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Fear, Vengeance or Justice
By Mark Shepard, On Life and Liberty Column Series in the Bennington Banner

September 18, 2001

The suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have ignited a renewed spirit of American patriotism. Wednesday night hundreds of people spontaneously met in front of the White House singing songs of patriotism and faith. The same has occurred from Capital Hill to America's small remote towns, including Bennington. Churches and synagogues have opened doors as Americans have prayed for God's healing for the injured victims, comfort for the families who lost loved ones, and for His mercy on America where in recent decades God has all too often been relegated obsolete or incompatible with our modern intellectual culture. The weakness of our human strength starred each of us as we watched, listened and read with horror and disbelief of how a small group of people penetrated American defenses ending the lives of thousands and destroying symbols of American greatness.

As the events unfolded, our emotions ranged though extremes we can hardly imagine. On Tuesday, fear filled us as we saw the destruction and heard unsubstantiated reports that there were up to eight other jumbo jets unaccounted for. As the situation came under control, our responses ranged between wanting vengeance to wanting justice. As the week went on and the populace was clearly supporting severe retaliation, calls for peace, mercy, and love for all mankind were voiced. Extending peace, mercy, and love on a personal level is a noble and healthy objective. However, we must make a distinction between what is an appropriate personal response and what is an appropriate societal response to this tragedy or any other act of injustice.<

On a personal level, vengeance is destructive to the vengeful person; where as extending peace, mercy and love, even in difficult times, has a healing and healthy effect. However, if as a society, our government shows mercy to terrorists there will be no peace. As a nation of law and order, we must extinguish the threat of terrorism in America. It is not only our right as a nation; it is our duty and is the only just response. When government neglects its duty to maintain justice, either fear or vengeance takes over. When government upholds justice and protects the liberties of its citizens, the citizens are free to prosper and meet the humanitarian needs of our society.

When I was in college, I had a close friend from Beirut, Lebanon. Eli shared with me how Lebanon had embraced a philosophy that by befriending all nations and people groups they would eliminate the need for a strong military. The result of this philosophy has transformed Lebanon from being a beautiful utopia to a wasteland full of people living in fear and vengeance. Unable to attain a U.S. visa, Eli has since chosen to live in Montreal, Canada and then South Korea over returning to his homeland. In a world with evil, a strong military is a necessary component for the survival of liberty. Our government must have both the means and resolve to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility and provide for common defense (Preamble to the United States Constitution).

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard
Bennington, Vermont

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