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By Rebecca Browning

Events continue on since 9/11. The twin towers of polarized thinking can no longer stand up under the pressure of honest reflection of self and other and world. It has become both too easy and yet impossible to say that this or that is the only right or the only wrong way to see or do things.

It is so essential to remember in these times that, while there are universal truths when seen through the eyes of the divine, truth is more relative to the beholder when the eyes are human. We must remember that few of us on any given day maintain the vision of the one over the vision of the other. We have to be patient with ourselves. But, how hard it is to be patient when our own nation seems to betray its own higher principles.

When nations are rendered apparently powerless, voiceless and desperate, they take desperate measures. If given the opportunity, they will do all that they can to render powerless that which they believe has overpowered them--even if they are mistaken as to just who or what has done them wrong? As nations, we demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But with the weapons of destruction as absolute as they are today, how much further can we go until there are no teeth and there are no eyes left to demand?

So, how do we ensure that the US-lead response to terrorism does not degenerate into a worldwide struggle that leaves us cast in the image of the very darkness we must oppose? Do we become terrorists to fight terrorism; fundamentalists to fight fundamentalism; or become ourselves imprisoned by the very measures we take to protect our liberty? Are there alternatives to redress the wrongs done to us or must we always fight fire with fire? When do we--can we--turn the other cheek?

These are the questions and the times that try men's souls and tried they must be--but not in the military tribunal of conventional truisms based on the laws of petty minds and fear. We have always been far too willing to sacrifice higher ideals for security, wealth or power; far too willing to turn our backs on national and global abuses rather than risk loosing any comforts secured by denial. This is what has gotten us into such compromising positions in the first place with the likes of an Osama bin Laden, as we've dallied with one petty tyrant after another around the world. Now, the costs of our denial are unsustainable. We must have the courage as a nation to stand for our higher principles no matter how vulnerable to attack or loss that makes us.

But a nation has only as much courage and allegiance to higher principles as its own people have. It takes time for a culture to evolve to its highest potential, just as it takes time for an individual soul. Until larger numbers of us see as if with one eye beyond the polarization and into the sacredness of all being, how can we expect nations-- our own or others-- to see from the place of universal truth in times of such great threat? Until enough of us have the courage to stand for our higher principles without becoming that which we oppose, how can we expect our nation or others to do so?

This nation was infused with Puritanism from its very start, even as its adherents themselves sought religious freedom. We have suffered waves of McCarthy-like suppression throughout our history and we will suffer them again and again until we are no longer afraid of diverse perspectives or of others' judgements of our own. Freedom, civil liberties, higher ideals can be lost in a minute to the twin accomplices of cowardice and abusive power. Human rights have been lost, over and over again in this century, in one country after another, while the rest of us looked the other way because it was not convenient to take action. Life is not convenient.

Yet what stands should be taken when there is nothing simple about the events of the world today? There are paradoxes, mirrors, and shadows aplenty and, as the righteous battle the righteous, opposites flow into and out of one another, at times becoming more like one another than opposed.

We can only now hope that the very complexity of our times provides us with the creative matrix for the maturation of our world culture into a new culture able to go beyond the mudslinging of shame and blame, tit for tat and right and wrong of schoolyard politics. It takes courage to admit ones mistakes as an individual and as a nation. It takes courage to stand for your truth, as well. But, only when adversaries can stop to reflect that truth can be found in all perspectives, just as easily as error, can they come together to resolve conflicts in a peaceable way.
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