For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
September 26, 2001 - Religious Fundamentalism or Just Plain Bullying?
The library owns a graphic novel called "My War with Brian," by Ted Rall. It wounds me every time I read it. It's about a boy who got brutally bullied by another boy, all through junior high school. Repeatedly, the victim appealed to his teachers, his principal, and his parents. Nothing worked. Instead, he was left to his own devices, day after day.
Between the end of junior high and the beginning of high school, the victim suddenly grew up, got a big surge of height and muscle. Back at school, when the bully taunted him for the first time that year, something snapped.
The bully was hauled away in an ambulance. That ended the bullying. I have heard stories from several people in the intelligence community about the former USSR's response to terrorists. Like the embassy of the United States, the Soviet embassy in Iran was captured by a violent mob. Unlike us, the Soviets ended it in days. How? By mailing to their captured embassy, in small packages, the severed body parts of terrorists' relatives.
The message was clear: your family has attacked my nation. My nation will now attack your family, and is prepared to match, and exceed, your every barbarism. Moreover, we have resources far greater than yours.
War offers terrible choices. Do you meet terrorism with terror? Will anything else suffice? Does this just breed more of the same? Or to put it another way, how many innocents must die?
Like most Americans, I am outraged by the soul-searing damage inflicted on my country. I am also very troubled by the potential for picking the wrong targets for our grief and rage.
Then, too, I've come to realize that I know very little about the people that may have been responsible for the September 11th attack. The media has declared that this is the work of "Islamic fundamentalists."
We don't know, just yet, if that's so.
But let's say it is. I find that I have a host of questions.
Just what DO Muslims believe?
How many "Islamic fundamentalists" are there? To put it another way, do the followers of Mohammed have as much diversity as the followers of Christ?
Let's be frank: both currently and historically, not only have Christians mounted wars against those of other faiths (the Crusades), they even have wars with members of, technically, the same faith (Catholics and Protestants). Some Christians have been known to commit terrorist acts. But that's not TYPICAL of Christians.
Is this parallel to the situation in the Islamic world? Surely, to be religious is not necessarily to be a fanatic, or a terrorist. By labeling our attackers, "Islamic fundamentalists," are we setting the stage for religious war, for the murder of people not because of what they do, but because of what we believe THEY believe?
Toward the goal of greater understanding, the library is offering an educational program on Sunday, October 7, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. Our speaker is Ibrahim Kazerooni, the Amman (or spiritual leader) of Denver's Islamic Center of Ahl-Al-Beit.
He has told me that he views the events of September 11 as "an atrocity." I have asked him to come and speak about the beliefs of Islam. He has graciously agreed to do so.
I hope you can join us for this very interactive question and answer session. Our nation's response to this tragedy should begin with knowledge and insight.
Locally, this is a good place to start.
Ultimately, however, I don't believe that the terrorist attack has anything to do with religion. I believe that this is about something else: a very few people believe they have the right to be bullies.