Mail I Never Sent

I drafted a number of e-mails back in late September that I never sent. Most of them were intended for my extended family, as we discussed the events of September 11. I’m not sure why I never sent them. I guess I just despaired of getting my point across.

The Apostle Paul warns, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Romans 12:17, 199).

Even now, our religious leaders are speaking a message of peace. They are saying that we must respond to terror with love, that we must not answer violence with more violence.

That’s an extremely hard message to hear right now. It’s hard because we’re angry. And we’re scared. And who can blame us for that?

I’m angry at the people who did this to us. I’m angry at my own government for funding the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and bin Laden. I’m angry at the TV networks who are trivializing the death of thousands of Americans with glossy and superficial coverage. I’m angry at the investors who are even now sending the stock market into a downward spiral.

I’m scared of more terrorist attacks. We tested our preparedness for an anthrax assault a few months ago in three major cities; the results indicated we are not prepared for that at all. One crop-duster with the right biological weapons could kill millions. I’m also scared of what our own military might do. The use of “tactical” nuclear weapons is being discussed. Yes, I’m scared.

But I’m not terrified. I’ll be damned if I let the terrorists accomplish that.

Xy went to mass yesterday morning at Visitation of Our Lady in Marrero, LA. The message at this conservative church was one of peace. “Love your enemy.” Xy said that the man in the pew before her was shaking his head and trembling with rage throughout the sermon.

We’re all angry. It so may be hard for us to listen to the wisdom of our religious counselors. But that’s exactly what we must do. How can I love the Taliban, whom I’ve hated for years? It’s hard — very, very hard. Hate is far easier.

It’s also hard to think of peace because we have been conditioned to accept violence. We can barely even imagine any other way to respond. And the events of September 11 demand a response. To do nothing is unthinkable, impossible. We must do something, and more than something. We must do a lot. But what? Can we imagine a response that does not include the slaughter of more innocents? It’s hard. But we must.

And there’s one more thing that makes it hard to think about peace.

Consider the terrorists themselves. We are told that they were religious zealots fighting a holy war. But in fact they were agents of evil. No religion preaches the killing of innocents. Islam certainly does not preach this. The terrorists cannot be considered true Muslims. We should see them for what they are: agents of evil, seriously deluded men masquerading as holy warriors. As a Baptist minister recently said, “Satan can speak in the language of God.”

We’re not immune to this. In our own country, we also have agents of evil. We have those who speak “in the language of God,” deluded men who promote violence and hate in the name of Christianity. They will cite scripture to support their views. For example, they may point to the first verses of Romans 13, while conveniently ignoring the rest of the chapter. But make no mistake. These men are not true Christians, any more than the terrorists were true Muslims. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.”

From the Sermon on the Mount:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

We should not be deceived by the “ravenous wolves” who clamor for retribution. If someone preaches vengeance, they are a “bad tree” bearing “bad fruit.” The Christian position on vengeance and retribution is clear, though right now we may not feel like listening to what Jesus said: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:39-41, NIV).

These are my thoughts on the brink of a war that now seems to be unstoppable.

It appears that I’m the only person in our family who favors a peaceful response. I want you all to know that, even if we have our differences, I still love you all. I hope that the family can still accept me. Does that sound silly? I guess that I’m afraid that I’ll be shunned or ostracized. I’m afraid that you will think I’m not a good American.

I am very much afraid about the direction we are headed right now. If America makes the wrong moves, some very bad things could happen. For example, there’s Pakistan. Gen. Musharraf is pro-Western, but he’s also a military dictator with a somewhat shaky hold on power. My friend in Pakistan tells me that there is much popular support there for the Taliban. It’s entirely possible that, if we don’t act just right, Musharraf could be displaced by a hardline, Taliban-style leader. That would be very bad — especially when you remember that Pakistan has nukes.


Death. You know, it seems absurd, but actually the death of our cat Bilal is the closest that death has touched my life — ever.

Considering that I’m now 35, I think that’s pretty fucking weird.

But then again: This was a sudden, unexpected death… We found the body ourselves… We had to figure out what happened, and what to do with the body…

All my grandparents are dead. Sadly, I wasn’t close to any of them. A couple of people I knew in high school died sudden, shockingly violent deaths, but they weren’t really close friends and I didn’t really care. No one really close to me has ever died, not yet. But I suppose that’s coming.

In a way, Bilal’s death seemed like a miniature rehearsal for future grief.