It Begins in the Mirror

by Robert Kamm

On September 11th, 2001, a new possibility emerged, the possibility that, as Martin Luther King said, we can rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed...that all men are created equal...and that even if a man is a Muslim in Egypt or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iraq, he is not "the other" we can more easily kill. He is not "collateral damage." He is not an "unfortunate non-combatant." These are other forms of bigotry that make it easier for us to kill. By all means, bring justice to the evil or the evil to justice. But a mother who loses her child as "collateral damage" in Kabul weeps no less, hurts no less, has a heart no less broken than a mother in New York City. As one old Jewish joke goes...when a rabbi asked God why it was so difficult to get along with strangers, God replied, "Strangers? I don't make strangers. You make strangers."

On September 11th, 2001, we discovered the possibility that if we can make coalitions for war, we can make coalitions for peace, we can bind together with the other leaders of the free world and bring all our focus, all our economic, political and spiritual leverage to bear on the most difficult conflicts on this planet and, without imposing solutions, insist that there will be solutions, that conditions that give rise to broken souls that want to lash out at the rest of the world, that such conditions are unacceptable anywhere on the planet. The Japanese, Germans and Italians tried to take over the world bearly a half century ago. We defeated them and then helped them rebuilt their societies. Must people declare war on us, then lose for us to mobilize all our resources to help them raise themselves from the mud? When President Bush said, we have found "our mission and our moment"...his words were perhaps truer than he realized. Our mission and our moment are beyond merely stamping out the immediate causes of terrorism. We will largely succeed at that, but never win the war without going to the root causes. Our mission and our moment is to shuck off our national adolescence and rise up and embrace the full potential of our leadership right here in our individual lives and as a nation in the life of the world.

It begins in the mirror. It moves to the mirror of our children's eyes, then to reconstructing our lives, the lives of our companies, towns, cities, nation and ultimately the world around love...the only viable response to hatred and the one every major religion espouses. We've talked a good game till now but we've been deeply conflicted in our addiction to materialism. We can have things without being owned by them. Time to live out the true meaning of our creed. Starting now, this day. To do less, would be to dishonor our fallen brothers and sisters and miss the most bitter-sweet critical opportunity of the last 56 years.

May you all find the strength to stay conscious, to live in an enduring sense of fragility...and then begin the work.

Robert Kamm

Reprinted with permission


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