Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .
Article #18: Avenging the SnipersWinter, 2002 - by Gaye Adegbalola
I pull up to the pump at the 7-11 around the corner from my home. It's well
lit, in a residential neighborhood, and some distance from I-95. I look in the
rearview, I look in the side mirrors, I look in front of me, hunker down to
make myself as small as possible, and get out. As I stand there filling the
tank, I see a white truck. My heart quickens. The truck is across the street,
parked behind the Salvation Army church building. I tell myself everything's
okay, but my heart thumps louder and faster. I stop pumping prematurely, duck
down to screw on the lid, and dash into 7-11 to pay.
This scene is played out many times in the coming days -- played out by me and most everyone else I know. Two snipings were minutes from my house (one, a mile from my Mom). Another was five minutes from my son in Falls Church. I'd experienced the horror of terrorism on TV and in print. I'd viewed terrorist damage at the Pentagon. I'd felt the trickle down terror in airports -- line after line after line. But now, Terror, with a capital T, was literally in my backyard -- faceless and walking defiantly in my neighborhood.
I didn't want to be scared. I thought I was strong and embodied with the "I will fear no evil" psalm. But my heart thumped as my mantra,"Peace be still," echoed in my head. Why here? Why now? Maybe I had yet to internalize the daily fear of millions in the Middle East. Or the on-going fear of drive-by ghetto shootings. Just think, the snipers killed 13, wounded 5 -- no more than any drive-by night, no more than any Israeli bus bombing, but. . . in my backyard.
Then the snipers were caught. We breathe a collective sigh of relief -- we'd been waiting to exhale. Muhammed and Malvo. A man and. . . a boy. A former member of the Nation of Islam and an illegal alien. And then, the cry for their heads. Where to best prosecute them to get a clean and swift death penalty? Answer: Virginia -- my state. The cries of vengeance rise!!!
I get caught up in conversations where I am surrounded with words of hatred -- hatred for Muslims, hatred for the Nation of Islam, hatred of anything remotely connected to the snipers. Immediately I think of two of my dearest friends -- both African-Americans, both Muslims. One in the Nation of Islam; one, orthodox. One has a last name of Muhammad; the other, Ahmed. Both are pure of body, mind, and spirit, full of love and humility. I love them dearly and want to scream out in their names.
Dry words tumble from my mouth and fall on deaf ears. But I must find the courage to stand up for them -- without a tremor, with pride and honor in our friendship. I must stand for them -- whose names and hearts I do know-- and, in turn, stand for other Muslims I do not know. I must avenge the snipers by not allowing hatred to spread. I must avenge them by having the courage to speak out against racial and religious profiling. I must especially have the courage to speak up, to stand up when odds are not in my favor. I must have the courage to ask the tough questions:
- What ever happened to "vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord"?
- What ever happened to freedom to religion?
- What ever happened to the stand against capital punishment?
- Are the snipers mentally insane? Is not one a minor?
- How can one oppose abortion and support the death penalty?
- What caused them to behave that way? Contributory causes?
- What ever happen to "he who is without sin throw the first stone"?
- To paraphrase Gandhi: Won't an eye for an eye leave the whole world blind?
I must start by asking these questions -- not just of others, but of myself. I must turn inward and I must, as the old folks say, "pray on it." I avenge the snipers by examining my heart, by strengthening my courage, by internalizing the worldwide pain and the struggle for mere existence. Peace be still. Peace be still. Peace be still.