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Too many lives
Last week programme after programme on radio and television offered their ‘take’ on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The extent of the coverage was understandable. The event was a ‘defining moment’ in recent history. It was a terrible tragedy. It has also had a profound impact on the last decade and on the lives of millions of innocent people around the world.
The demands of transmission times and deadlines, however, meant that most of the programmes were broadcast before Sunday 11 September. This fact determined much of the coverage. There was a lot of ‘memory’ – and much less penetrating and detached ‘analysis’. It was understandable that producers, before the actual anniversary, chose not to dwell too deeply on the aftermath of the event. Many of the programmes featured individuals recounting their experiences. Their memories were full of dramatic images of horror, inspiring examples of heroism, and a powerful sense of confusion and chaos.
Now, in the wake of this coverage, there is a kind of media calm. A return to ‘normal’ news again. There is time to take stock.
On Sunday morning, just before the end of Meeting for Worship, an American stood up and said that she was from New York. She briefly described her experience of the day. Then she recalled the extraordinary sense of ‘unity’ and ‘fellowship’ that the tragedy had prompted in New Yorkers in the days that followed. It was a remarkable time, she said, and she talked of the enormous sense of community that people in the city felt.
The tragedy, she said, had not only brought people together in New York. It had also prompted a ‘tidal wave’ of international indignation at the attack and enormous sympathy for New Yorkers, the American people and their administration. There was, she said, a real sense of ‘love’ towards America.
Then there was a pause. The silence was broken with a question. She asked: ‘And what did America do with this love?’ It embarked on a path of war.
Violence begets violence. Violence also begets profits. On Tuesday 11 September 2001, coincidentally, in the Docklands area of east London, an international
Arms Fair was being held. It continued until the end of the week. Business is business. The international arms trade is a multi-billion pound industry.
‘Love your enemies’ is not a welcome message for this industry, nor the message to ‘try and understand them’ or even to attempt to ‘talk to them’. Our political leaders know these messages. Unfortunately, they often find the tremendous challenges and difficulties of acting on them too great; but sometimes they can and do. I am Northern Irish. There are many, many people in the world today working for peace and guided by the promptings of ‘love’.
The Defence and Security Equipment International Arms Fair, one of the world’s leading arms fairs, opened again earlier this week in London’s Docklands with thousands of representatives attending from throughout the world. The title is revealing: ‘Defence and Security’. A biannual event, it is sponsored by the British government (see news page 4).
On the 350th anniversary of the Peace Declaration of the Religious Society of Friends, it is hugely encouraging to read the joint statement made by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The statement remembers those who died and all those who continue to mourn the loss of loved ones and those who have died in ‘the wars that followed’.
It also challenges the British government to examine its use of military force in response to violent extremism and its involvement in the global arms trade.
And it states: ‘It is clear that our reaction to the attacks on 9/11 has caused more suffering and loss than the original attacks. The “War on Terror” has done little to make anyone safer, but has harmed human rights, depleted our coffers and damaged our standing in the world, and at a cost of many lives.’
Too many lives.
Ian Kirk-Smith the Friend, 16 September 2011