Terrorism - The
By Terence T. Gorski
September 12, 2001
The terrorist attacks of September11. 2001 will
permanently burn themselves into the psyche of all Americans, both
personally and collectively. The magnitude of the damage done
at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is beyond
imagination. It is truly an unspeakable act of violence. The magnitude
of the violence and the blatant demonstration of raw evil is simply too
great for the individual human consciousness to grasp. Our mind and
our spirit simply cannot assimilate and integrate the true horror and
meaning of this act - and what the human mind cannot assimilate it rejects
Rejection of the Truth
On an individual basis, rejection of the terrorist truth
triggers individual avoidance, denial, minimization, rationalization,
blame, and abdication of personal responsibility.
First we avoid the truth. We see but we can't
comprehend. We want to turn away. We don't want to think about
it! We don't want to get involved in it. We want it all to go
away. So we say to ourselves - I'll think about something
else, anything else to keep my mind off of the horror and the deep
reflection of what this horror means.
When we can't avoid a horrible truth, we deny
it. "No not me! I'm not involved! I'm not
affected! It won't affect me or my family! In a few days it
will be business as usual." But soon the rippling of the horror
and it's deadly personal, social, economic, and cultural consequences
begin seeping through the denial.
As the human mind struggles to comprehend and overwhelming
truth the normal tendency is to minimize it - to scale the horror
down to size; to break it down into bite sized chunks that can be
absorbed. So our brain begins spitting messages like this.
"Alright. This terrorist attack was frightening. But it's
over! It was horrible, yes, but it really wasn't that bad. It
affected a lot of people, but not me personally. It could be worse,
and because it could be worse it's not really a problem."
As it becomes impossible to minimize the death of tens of
thousands of people of innocent people. As the image of bodies of
men, women, and children being taken from the carnage registers , we start
to rationalize. There must be a good reason for this. There
has to be good reason! We search for meaning and as we search, it
leads us to the spiritual depths of our soul.
If we can't stay centered in the depth of our spirit, our
rationalization can easily become fueled with anger and rage. Then
can start to blame. We need a target! We need a
victim! We need a ritual act of sacrificial violence to free us from
our sense of helplessness, vulnerability, and loss. We assert:
"It's not my fault! Someone else is responsible! I'll
make them pay!"
When the horror is overwhelming, it's easy to abdicate
personal responsibility. There must be someone more qualified
to cope with this than I am! I don't need to be involved. As
long as I'll be safe and the perpetrator will be punished I'll go along
and do what I'm told. So it becomes easy to detach and do nothing,
or to comply and become an unthinking part of a choreographed social
Giving In To Emotional
Seething beneath the surface of the rational search for
meaning is a churning sense of fear and anger. When we let the fear
overwhelm us, we tend to either seek out a powerful protector and enslave
ourselves in exchange for protection or become immobilized, isolated, and
withdrawn. When we let the anger overwhelm us, we seek
vengeance in the name of justice and become willing to inflict violence on
others in the name of punishment. So loss of control of fear and
anger become critical dangers.
The Critical Dangers
The two critical dangers that people face as a
result of terrorism are fear-based responses that motivate us to
trade our rights for protection, and anger-based responses that
motivate us to seek vengeance.
responses motivate us to trade our rights for protection
Fear-based behavior is the
first critical danger in responding to overwhelming crisis. Out of
fear we seek to protect ourselves and those we love. We seek blindly
for a life-line that we can use to drag ourselves back into a safe
harbor. We look for a hero - a rescuer that can save us and protect
us. And then we become vulnerable - vulnerable to the false promise
of security in an ever changing world where life itself is conditional and
the brief flame of our existence can be snuffed out in a flicker of time
by the roar of a jet engine and the crumbling of high rise towers.
We want to be rescued and we become willing to pay for
that rescue. If a strong leader steps up and promises us protection,
we want to believe him or her, and we often do. But there's always a
price, and because we're scared, we become willing to pay almost any
price. So we knuckle down, accept increased security, give up our
civil rights in exchange for protection and wonder why we still don't feel
responses that motivate us to seek vengeance
Anger-based behavior is the
second critical danger in responding to overwhelming crisis.
Fear can easily be transformed into anger. Anger can be channeled
into blame. Blame can to easily escalate into vengeance.
We can convince ourselves that the punishment of the perpetrators will
somehow restore our losses. If we give in to vengeance and seek
eye-for-an-eye retribution we become part of the problem of escalating
violence. They hurt us, we hurt them, then they try to hurt us
worse. The cycle goes on in an endlessly.
Staying Centered &
Seeking To Do What's Right
In response to any overwhelming crisis, especially the
crisis of terrorism the civilized response, the mentally healthy response,
is to stay centered and connected with higher values. When we are
centered we can keep our priorities in mind: First, stay alive and
survive. Second, help others to stay alive and survive. Third,
contain the immediate crisis so that it doesn't spread. Fourth, and
most important, take action to restrain the perpetrators for committing
future terrorist acts. This action, however, must be done with a
commitment to use minimal force needed to end the threat.
It is important not to give into fear and abdicate our
responsibility to act responsibly protect ourselves, our families, our
communities, and our nation. It's also not to give into anger and
turn ourselves over to the search for vengeance which can easily lead to a
state of national war frenzy. All too often those who seek vengeance
become what they are seeking to destroy.
All too often
those who seek vengeance
become what they are seeking to destroy.
Instead, we need to stay centered and connected with the
God of our understanding. We need a strong commitment to seek and do
what is right. We need the courage to look into the pit of evil and
face down the beast of violence. But we must do so from the position
of the moral high ground. We must protect ourselves, our
families, and our way of life. It is critically important that we do
so without becoming the perpetrators of the same form of violence that was
inflicted upon us.