Leaders Exploit Victims to Continue Violence

[note: the title was created by the News-Leader Editorial Staff>

by Ryan Amundson

Since Sept. 11, many have tried to speak on behalf of the victims’ families. When some question the response of the U.S., supporters of violent retaliation sometimes shout, “Try to tell that to the families of the victims!”

It is assumed that those most personally affected by the Sept. 11 attacks take comfort in whatever actions our political leaders deem necessary. Questioning these actions is taken as a sign of anti-Americanism, or at best, insensitivity to those who are suffering the loss of friends or family members.

This assumption is not true. My family is proof. Craig Scott Amundson, my brother, died inside the Pentagon on that dark day. We take no comfort in revenge. In fact, the prospect of more killing in the name of justice is horrifying. Peace will bring comfort. Only justice will bring peace.

The question is, are we as a nation on the right path to finding true justice? Attaining this requires a commitment to nonviolent action because killing will only contribute to the cycle of violence.

On the day of the national memorial at the Pentagon on the one-month anniversary of the attack, President Bush said little about remembering those who died. Mostly, he assured the grieving families that the “evildoers” would be eliminated. His words were more appropriate for a political rally than a memorial.

The president’s definition of “evildoers” is not certain. To most, evildoers are those who use fear and violence as a tool to impose their beliefs. The people who knowingly contributed to the crime of Sept. 11 are evildoers and they should be punished.

Apparently, the administration’s definition of “evildoer” is different. We are not punishing just the perpetrators of the attack, but an entire swath of people hoping to catch the guilty ones in a path of violence and destruction. An untold number of innocent people have already been killed. Millions risk starvation.

We are promised that this is only the beginning. Is this the path leading to peace and justice? Or is it a further contribution to the cycle of violence?

My brother’s death as a justification for continued violence is an indignity. I don’t want to see more widowed mothers like my sister-in-law, or more children without a dad like my niece and nephew, or more moms and dads outliving their sons like my parents, or more brothers losing brothers like me.

I understand the anger from me and from my fellow Americans, but I am horrified at the exploitation of these emotions to create an environment of fervent patriotism in which rational discourse is limited for the sake of political goals.

At a news conference on Oct. 11, the president told reporters that Americans should remind their children that there is a lot of love in this world, but there are also evil people. Evildoers, however, are not born evil. Poverty, oppression and violence itself lay the foundation of hate necessary for such horrendous acts of terrorism as experienced on Sept. 11.

The United States should try to examine economic, military and political policies to understand how they bring about anti-American sentiment. The U.S. should change these policies in order to ensure peace and justice for America and the world. The current reliance on military force does not confront the conditions that foster terrorism.

By emphasizing a military solution, the U.S. will not effectively combat or prevent terrorism. Working to stop conditions that breed hate may be more complex than dropping bombs, but the existence of “evil” does not have an easy solution.

The greatest honor to my brother’s life would be that his death would mark the end of the cycle of violence. I hoped that something good could come from something so terrible. This hope slowly disintegrated as I heard the vengeful words of our leaders. When the bombs started falling, I felt as if my brother would be just another casualty in the cycle of violence. The attackers got exactly what they wanted — a holy war with more violent fanatics on both sides.

I have realized, however, that there is always hope for change. People I meet are usually eager to discuss different points of view than what is presented in the popular media. There is a strong receptiveness to alternatives, especially when one realizes that war will not make our country, or the world, any safer. I just hope that our nation’s leaders can figure that out.

Ryan Amundson lives in Missouri.

Published on Sunday, December 2, 2001 in the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader

Filed in: Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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