A Point of View © 1996
“It was you and I who died there.”
Paul V. Montesino, PhD.
It happens every day. Somebody is born. Somebody dies. We’re used to it. We attend the birth, a baptism, or the burial. It’s routine. Lives are supposed to be like that.
What’s not routine is being forced to watch in horror when hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, die at one sad and horrific instant and simply vanish. The events of September 11 stopped all of us in our tracks and made us think. I’m sure some of us expressed a temporary sense of quiet selfish relief because we weren’t the direct victims of this horrendous crime. We didn’t buy the tickets to those flights. We weren’t in the World Trade Center. But, were we? One reads the newspapers or listens to the television channels and hears the expression: We’ll never be the same. But won’t we?
A sanity check to the thousands of years of human history, a.k.a. human misery, creates a different perspective. One does not have to go more than five thousand years of the many of human existence recorded to appreciate who and what we are. In an article about the death penalty I wrote: “If we go back in history, the age of the early civilizations of Babylonia, Persia, the Aryans, the Muslim conquests of India, the Romans, the Greek, the Barbarians, the Christian crusades and others, the level of violence of the conquerors still perplexes us.” If I must write again about our historical perspective I would not change an iota.
So, what is it we are? First, we are fanatics of our own beliefs. Quietly or noisily we think we are correct and have earned the right to enter the wide door of heaven, while you and yours would not even make it through the back door unless you join my faith, whatever that is. And a faith, by definition, cannot be evidence. The Catholic Catechism defined Faith as ‘The belief in what we haven’t seen.” We not only claim to be theologically right, but also intellectually and ethnically correct. The keys to heaven function better if they carry the color of our own skin and the composition of our hair and our eyes. We have to protect our neighborhood.
Having what we consider to be exclusive beliefs about heavenly stuff, we think we carry the best formula, the only formula, to make it there and we attribute to others a motivation we cannot justify or even explain to our satisfaction. Too bad life is defined as a middle stage between oblivion before we are born and paradise after we go. We should become smarter and think of life as a more permanent here and now experience. If we looked at each other as temporary travelers on a brief journey we might start to see each other as true human beings, not as objects or instruments of hate, even misguided love.
So, we must go on. It is not that we’ll never be the same. The sad truth is that we thought we were not the same and we discovered we are. It doesn’t matter who hit the trigger or pushed the button. It was a pair of human hands that did it. Hands like mine; Righteous thoughts like mine. We are born and die existentially alone, but on September eleven, those who died did not die alone. We died with them.
And that’s my point of view today.