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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2001 / 4 Tishrei, 5762

Terry Mattingly

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Terry Anderson: America can seek security, without surrendering its values of freedom -- TERRY ANDERSON thought he had conquered his anger at the terrorists who locked him away for 2,545 days.

The Associated Press veteran had traveled back to Lebanon to make a documentary. He met with officials of Hezbollah. It was hard, but he did it.

Then an image on his giant-screen television brought it all back. Anderson was watching a routine news interview with a politician in Beirut, when he recognized his voice. This was the man the hostages called "the boss," in their shadowy world of blindfolds and secret prisons.

"I knew that voice. ... We had to listen to him day after day. He was in charge," Anderson said, speaking this week at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton, Fla. "And there he was in my living room, larger than life on my television screen in Ohio. I'm watching him and listening to him and I'm thinking, 'You bastard! I am still angry, because you did that to me.'

"That surprised me. It surprised me that it was still buried in there someplace."

On Sept. 11, he was stunned and horrified all over again.

Anderson has paid his dues. He knows all about terrorism, nationalism, religious fanaticism and the other "isms" that haunt the Middle East. He knows more than anyone could want to know about the agonizing path that broken people will have to walk after the events in New York City, Washington, D.C, and rural Pennsylvania.

But Anderson isn't sure that he can grasp the pain felt by those who lost loved ones on 9/11, even after his years as a hostage and as a war correspondent. Anderson said he isn't even sure what to call what happened on that day. "Terrorism" is being radically redefined.

"These terrorists are not asking for anything. There are no demands. They simply want to destroy," he said. "There is no question of negotiation. ... They are anarchists. It used to be that terror had political aims. They can't really have any expectations that they can damage us in any lasting way. This is terror for the sake of terrorizing people."

Anderson's testimony on faith and forgiveness was scheduled before the bombings. Above all, he said he considers himself blessed. He is thankful for his life, marriage, family and work as a writer and teacher. He said he is thankful for the faith that helped him stay sane in his chains, locked away with a circle of brothers that included a Catholic priest and a biblical scholar.

But this is a hard time to preach about the power of forgiveness.

"I don't think the people who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center even want to HEAR the word 'forgiveness,' right now. ... They are still grieving, as we all are, as a nation," he said. "When I speak about forgiveness, I am speaking totally about my personal experience, my own feelings and my own search. I cannot speak for anyone else."

During the decade since his release, the tenets of his faith have brought him pain as well as comfort. It's hard to get past the words that are "right there on the very first page of our contract" with God, he said. "That's the place where it says, 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.' "

Anderson said his wife once described the lessons they have learned this way: "If you want the joy, you can't have the anger."

What does this mean for the nation? Anderson said he is convinced America can seek security, without surrendering its values of freedom. The free world can demand justice for Osama bin Laden, without making decisions rooted in a thirst for revenge.

"The people that kidnapped me, just like the people who committed this terrible atrocity, are not sorry today. They are not asking for forgiveness," he said. "No, forgiveness is about what is in me. Hatred and anger are terribly debilitating. They are soul destroying even, I think, when they are righteous.

"We have every reason to be terribly anger at those people. They need to be punished. But anger will lead us, I think, into places where we do not want to go."

Terry Mattingly ( teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic College and is senior fellow for journalism at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. He writes this weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Terry Mattingly