Don't Promote Hate

By Don Gingrich

As a US citizen who has lived in Australia for nearly 20 years I have a different perspective on last week's events. Oh, it's definitely personal, the plane that crashed in Somerset County barely missed my sister's house. But, as I hear the calls for massive retaliation against the terrorists, I wonder if this is really the solution.

I am reminded of a fire in oil. If you smash something into it to try to put out, all that you succeed in doing is spreading the fire to a lot of new places. This is what I am afraid that massive retaliation and retribution is likely to bring.

The question that I believe that the world needs to be asking is, "What sort of despair and conditions can lead people to believe that taking their life in this way is a good thing to do?"

The world as a whole needs to look at the causes of this despair. We need to look at the causes of fanaticism, and ways of reducing it. A direct attack will only give credence to the message of hate that these fanatics have been spreading. It will only serve to increase their appeal.

I am not saying that the perpetrators should be allowed to escape justice. But that justice must be done and be seen to be done.

In Melbourne and Sydney we have a reasonably large number of cab drivers who are of Middle Eastern background. And they tend to share their views if they notice that I am from the US. They hear the same news as I do and I would assume that in most cases they are at least somewhat moderate in their views or they would still be in their homelands fighting.

But their view of the actions of the US in the Middle East is a very different one from the the one that I see. I see the US trying to push both the Israelis and the Palestinians into taking the steps necessary to bring peace. They seem to only see the pressure exerted on the Palestinians. I see the US trying desperately to keep Iraq from destabilising the region and starting another war that would result in the deaths of millions. I see the US trying to keep the raw ingredients of biological weapons out of Iraqui hands. They see thousands of children who are hungry and threatened with disease. They don't see the Iraqui fat cats who are living very well, thank you.

What is as important as the results of US actions against terrorists, is the _perception_ of those actions. It is the views that I described that are the parents of the terrorists of tomorrow. It would be counterproductive in the extreme to take actions which can increase these views.

Finally, there is a need to improve the lives of the people in the Middle East. One of the beliefs driving the terrorists is that this life is awful and the next one will be better. We need to make their lives better today so that suicide is a less attractive option. I'm not sure how to do this, but I would suggest that listening carefully to what _they_ say that they need is a good start.

God be with you, and I hope that there will be many more prayers for guidance than for victory in some human-defined terms.

Don Gingrich is an American system administrator working in Melbourne.