As human beings, we react in different ways to tragedy. Horror. Fear. Running away. Stepping up. And for some, a desire for revenge comes. It may rise logically from a need to protect our own, to make sure tragedy won’t happen to us again, or just come from a blind, burning rage to kill. No one is totally immune, if you are hurt in just the right way. Some people can channel this in healthy ways; other just lash out.
The tragedy of 9/11 in New York City left many burning for payback. We watched helplessly as the television showed smoke rising from buildings and people and debris falling from skyscrapers. We saw firemen and police officers run to those buildings, and then we saw those buildings fall. Many of us knew someone who worked at Ground Zero, or had friends who knew someone there. In our hearts we felt that fear and anger towards a people we never even knew of. Within months, though, we knew more than enough about the Taliban, and al Qaeda. A desire to protect ourselves was at the top of our minds, but for many the thought of revenge and getting even smoldered or even flamed under the surface. Speeches were given, forces mobilized, and armies marched. Our country went on the offensive, both overseas and at home, and for ten years our government and military has hunted. Whether we like it or not, there are times that good men and women have to stand up and fight to protect our liberties, though the bigger man will be ready to help his neighbors do the same. Certainly we took our stand, again.
Is our world now a safer place? Probably. Is the work done? Not yet. My question for you is: what you can you personally do about it? Are you looking for revenge? Do you want to be the server to deliver that plate, if, as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold? Should revenge be a motivator in these matters at all? If our goal here is to protect ourselves, what is the best way to bring about that change? I would propose to you that each of us can do our part here. Whether your goal is an icy-cold serving of repayment-in-kind, a slice of self-protection, or a heaping portion of the milk of human kindness, we can all do some things to make a difference. Here are some options for all of us.
Take away the terrorists bases. I’m not referring to their hideouts and encampments, at least not directly. These terrorists have a base of people they prey on and use for their dirty work. How do you take away that base? Education and economic investment. The Taliban spread their infection inside local communities and religious schools, ostensibly to teach reading from Muslim texts, but in many cases they use these places to recruit the next generation of terrorists. Educate their children in the ways of capitalism and democracy. Find ways to invest financially so these people groups have something to offer to the rest of the world, other than soldiers or poppy plants. “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It is not enough for our military to go overseas and clean house unless we teach these peoples how to run their affairs, and you can’t teach them these things without making them partners in the process. The alternative is not pretty: certainly we don’t want to go back in 10 to 20 years just to repeat the mistakes we made before. Removing the base provided by a downtrodden and under-educated people renders the Taliban moot.
What can you and I do to make these things happen? The following links will point you to organizations that are already active and making a difference.
Heifer International‘s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. Their goal is to give a hand-up, not a hand-out. They have gifts of livestock along with training so people can learn how to feed themselves in sustainable ways, whether from more effective gardening and farming or through animal husbandry. You can support them through donations, buying goods from their website (Christmas baskets, anyone?), or by volunteering to go work with them in a foreign country.
A new trend in helping others is by providing micro loans. There are several good resources out there that immediately come to mind. Kiva is an organization committed to providing loans via the Internet: you can start with as little as $25. Five Talents is a Christian-based approach to this method: provide a small loan to someone that has an idea for a business in an area of the world that is underserved by existing microcredit financial institutions. (See Matthew 25:14-30 to learn what their name means).
Are you still looking for the “revenge” in this post? George Herbert is credited with saying “The best revenge is living well”. It’s easy enough to do: Go about your lives. Enjoy the benefits and privileges we have in this country. Vote: the world is watching. Go to public events; you don’t need anyone’s permission. Worship in the church of your choice, or not. Buy stuff: it will help the economy. Go to school: your knowledge will enrich you personally, and maybe the people around you. Go to work, or start your own business. Travel freely around our country. Prosper, be happy, and don’t live your life in fear. Reach out in love to the downtrodden of the world, and help them out, even if you can only do just a little. Our neighbors are watching. Give them a little bit of help, show them a better way, and let them learn from our example. And then imagine the pain that Osama bin Laden must have felt as he watched the Arab world began to fall apart in his last days, as these people of the desert began to rise up against their leaders and cry out “No More!” Now, those are people I would like to have as my neighbors!