the receptionist, "I'm sorry. I really can't stay. I have to get to work. I'll call and re-schedule."

In retrospect, it wasn't like it was crucial for a reporter at Florida Public Radio to be "on the job" at that moment. And yet it was crucial for me. I made contact with our news director and determined that I would go to the state emergency management building and follow Florida's response to the crisis from there. We did have a stake in this thing. The President was in our state that day. His brother was our Governor. And we had no idea what the hell was going on. That day, the terrorists did win. They had created panic, fear, bewilderment. The shock and awe.

Nine years later, we seem to be caught up in that same loop of panic and fear, just at a different place on the wheel. Shock and awe have transitioned into shrill and anger. Our nation has seen images of faces that look like closed fists as the people growl about a proposed mosque at the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Islam, a cousin to Christianity in the Abrahamic traditions, is seen as foreign and threatening. And the normally metropolitan and progressive city of Gainesville gets in the news because of a wild-eyed maniac proposing to burn the Qur'an. His threat to pull such a stunt at the end of Ramadan, and on the anniversary of such a horrible event, created panic, fear, and bewilderment. A terrorist in words, if not in actions.

I'm wondering what it will take for us, all of us, to stop this madness? I feel strongly that there are many more in the Islamic camp and the Christian camp who desire peace and co-existence than who want to keep killing and attacking one another. That seems to be at the heart of the issue of Park 51, the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." On August 24th, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, released a letter to his Diocese in support of Park 51, calling on Christians to "reach out to the peaceful Islamic majority and do all in our power to build and strengthen bridges between our faiths." An important reveal in Bishop Sisk's letter is his own personal relationship with the leaders of Park 51, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan:
We know that as Sufis, they are members of an Islamic sect that teaches a universal belief in man’s relationship to God that is not dissimilar from mystic elements in certain strains of Judaism and Christianity. Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are, without question, people to whom Christians of good will should reach out with the hand of hospitality and friendship, as they reach out to us. I understand and support their desire to build an Islamic center, intended in part to promote understanding and tolerance among different religions.

Nowhere in any of the media reports on this proposed community center has anyone stated that these folks are Sufis. Sufism is, without a doubt, the least likely place to find an Islamic terrorist! As the Bishop states, it is the sect of Islam that strives for relationship with God through such means as dance and music. To put it in these terms, to demonize this Center and its purpose by coloring it with the same brush as those in Islam bent on theocratic terrorism would be like opposing the Quakers building a Friends Meeting House because of the actions of so-called Christians who shoot abortion doctors in the name of Jesus.

I know peace-loving people of faith are not the image that makes for "good TV news". Peace-loving people of faith certainly don't feed into the perpetual "Fear Factor" that is Fox News and the noise generated by Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the like. But the peace and love that passes all understanding must be the song of our lives that gets played more frequently. This has to become the soundtrack, and must involve people of all faiths sticking together regardless of which door we enter through to reach the banquet or what name we call our host. I believe this is the way to bring order to the chaos... again.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful piece, Susan. I really think that you should send this to the Democrat.


Phoebe said...

Well put. Personal, thoughtful and challenging.

p3ggymiller said...

I was working at America Online at Dulles, Virginia at the time. We were sent home when it was believed that one of the missing planes might be looking for a target.

The idea that a house of worship might be inappropriate is absurd - and un-American. No matter where it is built. We are all God's children.

SCG said...

Peggins: Thanks! I think I'll pass on the Democrat.

Phoebe: I'll be interested to hear how our Islamaphobia is playing in Austrailia.

p3ggymiller: I agree with you wholeheartedly about houses of worship. And I think this whole uproar over Park 51 is ugly and stupid. Ground zero, that hallowed ground, has a McD's, Dunkin' Donuts, BK. So, clearly it's not THAT sacred. As one commenter on the NY Times site wrote the other day, "Zoning disputes are as common in NYC as tent revivals are in the south. But did Sarah Palin send Twitter messages when the city gentrified 125th Street?" Point taken!