by Anne Hoiberg
Sept 21, 2001
Hoiberg is Executive Director of iMoHR.
In Anne Michaels’ book, Fugitive Pieces, the author states “there is nothing man will not do to another–and there is nothing man will not do for another.” Our terrible Tuesday tragedy clearly shows this humanity in all of us: man’s capability of committing the greatest evil in the killing of thousands and our capacity for committing the greatest good in the heroic saving of hundreds of our fellow human beings.
How does a nation respond to this evil act, the embodiment of the most deadly form of hatred? We hear the voices that scream for revenge and retaliation for this “act of war.” We also hear the voices that seek answers to why there is such hatred of the U.S. Government–and of us Americans.
This brutal attack on all Americans occurred only days after the conclusion of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR). As we returned from Durban, South Africa, we were filled with a sense of hope that nations now would have an awareness of the suffering not only of their own oppressed, degraded, and badly treated citizens, but also those of other nations. To address past injustices, each nation agreed to implement prevention and remediation programs.
During that conference, UNICEF Good Will Ambassador Harry Belafonte discussed the abrupt departure of the U.S. delegation after only three days of participation. He noted that the U.S. stepped out of the WCAR when we should have been stepping into the center of the conference’s issues of racism, hatred, and intolerance. This sidestepping of the very foundation from which evil acts spring reflects a pattern of behavior encompassing our nation’s foreign policy, a policy that refuses to participate with other nations in helping millions with family planning, in stopping the sale of armaments and the use of landmines, in bringing war criminals to an international court of justice, in engaging in disarmament efforts, in ratifying international treaties to uphold the rights of children and women, and in protecting the environment through the Kyoto Treaty. And yet, during our recent tragedy, our Government reaches out to other nations to seek their pledges of allegiance in case of war. Thus, we urge other nations to join us in an act of evil, the killing of people, but we are not willing to cooperate with other nations in performing acts of goodness. In the past, we have shown repeatedly our capacity to commit the greatest good for all nations.
After the terrible Tuesday tragedy, we have to conclude that our nation can no longer walk away from such issues as racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, especially when such hatred is directed at innocent Americans. We have to look within our Government, seek explanations for this deadly hatred, and develop the means to eradicate it. Of greatest importance is the need for our Government to work with other nations in an effort to engender the common good, to unite all of us in peaceful cooperation–as though our lives depended on it.