This weekend was the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and I deliberately avoided watching any of the coverage. It's not that I want to forget - I will never forget - no, I simply didn't need the anger watching the coverage would engender.
Sunday at church the pastor, like most across the country I imagine, discussed 9/11. His point and it's a good one even if I'm not sure I agree with him, was that individually we need to forgive the terrorists, holding anger in our hearts harms not them, but us.
All of which is true. He also made the point that forgiving does not mean forgetting. You may forgive the person who stole money from you, that does not mean you leave your wallet laying around while they are there. He also noted that while it may be Man's part to bring justice, vengeance belongs to the Lord, and so we must not allow an understandable anger to allow justice to become vengeance.
Intellectually, I agree.
In my gut? Not so much.
I'm a history buff, and post 9/11 I studied the history of the West's repeated clashes with Islam starting in the early 7th Century with the emergence of the religion in what is now Saudi Arabia through the conquests of parts of Europe and Asia.
My studies tell me Islam and Western Civilization are simply incompatible, and that the wars we are fighting now, are merely and extension of a war the two cultures have been fighting off and on for more than 1,000 years.
My studies also tell me that, baring fundamental changes to Islam I'm not sure they're capable of making, the two cultures will remain incompatible.
Islam is not just a religion but a political system as well and does not distinguish between secular and religious authorities. This idea is anathema to the West where the 30 Years' War between 1618 and 1648, taught us that separating church and state was perhaps safer than a series of holy wars. That war was as much a conflict between the rising Protestantism and the Catholic Church, as it was over territory, with pogroms and atrocities on both sides and not just between Protestants and Catholics but between different Protestant denominations as well.
We learned through rivers of blood that freedom of conscience had to be allowed, because you cannot compel belief. This idea is as much anathema to radical Islam as combined church and state are to us.
So 9/11 brought home to me, and should have to us all, that we are in a war. A clash of cultures which appears unresolvable. As capitalism and communism cannot coexist, so it would seem a culture which prizes individual freedom and the right to believe what you wish cannot coexist with a culture which does not. Sooner or later the two will come into conflict with predictable results.
Can radical Islam change? Perhaps, if the West is prepared to pay the butcher's bill. They will have to be forced to change which will require the West to have the political will to do so - something I'm not sure is possible. It is a cardinal weakness of democracies that they tend to be short-sighted and have short memories.
The best which can be hoped for, I think, is a sort of uneasy truce wherein the West keeps enough force available to keep the radicals frightened enough to keep their heads down.
I do not think such a truce will hold, they never do. To paraphrase former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir - this war will only end when the radicals love their children more than they hate us.
All IMHO, of course
(Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Cherokee County News-Advocate. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.)