And there were “the bombs bursting in air”

We live in a violent world.

Humans can be violent. Not all of us of course, but even our national anthem “remembers” the violence that wrought a nation, or rather sustained a nation (the Battle at Fort McHenry, War of 1812, inspired the poem that provided the lyrics to our national anthem).

...the bombs bursting in air.

From the Francis Scott Key poem:

“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Our country has been involved in wars the world over, and on our own land, to create and sustain our nation or to secure it against enemies, or aid our allies when needed. That’s a rough job. And often a violent job. It can get to folks and make them a bit off–us and them (whoever we are or they are). Some folks may turn to terrorism for a variety of reasons–out of desperation? or plan meanness? (I’m no expert)–but it seems as if it’s always the wrong path to take. Anger and bombs should never mix, but they do, and they often have–to the detriment of many.

Not only did a bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 have a huge impact on our country, but it’s part of a history of violence we should all know about.

Map of Terrorist Attacks

What you’re looking at, above, is a map of the worst terrorist attacks in the world in which there were over 100 fatalities. It’s frightening to see them all laid out like this. How could we be so angry this many times? How could we kill so many people? (And you’ll notice this map doesn’t show some of the most devastating bombs of the 20th century–which would include the atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of WWII.)

A pro-Italian independence patriot tried to bomb Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenia in the middle of the 19th century. So, such tactics are not new or unique to the 20th or 21st century. To be aware that our species is prone to this violence allows us to push harder for peaceful solutions. I’m not advocating non-retaliation, but I am advocating education and understanding who we are, what we do, and knowing who our neighbors are and what they do, what they believe. Conversation and education can be good things.

I understand conflicts that are centuries-old may not be solved by talking, nor will systems of hatred based on religious beliefs be nullified by a chat. But we must remember. We must keep hope alive.

By visiting the Oklahoma City National Monument next week, we will have the opportunity to see what one community has done to heal its wounds, remember its past, talk about alternates to violence, and share our own history of violence and healing through memorialization in Montgomery, Alabama… indeed, all over Alabama.

Remembering violence, committing to peace, is a key to helping subvert the cultures of violence that threaten us everywhere, everyday.

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