Ten years ago I was ten years younger. I was ten years less concerned and ten years more carefree. This had very little to do with youth. Nope. It was that guy. Osama Bin Laden. He did this to me, and until yesterday, I didn’t even know it.
It occurred to me that ten years ago I didn’t even know what a Muslim was. I knew about Islam only from the ravings of some fanatic named Farrahkan, and the janitor at the school in Camden where I did some psychological work. I asked him about his little hat, and the next day he brought me one as a gift. Ten years ago I would stare in wonderment at women who were covered head to toe, thinking only they must be really hot under there. Ten years ago, I was probably like you. Involved in my life, my family, my career, and basically moving along day to day in my own closed system of the me. There was no pall or shadow of darkness or pain in the gut about how ugly and horrible this world was, because ten years ago I had no reason to suspect such a thing. My ranting was focused on social unfairness, and questioning why everyone in America wasn’t given free education, housing, and medical care. In America. It’s all I cared about, because it’s all I knew. My awareness of third world countries was limited to the occasional CARE or Save The Children TV commercial. We long-distance adopted a kid for a buck a day, but his story was so bizarre, I looked at his picture once, I think and after our one year commitment was up, he faded away - back to a world I had no interest in. It simply didn’t effect me. And then, like you, I got included. Osama Bin Laden included me by bringing the world to my country. Suddenly, clarity blinded me as I learned about jihad, ethnic cleansing, blood diamonds, and the incredible ability man has to inflict torment on his fellow man.
I am certain that all of us here in this pristine America are suffering post traumatic stress disorder. I don’t see how we can’t be. We were innocents. Our ignorance provided for us to be pure of the concentrated ugliness that prevails outside our comparatively sane and orderly borders. And then blam...like the kid from Kansas drafted and dropped into a war zone, our innocence was taken.
That is what this man did. That is the thing for which he can never be forgiven. He stained me, us, with awareness. He made me - us, suspicious, jaded, hate filled, faith based racist, and worst of all, callous. In the Buddhist tradition, awareness is a blessed thing. This is not. This awareness is a demon that is eating away at our humankind. This is what that one evil man has left as his legacy. It’s up to God what to do with him. It’s up to us what to do with us.