Former Utne Editor in Chief David Schimke on conflict, compassion, partisanship, and peace
As we were reminded ad nauseam on every media platform for a week, the mass murders committed on 9/11 continue to have an incalculable impact on foreign relations, world economics, and the broader culture. It’s a certainty the same will be true for decades to come. And while you may feel as though the event and aftermath has been covered from every conceivable angle (including pieces on how the attacks affected professional athletics and may have led to America’s latest recession), a just released, essential collection of essays go beyond the strained headlines and over-boiled melodrama.
The book, Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World (University of California Press), functions neither as a political autopsy nor an emotional anthology. Instead, it examines the tragedy from a philosophical distance that, while far from dispassionate, forces readers to consider the unintentional causes and subconscious effects of violence, both individual and collective.
The eight chapters, written by over 100 visionary thinkers who span generations and transcend borders ethnic (Federico García Lorca, Reza Baraheni), religious (Deepak Chopra, Rabbi Arthur Waskow), and political (Chris Hedges, Henry Kissinger), are strategically broken into two parts. The first takes a “Deeper Look” at the origins of fear and consequences of grief while convincingly establishing the editors’ broad definition of terrorism, which includes acts of aggression against any unarmed civilian, no matter the perpetrator. The ruminations in the second section, “Paths to Transformation,” demand unedited honesty, empathy for all, and raw self-reflection, all essential in the quest of equal peace and meaningful justice.
Given last week’s media blitz, no one could be blamed for wanting to take a deep breath and little down time before diving into such a collection. Keep it on your reading list, though, as the latest anniversary fades and the popular narrative around 9/11 further simplifies the complicated causes and horrific effects. Both historical distillation and timeless psychological treatise, Transforming Terror rivets and moves because it dares to recognize 9/11 not just as a painful tragedy, but an unwelcome opportunity.