Friday, September 14, 2007

Getting Uncomfortable

This week in my Toastmasters Club, I took on the role of Toastmaster. I was reluctant to be Toastmaster because the theme was 9/11. I still don't talk about 9/11. I don't watch movies about it. I saw more than enough that day and the days that followed.

Nevertheless, I am the one who is always talking about stepping outside your comfort zone because that is where growth occurs, and so I knew I had to step up.

So, I gave it some thought, and I asked myself, “What is a terrorist?” A terrorist is a person or a group of people who use fearful consequences or the threat of fearful consequences to manipulate or control. Wow! When you put it that way, you have to admit that terrorism doesn’t always come from outside sources. Sometimes, the very people who have promised to serve us or to love us are the terrorists.

Consider the “peace” officer who batters or kills because he does not like the color of someone’s skin or his sexual orientation. Or how about the government agency that makes the lives of citizens a living hell by branding them communists. There are the religious leaders who teach that there isn’t room on the planet for us and those who disagree with us. And what about the angry parent or the angry child who keeps a family in constant fear and turmoil?

Where does terrorism stem from? Simply put, it comes from fear – the fear that someone else’s ideas or lifestyle is a threat to my survival or to life as I believe it ought to be.

After 9/11, I lost a lot of respect for the news media. They kept showing those images over and over and over again. Hell, we got it the first 15 times! It was like twisting the knife in the wound again and again and again. I also began losing a degree of respect for my government.

But you won’t find me soapboxing about what’s wrong with my country or what’s wrong with the world, for two reasons. One, I believe there is a lot more that is right with my country and a lot more that is right with the world than is wrong. Two, I have noticed that when I focus on what is wrong, I see a lot more of it. And when I focus on what is right, I see a lot more of that. What you focus on expands. And I know what I want to expand.

So, when I look back at 9/11, my question is not, “Who is to blame?” My question is, “Have we learned anything? Have we learned anything about fear and its children, hate and prejudice?”

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