How sad it was, after Friday's moving service at the National Cathedral in Washington, a service that emphasized love and the healing power of God, to hear the divisive and self-serving comments of the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. These men have chosen to use our great national tragedy in a tasteless and repugnant attempt to further their own personal agenda of intolerance and bigotry masquerading as Christianity.
How dare they speak for God? They represent neither God, nor Jesus Christ, nor the great majority of Christians. Their comments dishonor the memory of the thousands who perished on Sept. 11 and pour salt on the wounds of their grieving families. They should be ashamed of themselves, and Americans should pay no more heed to their words.
I would like to say to members of the gay community and the other patriotic Americans slandered by the latest foul remarks of the Rev. Jerry Falwell that he does not speak for this Christian, nor for millions of others.
Grant R. Grissom
My renewed faith in the decency, strength and compassion of the American people received a cold dose of reality when I read that the Association of Trial Lawyers of America has magnanimously decided that there should be a moratorium on related lawsuits (Inquirer, Sept. 15). Just for the time being, of course. Leo Boyle, the association's president, stated, "When we're further along, we can revisit it." He named the likely candidates for lawsuits as United and American Airlines, firms responsible for security at the three airports involved, the builders of the World Trade Center, terrorists and those who harbor them, insurance companies and the Federal Aviation Administration. One can expect that Boeing will be added to the list as it now develops that their cockpit doors are not tank-proof. Maybe the Wright Brothers and jet fuel makers, too. If God had a zip code, He would no doubt be made a defendant. Since the association will now have time on its hands, I suggest they go to work, pro bono, with the heroic rescuers in the rubble at ground zero.
Perhaps the most ironic of the outrageous assertions made by Carlin Romano, in his review of Terrorism and America by Philip B. Heymann, is his conclusion that "the test of time suggests that overly civilized responses to terrorism only encourage it" (Inquirer, Sept. 16). Even if one were to ignore the overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary (e.g., the endless cycle of terroristic acts provoking terroristic responses that besmirch both Northern Ireland and the Middle East), one cannot avoid asking how anyone, having read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, could suggest such a thing.
Certainly, Romano fully understands Conrad's concern about the ease with which the thin veneer of civility gives way to barbarism. Thus, he shouldn't suggest that "our greatest danger is to turn legalistic along with Heymann and lose our moral outrage, our righteous fury."
A response befitting a great nation would include a return to normalcy at home (albeit with heightened vigilance and less condescension for the rest of the world) and the mobilization of international cooperation to identify and bring the terrorists to justice. A more comprehensive approach, however, will demand a quiet resolve that far outlasts outrage and fury.
Walter C. Uhler
Thank you for the Carl Sagan quote from "Pale Blue Dot" (Inquirer, Sept. 16). This quote from one of his last books, The Demon Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark, is also something to think about:
"I worry that, especially as the millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls."
A vicious crime against humanity was commited Sept. 11, the first of its magnitude on American soil. Our fear and rage are understandable. I hope that those who plotted and executed this heinous crime will be found and brought to justice as soon as possible in an international court of law. But every peace-loving American must stand up against the strident calls for wholesale retaliation.
The terrorists who caused this unspeakable carnage must be punished. But we must also open our minds, hearts and checkbooks. I for one intend to pay a whole lot more attention to what is happening outside the United States; to try to understand the horrific conflicts that daily take the lives of innocent men, women and children all over the world; and do what I can to eliminate suffering and injustice wherever it exists.
Judith H. Borie
As the Bush administration contemplates retaliation, let us pray that the second act of this horrible unfolding tragedy will not try to outdo the first act. Pearl Harbor cost the lives of 2,395 American citizens, 54 of whom were civilians. The Sept. 11 attacks promise a death toll more than twice that, with the overwhelming majority of the victims civilians. Should we expect America to exact the lives of millions in retaliation? Will we compound this human disaster with yet another human disaster?
These hijackers probably still would have boarded the doomed planes even with the Federal Aviation Administration's new security measures (Inquirer, Sept. 13). Perhaps the only sensible improvement the FAA has mandated is that no knives are now allowed on board planes.
Does anyone else think that banning carry-on luggage may - and I say may - have been the only way to stop this horrendous disaster? Perhaps we are too used to our conveniences to stand for such a regulation, but I would not complain if such a rule were implemented.
As an American-born Muslim, I share the sense of awful fear and brutal awakening of my fellow Americans. But my family and I suffer on another front: from the ignorant.
It has become a habit, now, that when a cry of "Terrorism!" goes out, most automatically think Arab and Islam. It is horrible to get a phone call from my aunt saying that my uncle has interrupted his dinner to go to his store because someone set it on fire, or to be rousted in the middle of the night as employees inform my father that someone just shot a bullet through his store window.
Just because they were born in another country. It hurts that people think Arabs and Muslims should not be allowed in America.
Islam is just as peaceful as Judaism and Christianity, and we believe in all the same things as those religions do, with only small variations. America is a land of equal opportunity to all, regardless of race, and terrorism is terrorism no matter who does it or where. I can only hope that after witnessing and experiencing the tragedies of Sept. 11, Americans - even the world - will realize what it means to have our homes threatened and destroyed by another who has absolutely no right to do so.
Since Sept. 11, I've heard a lot of hyperbolic talk-show-style racist language condemning "Arabs" for their perceived (though, at the time of this message, unconfirmed) role in these tragic assaults, and I offer my sympathy to Americans of Middle Eastern descent for any prejudice your fellow Americans show you.
We are all Americans, regardless of our ancestry, and we are all damaged by a violent event of this magnitude. I urge my fellow citizens to act sensibly and sensitively toward Arab Americans who must deal not only with the tragedy we all share, but also with the possibility of racial violence perpetuated by frightened, hateful reactionaries.
Compassion and empathy across all borders are the paths through this mess to a more civilized world.
To see all letters published on last week's terrorist attacks, visit http://inquirer.philly.com/go/voices/.