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Candle lighting in observance of those who suffered in Mumbai

December 2, 2008
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While I have been writing about some of the joys of our family’s Thanksgiving gathering, I must also express what a heavy heart I came home with due to the recent events in Mumbai, India. As some of you can guess, I turn to writing to express myself when I need it most. You can see an abbreviated version of my comments in one of the New York Times’ blogs called the Lede. A fuller letter, which I may still be working on, is hopefully full-letter-to-nyt.

I am deeply saddened by the utter senseless, deliberate and depraved killing and destruction that took place due to about two dozen determined madmen with assault weapons. I am also angry and upset. Tonight at 7:30 we lit candles in memory of those that suffered and for me, also those who are in some form of recovery. 

I want to be clear that I agree it is India’s 9-11. I also want to contribute to the dialogue on a few fronts. 

  • A very good personal narrative on the Wall Street Journal makes the observation that there are no communal riots or violence following this incident in India. It is important to understand that these killers just killed. They did not stop to ask if someone was Muslim, or Indian, or Jewish. The reporting after the gunmen were quelled showed that they systematically went room to room and shot everyone, exempted no one. The citizenry also gets this was an onslaught on human life, and not limited to one group. People get this. The “noise” or fear in the system around Indian repercussions to Muslims is similar to those in the US about Arabs and Muslims post 9-11. Here, I never thought I would agree with Bill Kristol but he makes some points worthy of the occassion in his NYT column today.
  •  Then there are those grousing that we can’t rush to judgement that it was a deliberate attack by Pakistan. True enough, but that’s not where the irony lies.
  • The irony lies more in if its actually not a government sponsored attack. Simply put, there is culpability depending on a country’s willingness and ability to capture, clamp down, and hold accountable groups in its jurisdiction who are funded and organized around the sole mission of training terrorists and unleashing them to the world. Will the government be capable of launching an authentic investigation or will it handle it as yet another international media spectacle to orchestrate? It is adept at the latter, and there is not much evidence to show they are adept at the former.
  • Which brings me to my ultimate point. Don’t mistake this for an Indian problem. This is very much an Indian, Israeli, American, Europe, etc problem. Its a global problem and a dangerous one. 

At times like this, when I most deeply troubled, I found some comfort from my faith.  The deeper solutions are much tougher to enact. As my friend, Erin, just wrote to me put it, “It becomes such a vicious circle though, doesn´t it? In Pakistan, I don´t think you can´t have development without a more open and modern society, and you can´t have a more open and modern society without economic and social development.”

Ultimately, evolutionarily, a right solution seems to be one that can ultimately provide productive outlets to harness the industry of these ambitious men. I wonder if it is akin to the drug “problem” we have in our inner cities. When I worked in West Philadelphia, a long-time tirelessly working school teacher said to me, “its the smart ones that they take.” She meant that it was the eager, keen minds among her young elementary and middle school charges, who seeing no opportunities for themselves (from their coner of the world), would chase opportunity through the drug trade. (You can start young by being a mule). It seems the same for the Somali pirates, based on what I have been reading.

But until we figure out how to tackle that problem, make no mistake, there must be consequences and punitive action brought to bear on this behavior, preferably with but perhaps without Pakistan’s cooperation.

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