Some years ago a young Southern Baptist minister in North Carolina, identifying her political stance in that church, remarked: “I am not a flaming moderate.” But moderation seldom bursts into flame. It’s one of the quiet virtues.
A few days after 9/11, a good friend of mine called to ask me to help preside at the funeral of his son, age 26, who had perished in the World Trade Center. He wondered aloud if this was war or something else. “No,” I said, “it was murder.”
There is a saying, “The English never remember, the Irish never forget.” The more sober truth is that everyone remembers and forgets selectively. Therein is a political problem that is well illustrated in Northern Ireland these days.
After 9/11, a New Yorker might take comfort in the thought, “The terrorists will now pick some other city.” But like San Francisco, New York remains a handy port city for smugglers of nuclear bombs. It’s said that al-Qaeda has been working on the idea for ten years. If you were a terrorist, would not that weapon appeal to you as the way to trump 9/11?
When two groups of scientists announced in mid-February that they had finished mapping the human genome, scientists, politicians and journalists paid rapt attention. The human genetic code has been deciphered! We are on our way at last to obeying scientifically the old Delphic oracle: Know thyself!
On a wall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., is a quotation from Israeli historian Yahuda Bauer: "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." At first glance, the "above all" is problematic. Why is it not better to be a passive witness to evil than an active agent?
"For almost 50 years, South Korean villagers have insisted that early in the Korean War, American soldiers machine-gunned hundreds of helpless civilians under a railroad bridge near a hamlet some 100 miles southeast of Seoul," read a front-page article in the New York Times.