Choose Your 9/11 September 11, 2012 | 06:00 am

Each year, when 9/11 rolls around, we are given a choice between two 9/11s. One is a 9/11 which is borne on and fuels hatred and division in our world. The hatred and division of September 11th expressed itself by transforming planes full of innocent people into missiles of war. Airplanes, instruments of peace and industry, became instruments of war and death — plowshares turned into swords.

The instantaneous creation of three thousand victims shocked us. It led the politicians of the United States of America, like the elders of Israel in 1 Samuel 8, to call for a strong leader who could lead us into war. In the face of so many innocent deaths, we offered patriotic prayers. We turned to violence and war. We would eradicate the hatred of us by killing those who hate us.

Like Samuel, some prophets of our age warned us about what we were doing, what we were giving up, and what we were taking on. The prophets warned us that succumbing to fear would transform the USA into a country where hate and bigotry become powerful and influential forces. They warned us that the economic toll of the military’s needs would be disastrous to our nation’s struggling livelihood. They warned us that the consolidated power would be abused, invasive, and turned to the ends of the powerful against the good of the populace. They warned us that thousands upon thousands would join the three thousand who died on that day. Despite warnings, we still called for a strong leader to lead us to war: someone who could save us from this threat, who would keep us safe and be our salvation. Just as when the Israelites were calling for a king, God granted us our wish and the prophetic warnings have come to pass.

On this anniversary, the wounds are fresh again. The images of terror and panic are new in our minds all over again. Relived traumas reinforce the pain. We also have the additional weight of our past decisions that tripled the count of dead through our direct actions. The weight presses the pain deeper into our psyche. It is oppressive.

On this anniversary, we have a chance to take a new choice. We cannot change the past, but we can take the pain we feel in the present and use it to make a better future: one of peace, one powered by a force more powerful than hatred and division. We can learn how to do that by looking to another anniversary commemorated today. The other anniversary is of an event one hundred and six years ago today.

One hundred and six years ago today, another war started. This war was a new kind of war, a war that demonstrated that there was a force more powerful than tanks and mortars. The new war was based on faith in God, on faith in the power of martyrdom and truth to prevail over the most despicable and systematic acts of humanity’s sin.

The Muslim people who make up Afghanistan were key and powerful soldiers in this faithful war. This war drew one hundred thousand Muslims of the area into a movement called the Servants of God, dedicated to building up the destitute and to gaining freedom against a deadly oppressor. This new way of waging war converted the people of Afghanistan, then violent resistors and victims of oppression, into a force for peace and social betterment. This new way of waging war all started one hundred and five years ago, on the other 9/11.

The other 9/11 is when a man named Mohandas Ghandi launched of a new kind of war: one called “Clinging to Truth”. Believing that people are fundamentally relational, this war is based on exposing the truth of a situation and forcing people to cope with it. Exposing the truth of a situation may mean accepting violence done upon you without returning any in kind, a shocking concept in our age of industrialized state-advocated killing. Yet there is a tremendous and well-proven power in the witness of innocents, and in the power of innocence to triumph over death. Waging war through witness and relationship freed three hundred and fifty million people, and rippled throughout the twentieth century, especially informing the careers Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. To paraphrase XKCD: “Peace. It works, Brothers.”

So on this 9/11, we have a choice. We can myopically focus on the pain of the last decade and victimize ourselves all over again, or we can see the pain of these last years in light of the revelation of a century before. We can choose to entrust our salvation to a strong earthly leader and the ways of the nations, or we can choose to put our faith in the empowerment of that of God in people.

If you would like more information about the other 9/11, see the Metta Center’s Hope Or Terror?: Gandhi and the Other 9/11.