Terrorism has its roots in little examples of cruelty

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2001

Saturday morning I had a telephone call from a friend stranded in Basel, Switzerland.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Saturday morning I had a telephone call from a friend stranded in Basel, Switzerland. She wasn’t going to be able to fly back to this country before Sept. 24. She used to live in Albert Lea and reads the Albert Lea Tribune. A habit which impelled her to suggest that the least I could do is to write a column about the destruction of the towers in New York City and of the Pentagon in Washington, D. C.

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It always pleases me when anyone reads my column and I am more than willing to write on subjects in which readers express interest unless I am asked to espouse a point of view on their behalf with which I am in total disagreement.

My deadline for this column is Tuesday. So I was half way out of the door before I discovered the catastrophe which had befallen our nation. It impressed me to no end to find when I reached The Tribune with my column that the evening edition was all made up, headlines included, and ready to hit the streets. It didn’t seem to me that we were nearly that fast and efficient back when I was still punching a time clock.

Someone once said that we do not feel the grief for the death of 10,000 strangers that we feel over one person that we personally know and love. The horror of Tuesday before last has brought that statement into question. It is impossible to watch television and see crowds of people bringing pictures and searching hour after hour for husbands, wives, parents, children, without sharing their grief and depression.

A professor at the University, attempting to make us understand the time relationship between earth and man, told us to think of the earth as one of the huge Egyptian pyramids. A dime placed on top of the pyramid, he explained, represented the time man had been on earth, a postage stamp on top of the dime represented the time man had been civilized.

It seems to me he was a little optimistic about the postage stamp. The material universe shows some signs of civilization, but not many. A civilized world would not have murders, rapists, child molesters, and bigots. All of them are terrorists of a kind. Some of them, perhaps, may not even know it.

Back in the days when I was a full time Tribune employee, one of my assignments was to produce a family story for the Sunday edition. One week the story would be about an Albert Lea family, the next week it would be about a family from one of the towns outside of Albert Lea.

Generally I enjoyed doing these. Most of the families were warm and friendly and many of them became my friends. Ever so often, though, I’d find myself in a home where a child would be torturing an animal, twisting its paws, or squeezing its neck so it was actually choking.

Sometimes a parent would put a stop to the torture. More often the mother, it was usually the mother, would laugh cheerfully, and say, &uot;Oh, don’t worry about that horrible cat (dog). It’s just a stray.&uot; Sometimes they’d continue with, &uot;He’s really a little hard on animals. But you know, boys will be boys.&uot;

It is interesting to note that it has been shown that most serial killers start their careers by cruelty to animals.

It is not right that terrorists should kill and go free to kill again. We will undoubtedly be successful in &uot;smoking ’em out, chasing ’em down, bringing ’em to justice,&uot; but it will not restore one murdered victim to life, replace our cherished landmarks, nor bring a feeling of safety to our citizens.

If it were possible to line every terrorist in the world up before a firing squad and execute him, it would not end terrorism. Terrorism is the inability to understand another, to preserve his dignity, and to sense his need for comfort and compassion.

The war against terrorism begins in the nursery. What makes it difficult is that so many adults, having had no victory against their own dark thoughts, and indeed not being always aware of them, are ill equipped to help their children triumph over the negation of terrorism.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.