| The following essay was written, Tuesday
morning September 18, 2001, one week after
the twin towers collapsed. Seeing so many
people displaying the American flag in countless
ways almost everywhere I looked, disturbed
me. I realized that all of the flag waving
was reminding me of the intolerant, violent,
hateful acts that have been committed by people
waving the American flag claiming to be 'God
fearing Americans'. My gut reaction to the
American flag has not been a warm feeling
However, the night I put the following
thoughts on paper, I was contemplating the
symbolism of the flag and I realized that
it is actually a very radical symbol.
There is only one term in this essay
that you may not be familiar with, that
term is Tui Chui. Tui Chui is the Indonesian
term used for sparring in Silat. Silat,
is an Indonesian form of kung fu.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center and the US Pentagon the
American flag has come out of its hiding place
and is being flown, carried and worn by people
all over the world. This is a very powerful
symbol and is quite relevant at this moment
As many of us did in our youth, schoolchildren
across America say the pledge of allegiance
every morning, yet we don't always think
about what we are pledging.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the
United States of America
and to the republic for which it stands
with liberty and justice for all
Liberty and justice for all. This is a
radical notion .
This phrase has become part of the national
rhetoric in a way that we don't think about
its significance. Think of the power and
meaning of this concept independent of nationalist
jargon. Imagine what the world would look
and feel like if all of our communities
were just and free.
"Liberty and justice for all"
is the guiding principle of our nation and
we must not lose sight of it amidst the
immediate fear and anguish we are feeling.
Instead we must breathe new life into these
ideas. It takes bravery to stand strong
for liberty and justice for all people throughout
As we decide on our next course of action
we must act according to our principles
and not let fear and anger propel us to
act unjustly. We are a nation of law. We
cannot permit hurt pride and desire for
revenge to force us down a path we will
come to regret in a more sober time.
This is a time for sobriety. A time to
use our great skills of reason and compassion.
The World Trade Center has collapsed leaving
us in a fertile void. For this brief extraordinary
moment in time, if we clear away the confusion
that our fear creates, we can see clearly
the opportunities and the dangers that lay
We stand at a crossroads. As in Tui Chui
whenever one can be thrown, the other can
be thrown as well. We are standing in the
fragile, sacred moment right before the
throw. Terrorists have stirred intense fear,
anger and a sense of helplessness throughout
the USA and maybe the world. We are at a
point where we can be thrown off course,
we can lose sight of our values the foundation
our country was founded on, our goals of
liberty and justice for all. Or, we can
stand strong and the terrorists can be thrown.
The decision for now is ours.
If we allow ourselves to be led by these
feelings of fear, anger and helplessness
(our passions) without the guidance of reason
we will go down. If we use reason in equipoise
(balance) with our passions we will stand
strong. As in Plato's metaphor of the charioteer,
the passions can spur us on to action and
reason can guide these actions so that we
act with intelligence not out of ignorance
that has been blinded by fear.
There is a tremendous opportunity before
us. We are living in a brief moment in time
during which the world of business as usual
and the way life will be lived in the future
has parted like the sea. We are being told
by the powers that be "to get back
to normal" "resume normal activity"
"don't let these acts change us, because
that would allow the terrorists to win".
I think that if we don't allow these acts
to change us we will miss the set of opportunities
Maybe the lives we were living and considered
'normal' last week need to be reassessed.
Maybe we the American people need to take
this opportunity to question the dominant
paradigm. Is what we consider 'normal day
to day life' in America healthy for Americans?
Healthy for our brothers and sisters all
over the world? Healthy for the planet?
Does our lifestyle help create a world of
liberty and justice for all people throughout
the world or is it in some ways a hindrance?
I see an opportunity here to ask questions,
to visualize the future we want and to move
in the direction of creating our vision.
We are always creating the future through
our actions, sometimes we pay more attention
and put more thought into this activity
than other times.
The World Trade Center has collapsed, we
can fill the void with violence, more intolerance
and hatred or we can make different choices.
We can use this fertile void to sow the
seeds of harmony. We can work together with
nations, people around the world. We can
LISTEN. We can open our eyes, which seem
to have been shut so tight, and SEE what
is happening around us. Pay attention to
how people are living and feeling around
the world. What kind of world are we living
in? Is this the kind of world we want?
To be sure the United States of America
is a work in progress. We do not live in
a world in which there is liberty and justice
for all. Some would argue that within our
own borders we have not yet met this goal.
The challenge that is before us is to continue
to strive for justice and liberty not to
We are not alone in the world. We must
be sensitive to the needs of others and
we must be open to receiving support from
our friends. If we behave like we are alone
and don't seek out the support of our communities
we make ourselves more vulnerable. We need
to give and receive, to share with an open
This is a fragile moment.