Love thine enemies to death

Posted: Oct 12, 2001 12:00 AM
Like me, you've probably been waiting impatiently for Richard Gere to speak up about the terrorist assault on America. Just when I was about to give up hope, the actor broke his silence: Love the terrorists, he said, whereupon 99.99 percent of Americans spit out their coffee and tried not to utter distasteful jokes. "In a situation like this, of course you identify with everyone who's suffering," Richard bin Gere said in an interview with ABC News Radio. But, he said, we should also think about "the terrorists who are creating such horrible future lives for themselves because of the negativity of this karma." Let's do talk about karma. Let's dial up our guys in Afghanistan who are risking their necks peering down gopher holes, trying to root out evil incarnate, and have a little chat about karma. But first, hate to have to do this, we're going to have to kill some very bad people. Wait, says bin Gere, they're not really bad people; they're just in a bad place right now. "It's all of our jobs to keep our minds as expansive as possible," said the movie star. "If you can see them (the terrorists) as a relative who's dangerously sick and we have to give them medicine, and the medicine is love and compassion. There's nothing better." I'm familiar with the origins of this sentiment (Matthew, 5:43-48) and am all for loving our enemies. But I'm also a practitioner of tough love, as well as a huge fan of another book called Ecclesiastes that says there's a time for everything: "A time to love, and a time to hate, a time of war, and a time of peace." We'll love later, heaping charity and compassion on those who hate us, but we can ill afford to get mushy in the presence of those who seek to destroy us. While bin Gere skips off to his Buddhist retreat and chants himself into denial, the rest of us can give thanks that those who want to greet terrorism with a peace rally aren't in charge. Unfortunately, bin Gere isn't alone in his confusion. Even the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has urged the United States to wage reconciliation instead of war. One expects messages of peace, love and charity from church leaders, but even the bishops must realize that sometimes an act of war demands a like response. Especially disturbing was this line from the bishops' Sept. 26 statement: "The affluence of nations such as our own stands in stark contrast to other parts of the world wracked by the crushing poverty which causes the death of 6,000 children in the course of a morning. We are called upon to self-examination and repentance." Meaning? Implicit, it seems, is the notion that our own 6,000 deaths from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hardly justify a like response when, no thanks to us, 6,000 children die every day in other parts of the world. Surely such logic qualifies as immoral. It may be that in the aftermath of this unprovoked war, we should examine ourselves, who we are, what kind of people we want to be, what role we want to play in this world. There's always room for that kind of reflection, and good people usually welcome it. We also may want to extend more love and compassion to others, but first we have to stay alive and preserve the freedom that permits such expansive thoughts. And to stay alive, we have to wrap our minds around this single thought before we all suffocate in navel lint: There is such a thing as moral and cultural superiority, and we are it. We are right in this fight, never doubt it, and we must win or kiss freedom goodbye. Karma doesn't get any more negative than that.
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