It was a week or two after the event many people are fixated on today, that I witnessed an Irish priest, a visitor at what was then my parish, state from the pulpit that forgiveness was fine and dandy (my words), but that what had happened demanded retribution (his word).
No turning the other cheek for that allegedly Christian clergyman.
I understand this because, to tell the truth, I find it very difficult to forgive. The problem is that the people who injure me, mostly with haughtiness and a refusal to listen, don't do me the favor of abjectly recognizing they are at fault.
Surely, Osama bin Laden died with the certainty that he was right and that the United States had aggrieved the Muslim world in a way that deserved what happened and more.
Similarly, I doubt that any of the ITT executives who provided covert funds, the Nixon White House operatives and the CIA men have lost much sleep over aiding and abetting the destruction of democracy on another September 11, the one in Chile in 1973 that ended with an elected president dead and thousands of Chilean citizens from all walks of life kidnapped, tortured and killed.
The initial toll (people killed at the stadium in Santiago in the immediate aftermath of the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende) was similar in Chile to that on Manhattan island 28 years later: 3,000 people killed.
Gen. Augusto Cesar Pinochet had laid out in the military journal Estrategia in 1965 his plans for a "national security state" to struggle in defense of what the military regimes of South America came to call "Christian, Western civilization." He died without ever apologizing for his crimes.
Nor for the US$250 million paid to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company by the Pinochet regime to offset the loss of two-thirds of its copper production under Allende. Anaconda, ruled a major polluter by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1980s, was bought by the Atlantic Richfield Company in 1997, which was in turn purchased by BP, the former British Petroleum, and the source of the recent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
What a tangled web some weave ...
Still, today's gospel speaks of forgiving "seventy times seven," biblical talk for many, many times. I can sympathize with the silly Irish priest when I think of Sept. 11, 1973.
As for the one ten years ago, I wish that instead of talk of retribution there had been more room for understanding those who witnessed the pillage in their countries by U.S. and other Western interests with which most of us feel no commonality whatsoever -- and how misdirected, grief-stricken rage was the real pilot of the four crashed planes.
Then they might have come to forgive us for unwittingly enjoying the living standard sustained by our society's plunder. And we could forgive them back.