17 April, 2013

Say Yes to Life

I posted what follows once before - on the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11. Now we are confronted again with senseless tragedy, this time in Boston. It follows all too soon the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and so many others.

I do not think we can overuse that word, "tragedy." It seems to retain its power no matter how often we say it. Tragedy. Tragedy. Tragedy. Tragedy. Have we had enough yet?!

America has unfortunately developed a culture of violence where evil all too often comes to the fore. I have no special solution for that. I can offer only an acknowledgement that it is so and a wonderment that our elected officials are unwilling to address the issue.

What follows are not my words but were offered at a memorial service not long after 9-11. I like that they speak to hope and love and to life and tolerance - all qualities that are much to be desired these days.

"Is any force greater than human cruelty? For our survival, we must believe that the answer is yes.

We gather here today in terrible sorrow, but also in abiding hope. We mourn on this day the unbearably many dear lives – Americans, Bangladeshis, citizens of this nation and of other nations around the globe lost on the morning of September 11 – not while engaged in hostile activity, but instead while engaged in the first hours of what began as a normal working day.

We may mourn America's innocence in the face of terrorism and perhaps our lost or damaged sense of security within our own boundaries and our newfound awareness of invulnerability lost in those attacks. We feel common agony in this week when evil might seem to overwhelm goodness.

But under this sadness, which is the sadness of death, lies a determined "yes" within all of our hearts and minds, whatever our personal loss, whatever our home town or native land — an affirmation that is an expression of faith in human goodness — a vote for life.

This has been the message ... when we have together felt the agony of those whose lives are now extinguished and their surviving families and colleagues and friends and neighbors. What more resounding vote for life might there be than today's gatherings ... across the land and in nations around the globe where these agonies are shared as a common human agony?

We gather to affirm that love is greater than hate; that friendship is stronger than enmity; good is stronger than evil; that tolerance for difference is the way to peace; and that working together to build rather than to destroy is our maker's purpose for our lives.

We see on television the ash that now buries the streets of lower Manhattan, and we know that we see a graveyard. Yet the sky above is blue, life uptown goes on, and people continue to work, to build, to love – babies are born, healing (physical and spiritual) continues, assertions of compassion and human kindness and the continuity of life itself draw us back together.

And we understand that we were made in the image of a creator, not a destroyer. Today we affirm that together we will rebuild what hate has destroyed, and that what we build anew, we will build better. Today we raise our voices to say yes to life.

One person alone is weak. Together, let us be strong. Today is our national day of prayer and remembrance. I ask you to stand now and either pray with me or remember in your own way those who have died so horribly, those who survive and merit our compassion and human kindness, and all those who share our conviction that human virtue, civilization, goodness, and the values that accompany these signs of our common value endure, and to attest the triumph of good over evil."

John T. Casteen III, Ph.D.
President Emeritus
University of Virginia
September 14, 2001