- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

As a stunned nation watched hell unleashed in New York and Washington on Tuesday, talk quickly turned to revenge."My first reaction is let them glow for 10,000 years," wrote one mourner on the Web site www.crosswalk.com, which set up a "call to prayer" forum within a half-hour of the first attack.
Said another, "Yes, it might start World War III if we retaliate but where would we be if we had not retaliated to Pearl Harbor?"
But unless the country seeks some sort of collective healing, Americans will be poisoned by hate much like what has festered in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans and in the Middle East, some forgiveness experts say.
For now, "rage is good," says University of Wisconsin psychology professor Robert Enright, whose new book, "Forgiveness Is a Choice," was, ironically, released on Tuesday. He is co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison.
"Forgiveness starts with rage," he says. "Forgiveness does not mean dusting this under the rug. Forgiveness starts with the cold, hard facts that what happened was grossly unfair, is grossly unfair and will always be grossly unfair.
"This will be extremely hard to forgive. They are using our commercial airlines as weapons against innocent citizens. That did not happen in Pearl Harbor, where it was military versus military. This incident has a real patina of evil about it.
"The people who did what they did to us on Tuesday are dead," he says. "That is what is so sinister about evil. There is no way to get back, so one of the ways to get emotional healing from this is to forgive. Forgiveness restores hope."
Sooner or later, he added, America must learn how to deal with bitterness of spirit.
"Even people with horrendous wrongs done against them, like incest, have lived a life of such pessimism and hatred where it has so poisoned them that everything is colored by the horror of the act. Forgiveness can cut through that and restore a sense of hope.
"A terrible distortion is to think that if you forgive, you cannot seek justice. You can, but it is not being sought through the effect of hatred. You have looked at the evil and not walked away from it, but you've confronted it in new ways."
Mindful that the probable source of Tuesday's attack are Islamic terrorists, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a blizzard of press releases, starting Tuesday afternoon, distancing themselves from the unknown attackers.
They also suggested Muslims request additional security around mosques and that anyone wearing "Islamic attire" stay out of the public eye.
The national mood already is turning from grief to revenge. One early poll, announced yesterday morning, said more than 90 percent of Americans favor going to war, just as America declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.
Whereas the New Testament holds up forgiveness as a command, the Old Testament demands justice first, says Rabbi Charles Klein of Long Island and author of the 1995 book "How to Forgive When You Can't Forget."
"I think Americans got in touch Tuesday with what Israelis have faced for years," he says. "All those political leaders who have asked for restraint in the face of terrorism now are eating their words.
"I don't think a nation can forgive this. I don't believe forgiveness is gratuitous. Since there is no one prepared to take responsibility for this, there is no one to forgive. Forgiveness is the expression of remorse on the part of the one who committed that act of treachery and a commitment by them to work toward peace and understanding. I don't think that is going to happen.
"So, we are left having to cope with these feelings of anger and outrage and maybe all we can hope to do with this is not misdirect it and aim our anger at people who are not responsible."
A national trauma that may dwarf the current record for Americans killed in one day (23,000 on Sept. 17, 1862, at the battle of Antietam) needs a healing ritual, he said. It must be far more profound than what was done in Oklahoma City to mark the 168 deaths in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Mr. Enright said this would mean a "massive movement" toward forgiveness.
"At least we need a massive public discussion of forgiveness," he said. "The closest we've come is Bill Clinton asking our forgiveness daily during the Monica Lewinsky debate."
The rabbi insists America's wound will never heal.
"This will not be forgiven, it will not be forgiven," he says. "I challenge anyone to explain to me how this is forgiven."
But Everett Worthington, director of the Campaign for Forgiveness Research in Richmond, says people wrongly equate forgiveness with justice. Having had to process the murder of his mother by an intruder at her home in Knoxville, Tenn., he says true justice is impossible this side of heaven.
"If you think about getting justice, what could possibly make up for what's been done?" he asks. "Nothing we could ever do could make up for this. Justice is about balancing the scale and there's no way to do that here.
"There is nothing we can do to any terrorist organization that could fix the thousands of people killed, the billions of dollars wasted. People will always feel injustice is done, so they have a choice. Will they just let their bitterness fester and eat them up and warp their personalities? Or will people try in some way to reduce the gap between what ought to be and what is?
"Even if we bring these people to justice, there is still no way to make up for the pain. So people have to move on from this."


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