Story last updated at 12:27 p.m. Friday, September 6, 2002

What should the lessons of Sept. 11 be?
Kate Finn and Darlene Hilderbrand
Once upon a time, in the not too distant future, there is a world whose very foundation is deeply rooted in kindness, gentle and considerate in one's manner or conduct toward others. This vision -- kindness without borders -- is held sacred in the heart of this world's people. They have come to know, through experience and reflection, only kindness will bring about the world they envision. They have taken to heart what noted American writer and philosopher Henry James stated: "Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."

What would it be like to live in such a world?

We know what it is like to live in a world where decisions are based on fear and revenge. We know what it is like to live in a world where decisions are based on economics and greed and where tens of thousands of children die every day. And recently we have come to know what it is to live through and beyond 9-11.

From the experience of 9-11, we know, as a people and a country, what we are doing does not work. For all the weapons we have stockpiled, for all the wars we have fought, for all the "new" technology, for all the bull markets of the 1990s, 9-11 happened.

What went wrong? What response would give us the world we want?

President Bush has responded in the same old ways: The very ways that did not keep 9-11 from happening. Like an adolescent in a gang, Bush draws a line -- you are with us or against us. He pushes for more wars, more of the national budget for weapons, more economic deals. Yet through experience we know that these tactics did not and have never worked. They are used, there is a respite from the turmoil, and then conflict arises again. The cycle is unending.

There must be another way.

"Let it not be said that the people in the U. S. did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression," states The Guardian, June 14, 2002. We will not stand silent. We decry our government's current bellicose actions in favor of a more honest and conscious look at the injustices that are being done in our name, and plea for a different course of action.

We object strongly to our government's use of our name, money and brothers and sisters in the military, in the pursuit of revenge, war and more terror. As good citizens building on our democratic rights, let's look, finally, at the things we might not want to see: how our actions, policies and greed (so evident currently in economic globalization), have huge impacts on people and countries that we have never taken the time to imagine or investigate.

We believe the time is right for a completely different approach based on kindness. Let us not lose our common humanity and replace it with a narrow view of patriotism that is too nearsighted to yield a solution to these global/international issues. As the last remaining "superpower" we have the opportunity and privilege to lead in a new direction -- one that resists war and lifts up a vision of peace.

Let us allow the love of a wife who lost her husband at the Pentagon and of a mother who lost her 30-year-old son in the Trade Towers open our hearts.

Amber Amundson writes to President Bush: "So, Mr. President, when you say that vengeance is needed so that the victims of 9-11 do not die in vain, could you please excuse Craig Scott Amundson from your list of victims used to justify further attacks. I do not want my children to grow up thinking that the reason so many people died following the Sept. 11 attacks was because of their father's death. I want to show them a world where we love and not hate -- where we forgive and not seek out vengeance. ... I am begging you, for the sake of humanity and my children, to stop killing. Please find a nonviolent way to bring justice to the world."

In the face of such urgency and grief, how do we decide what action to take?

John Dear, a Jesuit priest, author and peace activist encapsulated the answer while reflecting on his work at Ground Zero in the weeks after 9-11.

"As people of faith and conscience, we need to call for an immediate end to the war. ... We must demand that our government throw away the Star Wars proposal, cut the military budget, dismantle every nuclear weapon and every weapon of mass destruction and undertake international treaties for nuclear disarmament, and redirect those billions of dollars toward the hard work of a lasting peace through international cooperation for nonviolent alternatives, interfaith dialogue, feeding every child on the planet, joining the world court and international law, closing our own terrorist-training 'School of the Americas,' ending poverty, protecting the earth and showing compassion toward every human being on the planet."

As individuals we can make a difference. We have the power to do many, many things. Here are just a few examples of actions we can take this very moment:

* Tell our elected leaders what we want them to do via phone, fax, letters, petitions, prayer, demonstrations, etc;

* Get involved with groups that embrace diversity, support and nurture your Truth;

* Maintain an educated skepticism toward "common knowledge" and the news;

* Take time every day for contemplation to hold that every life is a gift and is sacred.

Let us look at each action we are considering taking with absolute honesty. If that action is based on truth, kindness, and necessity then it is an action worth taking. To be responsible for our actions take great courage. One person who has shown courage is Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who introduced one of the most significant and important pieces of legislation in modern history, in July 2001 (HR 2459). This bill will create a Department of Peace, a Secretary of Peace, and an Academy of Peace. Its mission is national and international conflict prevention and non-violent mediation/intervention.

Since world peace is the single most important issue relating to our very survival and coexistence on this planet, passing HR 2459 is of the utmost importance. This bill will help insure the United States government and military institutions have a balanced approach when considering global issues, especially those involving conflict.

In light of this mission, Kindness Without Borders made a petition supporting HR 2459, which was available at three different local Homer public events. Nearly 200 people signed the petition.

Let's turn our vision into action and reality.

Thank you for hearing our words and, even more, for listening with the power of your own heart.

Kate Finn and Darlene Hildebrand are members of Kindness Without Borders.