Blessed are the peacemakers

And then one day we wake up and the world is on fire. We hear the voice of veteran broadcaster Peter Jennings crack, go silent as the second tower of the World Trade Center crumbles.

And then it’s gone.

We feel knotted and twisted. Fixated on the surreal images playing on the TV screen. Death. Disorder. Rubble. We sink into a malaise of horror and disbelief.

And then we want to do something. Anything. Like give blood or pray. United Blood Services in Reno is overwhelmed with blood donors.

“How long is the wait to give blood?” we ask.

“We’re booked until tomorrow,” we are told.

Prayer is slightly more accessible. But what do we say to an all-powerful, all-knowing creator-type being? “What’s going on, God?” For this question, a friend has an answer. She’s just finished the umpteenth book in the evangelical, apocalyptic Left Behind series, and she says to me: “It’s the end of time.”

You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars …

Safety. We feel so cozy most of the time, hiking the Sierra on weekends or curling up on the couch watching Blockbuster videos. Picking up the cordless phone to order a pizza with chicken and artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes—whatever we want. Whenever we want. We feel so insulated driving to work in that year-old SUV with dual climate controls for driver and passenger.

Except for the occasional long line at the grocery store or unpleasant moment at the dentist’s office—"I think we’re going to have to do a root canal"—our lives are comfortable. We live in a dream. Who would have the chutzpah to wake us up? How much would we hate the one who brought the violence to the shore of our nation? Enough to retaliate? Enough to take innocent lives, like those who murdered thousands Tuesday did?

In another part of the world, we see citizens dancing in the street—rejoicing over the U.S. tragedy. Why do they do this? Is it because our comfort is, in part, the result of our nation’s oppressive attitude to the rest of the world?

One thing seems evident. People, even ordinarily non-violent types, are calling for revenge. They want blood, severed heads on platters. “Nuke ’em,” some say, even though at the time of this writing, there is no “them” to “nuke.”

We are angry. The loss is incomprehensible. But there is no upside to hatred. If misdirected, society’s collective need to punish could be a disaster.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

Justice goes beyond demands for retaliation and a stronger U.S. defense to addressing the pleas of angry, desperate people who’ve long been ignored, says a recent post from “Joe” at

"We must reach very deep for the courage to continue our work for justice," he wrote. "It is, in truth, the only real ‘defense’ in this sick and tortured world."