Crime Against Humanity

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Dear Paperlaters:

Like everyone else in this country, I will never forget what happened on September 11th.  I was bright and early in the Operating Room that day assisting an Ob/Gyn attending and a surgical resident.  There was a jazz station playing faintly in the background.  All of a sudden a nurse turned up the volume by several notches, and we heard a report about two plane crashes, but the obvious distress in the news anchor's voice seemed to suggest far worse.  I had scarcely had time to react when I realized that the unimaginable had occurred:  the two planes had slammed into the twin towers of World Trade Center.  The next couple of hours were like an endless nightmare that kept on unfolding.  First a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, then the twin towers collapsed one after another.  It was nothing short of amazing that everyone in the room was able to proceed calmly and finish the operation without a hitch amid all these devastating news.  The rest of day was spent in a haze of disbelief and confusion.  Many questions kept circling in my mind. How can human beings do this to others?!  Are we beyond hope??     

Several days have passed since that initial shock, but the haunting images of Manhattan in ruins are forever imprinted in my mind.    Hundreds of posts have been sent regarding this tragedy on the list, many of which showed touching compassion and goodwill towards the fellow men, while others have expressed understandable anger and fear that the end may be near.  I have not shared my opinions until now mostly because I feel that I have to collect my thoughts so as not to waste people's time with random ramblings or bore people by simply repeating the same sentiments.  Then I read the brilliant debate between Guy and Jeff about the motives behind those responsible for these atrocities.  I must say I was positively inspired:

Jeff:  The idea that these people commit such atrocities because they are crazy or insane is almost insane in itself.
Guy:  Exactly.  But is it any more sane to try to find rational motive where none exist?
Jeff:  How convenient.  You don't have to understand WHY they did it, you simply say they were insane, not in any way representative of their people.
Guy:  I do understand why they did it.  The existence of America and the West is so antithetical to these people's beliefs that they will destroy anything, whatever it takes.
Jeff:  But is it really so inconceivable that these people may be perfectly sane?  Is it not possible that their actions are the end-result of their life experiences, a lifetime of being held down and beaten, a lifetime of crying for help, a lifetime of being ignored?
Guy:  There are millions of far poorer, oppressed people in Africa and other areas of the world.  Why aren't they becoming suicide bombers?   

Incredibly I found myself applauding Guy (what has the world coming to? :)) for his comment that rational motives may not always exist,  although the optimist within us often assumes that all human beings are capable of thinking rationally.  However, Guy's explanation as to why young men become suicide bombers is a little simplistic.  It takes a special type of human being to become a suicide bomber, the most important criterion IMO is the lack of conscience.  Now I don't claim to be an expert in religion at all, but I have always felt that a major function of religion is to supplement and reinforce our morals.  However, when religion is distorted to justify slaughter and cruelty towards other human beings, it is one's conscience that is put to the test.  Those without any independent standard of right and wrong are easily used by religious zealots and war mongers for whatever purposes they desire.   

Another side of the disturbing psyche of a suicide bomber is that his prime focus is on the next life (or the afterlife) rather than the present one.  It follows that any crimes they have committed in this life are more than justified when they can look forward to eternal bliss in return.  Unfortunately the focus on afterlife is common in many religions.  I remember watching a documentary in which a Tibetan monk was shown as doing nothing except circling around a holy temple day after day.  Apparently he believed that if he circled around the temple 99 times per day without interruption he would live forever in paradise after he died.  To someone who perceives the present life as worthless comparing the next one, is it hard to imagine that he could be easily convinced to do whatever necessary for his "ticket to paradise"?

At this point it is important to point out that I am not slamming on religion.  The bigger issue is that everyone need to form their own sense of justice and appreciation for human lives (including one's own).  We must question what we are being told rather than blindly accepting ideas supported by tradition or law or religion or government.  How many of us are of a certain religion simply because we are "born into it"?  If we were to believe the Chinese government, no one was killed at Tiananmen Square;  if we were to believe the Japanese government, the Rape of Nanking never happened;  if we were to believe David Koresh, he delivered all of his cult members to Heaven;  if we were to believe Osana Bin Laden, we might become suicide bombers ourselves...  How many more tragedies must occur before we collectively realize the root of the problem?  So stop following everyone else, have a mind of your own!!

take care,

Lily

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