What would Jesus do? Reflections on 9/11

Sept 19, 2001
City View -DM IA
“What would Jesus do?”

Last Tuesday, Father Frank Cordaro turned on the television and saw
planes flying into the World Trade Center. He saw the Pentagon on
fire. He saw “this awful, awful thing.” And then he did what he does
every day. He prayed — “for all the people suffering, for this country
and for the people of the world.” … Cordaro was horrified at the
carnage in New York — and at the rhetoric of war, “beating the drums
for war and revenge. War is not the answer. War is the problem. War is
the enemy.”

For three decades, Cordaro has been seeking and preaching peace. He
committed his first act of civil disobedience on August 9, 1977, when
he poured blood on the Pentagon, what he calls “that bloody place.”
… Cordaro has lost count of the number of times he has been
arrested; he has served 38 months in prison for breaking the law to
make his witness for peace. Behind bars is the right place to be, he
says, “because it’s where Jesus was, among the murderers and thieves.”

Cordaro disagrees with those who compare last week’s attacks with
Pearl Harbor. “It isn’t Pearl Harbor,” he says. “It’s Hiroshima.”
Cordaro makes the point that the Pearl Harbor attack was a strategic
attack by a military force against another military force, whereas on
September 11, some guys with plane tickets and box cutters tore apart
the lives of folks who were going to work or on the job. That, he
says, is more akin to Hiroshima, “where we set a moral climate that
makes collateral damage acceptable.”

Cordaro is delivering a message many Americans, many Iowans may not
want to hear right now: “Human beings did this. Human beings like us.
These were not Martians. It’s a desperate cry – ‘we’re bringing to
your land what you brought to ours.’ ” But he believes he’s on solid
ground here and cites the Sermon on the Mound: “But I say to you, love
your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you… When someone
strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”

What do we do now? … “We don’t say we’ll smoke them out,” Cordaro
says. “We don’t vow to wage war on those who attacked America…To get
to the heart of it, we have to look at ourselves, Our signature is on
this. In Biblical terms, we sow what we reap. We created this.
Hiroshima is very much like what these people did. If we don’t try to
understand why people hate us, we’ll just get caught up “in a
whirlwind of hate and self-righteousness,” he says.

He doesn’t expect this to be a popular point of view, “It’s hard to
hear what we have to say,” he admits. “The best way to honor those who
died on September 11, is to mourn what happened that horrific day, to
grieve with those throughout the world who have lost loved ones to
terrorism and violence and to work to make sure that these are the
last lives lost to violence.”

Frank Cordaro
Phil Berrigan CW House
713 Indiana Avenue, Des Moines, IA  50314
(515) 490-2490

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