• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

September 11, 2006

These are the times that try men’s souls.
Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776

On October 13, 1998, less than five years before 9/11, I landed in Dubai, one of five Kingdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. I was in Dubai to teach a Y2K management seminar. I had decided to go because – as a secular American Jew – I could not pass up the opportunity to explore this most foreign of all worlds.

My first meaningful experience occurred in the Dubai airport. I was on the lower level waiting for my luggage when my attention was drawn to a traditionally dressed Arab man coming down the escalator. As he came down the escalator I could see the beam in his eyes. At the bottom were his wife and two children, eyes beaming back. When he got to the bottom they joyously hugged and kissed.

That moment taught me a truth, that Arabs — in their hearts — were the same as the rest of us. Whatever they might think about Americans or Jews, they had hearts that could love. I continued to see this truth throughout my trip. The Arabs I met, despite the wide political gulf between us, were the same kind of human as we were. Only the direction of our hearts separated us.

It seems to me on this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities that this truth — that we are all the same except for where we direct our hearts — can help guide us in the ‘war on terrorism.’

I’ve been thinking about the Arabs I met in Dubai in the aftermath of the recent Israel – Hezbollah war. Several newspapers ran articles about how Hezbollah went into bombed Lebanese communities with medical supplies, shelter, food and other necessities.

I wonder if any of the Arabs I met had family or friends in Southern Lebanon and if they did, did the war and its aftermath turn their hearts away from Israel and America and towards Hezbollah. I wonder what the accounting is like? How many Hezbollah terrorists were killed? How many Lebanese who were neutral before the war are now terrorists? How many are now going to protect Hezbollah when the UN Army comes looking? How many enemies did we create?

We must aggressively protect ourselves from terrorists. That much is obvious. The Constitution establishes providing for the common defense as a responsibility of Government and protecting us from terrorists is the least that our Government can do in defending us.

But protecting us from terrorists is simply not adequate. If Americans are to be safe, we must live in a world where terrorists are few and far between, where terrorist attacks are infrequent and do little damage, a world in which terrorism declines and terrorists whither away.

This is the ultimate challenge of the war on terrorism. While protecting ourselves from terrorist attacks, we must also win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. If we don’t, then the ranks of the terrorists will inevitably rise.

Unless we pay attention to slowing down the supply of new terrorists, we will always be spending more just to protect ourselves from current threats. Like the red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, we will have to keep running faster just to stay in the same place.

As actual weapons of mass destruction come into the hands of our enemies, the only certain way to increase America’s security is to dry up the supply of new terrorists. And the only way to do this is to open our hearts and minds to those who might otherwise become terrorists.

Nothing is sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Self Reliance

There is a small community in Israel, Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam. The words mean Oasis of Peace in Hebrew and Arabic. Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam — Oasis of Peace — was founded in the early 1970s on land originally leased from an adjacent Monastery. Fifty families – half Jewish, half Arab –live in the village in peace.

People in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam live together in peace not because they all believe the same way about, for example, the recent Israel-Hezbollah war. On the contrary. They live together in peace in spite of the fact that they believe differently — very differently — about the war.

Residents of Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam believe differently about most aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But they share a belief in not letting their differences get in the way of the peaceful community they are determined to grow. They respect the integrity of each others’ minds. And they have learned to open their hearts to each other.

Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam held together in the recent Israel – Hezbollah war. The community gathered together and discussed what was going on. They poured out their feelings to each other. And when it was necessary, they mourned together the loss of a friend or loved one.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which is the high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause be a just one.

Abraham Lincoln
16th US President

It seems obvious to me that America’s interests in the Middle East would be well served if there were 1,000 – or even 10,000 – Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salams scattered across the Middle East, with new ones forming every day.

Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salams — Oases of Peace – places full of honey, where people of all beliefs purposefully live together because they share a common objective of peace. How keeping with the spirit of America, free people living together cooperatively, they and their families reaping the blessings of liberty.

Oasis of Peace is just one of what must be a zillion possibilities for peaceful cooperation. Another example is the Compassionate Listening Project which, since its founding in 1990, has opened the hearts of tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. Since the war, Lebanese and Israeli bloggers have for the first time begun communicating with each other. Hearts and minds coming into peaceful synchrony.

If America were to commit to growing more Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salams, to opening more Israeli and Palestinian hearts, to increasing respect for the integrity of everyone’s mind, to encouraging more dialogue and communication of all kinds … If America were to commit to this, we could turn the Middle East into an Oasis of Peace.

What could be more American than this? Combining our love of freedom with the pragmatic need to keep people from turning to terrorism, America could be an inspiration to the world. America could become, in the words of Jefferson, the best hope of mankind.

All it will take is that we live our ideals.

Nothing less can take away the pain of that terrible day five years ago.

Nothing less will honor the memory of those who died on that terrible day.

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2006. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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