The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 28, 2001 Issue


We are not islands. We are part of a community and our actions affect others

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

One sad aspect of modern American life is our tendency to think we each are individuals -- islands -- whose private acts have no effect on anyone else. Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should put an end to such thinking.

Yes, the hijacking of the passenger jets and the crashing of them into these buildings were public acts. But in these planes and buildings were thousands of individuals -- people most of us did not know -- whose deaths we mourn as if they were family.

That's the point. There are no truly private acts. Everything we do affects us, those around us and even those not close to us. And the effects can go on for years, as we readily see from the abused child, who goes on to abuse, continuing the cycle.

We see the same in international relations, when the peace treaty to end one war exacts such a high price that the vanquished demand revenge. The perfect example of that was the armistice to end World War I, which led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and World War II.

Another example of connections can be seen in the 1980s when the United States financially backed Osama bin Laden and Afghan Muslim rebels when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The result was Afghan's Taliban rulers, who have allowed bin Laden to operate several training camps in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996, after he was driven from his native Saudi Arabia for criticizing the country's monarchy. He had become disgruntled with Saudi leaders during the Gulf War when they invited U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia -- which bin Laden and many other devout Muslims believe is sacred ground reserved for Muslims.

These connections show the necessity of bringing to justice bin Laden and/or whoever is responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States in a way that will result in positive, not negative connections.

That's one reason why we must not indiscriminately bomb Afghanistan. To do so would probably be ineffective, would punish innocent civilians and would only plant the seeds for future acts of terrorism or future wars.

We also must be careful in how we refer to our enemies. It is not acceptable to refer to them as evil, though it is correct to say they have done evil. We can readily see the dangers of calling someone evil when we realize that is how bin Laden refers to the United States. To personify evil makes it too easy to justify any action against one's enemies.

We are all connected. All we do for good and bad affects us all.

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