This evening at my workplace, some administrator got on the loudspeaker to say that we should all pause and reflect on the tragedy of 9/11. I had assumed that he would call for a moment of silence, as is fitting, but instead he read an entire prepared speech, likely given him by the USPS central administration. It is a federal facility; I should not have been surprised.

I cannot tell you the content of the speech, as I refused to listen; reverence cannot be demanded, only given freely. But as the speech went on for some time, I decided that any speech meant to hallow a tragic day ought not to be any longer than the Gettysburg Address. It hardly does well to have people nodding off or taking out their knitting when they are meant to be lamenting.

So in light of 9/11, I will say only this:

In the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers, when I was told it was an act of terrorism, and what terrorism was, I decided that the best course of action was to not be terrified. To not give into the fear forced upon us, to stand up to this vast act of bullying, to not move in the direction we had been pushed.

Alas that we did, in one way and another; we sought revenge and our government visited great cruelty upon many innocents in the days following just after the towers fell, to hold them in chains without due process of law, to spy upon us all forevermore -- then to destroy one country and another, in a waste of time and treasure to pretend that our violence showed strength instead of terrible weakness.

There are two ways to respond to evil: to destroy or to create. Though both are needful in their own place and time, only one looks forward. Only one moves forward. Only one can end cycles of grief and rage, tempting though revenge will always be. Only one can show, by rebuilding and rebuilding, that no amount of terror and violence will ever be enough to claim true victory.

In the wake of pain and suffering, remember this: if a just redress of grievance is impossible, there is still possible the best response -- and that is to live well and to build high. Had we taken this path, long ago, the world would be a merrier place.

But the choice is not lost to us yet, until time itself ends.

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