September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:Crossroad or Crosshairs?

Great nations exert great influence on their times. The zeitgeist sweeping the world today is a maelstrom of anger, selfishness, suspicion, militancy, and retribution. Such a zeitgeist breeds rhetoric, not truth, cunning, not compassion, hypocrisy and self-interest, not deep moral intent. On September 11, 2001, the flames of this zeitgeist, which the United States has helped fuel, brought down the greatest towers in the world. Never doubt the power of the zeitgeist. A siren of destruction or a messenger of joy, it infiltrates everything from government policies to childrens dreams.

Pointing to our complicity in the zeitgeist does not imply that we deserved September 11. No citizens anywhere deserve slaughter. Nevertheless, now the greatness of the United States faces its most critical test. We can stoke the zeitgeist with our awesome firepower, intensifying a worldview in which the strongest make the rules, vengeance comes before understanding, and only the vanquished are forgiven. A world in which fighting, rather than peaceful initiatives, defines courage. It would disconcert Christ to watch our leaders, who profess such allegiance to Christianity, violate and twist its fundamental precepts.

Al-Queda may ultimately prove less of an enemy to America than those Americans who allow themselves to be swept into the updraft of such a zeitgeist. The true quality of our greatnessóour commitment to our might or our commitment to the world--will determine how we choose to effect the zeitgeist. We can fuel a zeitgeist that renders the next Mandela, King or Gandhi irrelevant and impotent, or we can begin to change it. No nation, even the greatest, endures forever, and so what matters most is the legacy we ultimately leave behind. History will judge us long after we can do anything to affect that judgment. There really is only one courageous and noble choice.


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