Outrageous and despicable behavior is not exceptional in the human experience. The degree of shock and disbelief engendered by the events of September 11, 2001 in New York City remain, however, unique in the world’s history. The United States continues to struggle to fully grasp the enormity of this unique milestone. Another age of innocence has been shattered. Anger, hatred and destruction are all human behaviors but civilized society also recognizes its need to protect itself from annihilation. The medical viewpoint is clear: rabid dogs can not be allowed to run amok in the streets. Their human counterpoints also can not be allowed to run amok and indiscriminately kill innocents irrespective of their religious or philosophic views, and also irrespective of whether they be martyrs or terrorists.
Yes, there are those who hold all life to be precious and would prefer to care for, and shelter, mad dogs rather than destroy them. To our continuing amazement the Eastern world abounds with apologists for suicide bombers and terrorists. Civilized society can not permit this to continue.
Sanctity of life, all life, is a meaningful and altruistic aim. Those who espouse this belief are deserving of our greatest respect. But, clearly the human community, the most advanced animals on planet earth, are not yet prepared to promote this lofty point of view.
So, as we anticipate the coming of a future renaissance in human thinking actuality requires productive action now to remove those perpetrating barbaric acts on the innocent and unsuspecting as well as those who allow this to happen.
The challenge is how to go about this without also becoming barbaric. There are many in this world who only respect force and power and clearly we need to get, and hold, their attention. While the destruction of “rabid dogs” needs to be accomplished there exist other options by which, in the future, terrorists can be identified, disabled, captured, and even be subject to ridicule as alternatives to death. The possibilities for non-lethal permanent identification and incapacitation for those who require such are limited only by our innovation and creativity. This needs to be utilized in new ways.
Hopefully doing what needs to be done today will assist in initiating our journey toward a future in which sanctity of all life will be finally acknowledged and adhered to. September 11th has forced us all to cast aside our American cloak of provincialism and look at our world in new and different ways. This rebirth of attitude and thinking could turn out to be the very best legacy for our brethren who are no longer at our sides.
The challenge now is to determine what needs to be done and to not “stand silent.” Unanimity of opinion regarding Ex-President Bush’s speech on the “axis of evil” has not been apparent. In fact, former president Jimmy Carter commented that “I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that statement.” This was a remarkable observation given the fact that the inscription at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.,
“We must forge an unshakable oath with all civilized people that never again will the world stand silent, never again will the world…fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime of genocide…We must harness the outrage of our own memories to stamp out oppression wherever it exists.” Was also a quote from the same Jimmy Carter!
There are few among us who maintain the courage of our convictions when the “going gets tough.”
In his 1954 text: “Up From The Ape”, Harvard anthropologist Earnest Hooten (1887-1954) avowed:
“Cannot man, with his vaunted intelligence and his ever-increasing control over every thing in nature except himself, learn how to become a better animal?”
Charles V. Burton, M.D.