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In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Disrespect From the Stupid and the Rude

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A former co-worker of mine sent an e-mail that described the morning activities of three or four people who had jobs in one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. These people, for one reason or another, were delayed September 11, 2001 and could not make it to work on time. As a result, they were not in the buildings brought down by terrorists.

I saw exactly where it was going, and I didn’t like it.

It said something like, “So remember, the next time you can’t find your shoes or you miss the bus, don’t complain; it may be God intervening in your life.”

I wrote a quick, somewhat heated reply asking what those people must have done to deserve God’s grace that day. Did they pray harder than the religious among the nearly 3,000 who died in New York and other locations? Did God find so few worthy of sparing that he “allowed” that many to get to work on time and, if they were lucky, leap to their deaths instead of burning alive?

It’s exactly this kind of crap that should make a religion want to excommunicate select idiotic members. (Somewhat regrettably, my wording was not that harsh.)

The woman who sent it did not reply, but another person did. Without any text in his message, he attached the song “Jump” by Van Halen. This was a man who was not born in the United States, but who lives and works here and enjoys renting movies to view when ever he chooses.

I was so angry that I almost couldn’t finish work that day.

I didn’t bother to reply, as I knew it would only make him laugh harder at his pitiable joke. He worked an after-hours shift, so confronting him in person to ask his intent wasn’t feasible.

I’m not one of those blind patriots who supports our government no matter what. After the attacks I didn’t froth at the mouth and curse all Muslims worldwide. I winced when our president said of potential attackers of US forces, “Bring them on.” I can’t stand that the US fatalities in Iraq number more than those lost in the event we’re trying to — let’s all face it — avenge, but I certainly don’t have a solution.

However, each year on this date I will think of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. They didn’t die because of any choices they had made, and God did not miraculously make a chosen few late for work.

(Note: I did not write this as a condemnation of anybody’s religious beliefs, but as an example of one person’s misguided expression of them. Because, isn’t that exactly what inspired the attacks in the first place?)

17 Responses to Disrespect From the Stupid and the Rude

  1. Pretty hard not to respond heatedly to something like that, I think. Yet the people who would say those sorts of things are the least likely to be swayed from their opinion. Nobody likes to have their opinions challenged since we must be right in holding them.

    I will always remember where I was that morning when I first saw the news break, and I leave most of my thoughts at that.

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  2. Though I’m not a fan of any sort of chain letters, I do have to wonder at one part of your response to this. Was there any indication that the writer (or the sender) thought that certain people were spared because of their own merit? That seems to be an assumption you made.

    I was at Cafe Brazil on Central Expressway, facing the TVs. For some reason the other people at our table just kept on discussing business… I couldn’t understand why they weren’t more distracted.

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  3. Simon – I was a bit torn on whether to post anything 9/11 related this year, because part of me says the best thing to do is remember it but not publicize it. The attention, after all, is what the terrorists want. But, this particular incident I needed to vent.

    Peter – Oh, I wouldn’t jump to a conclusion like that, because I have many great, deeply religious friends who who would never take part in something like that e-mail. I tried my best to find the original e-mail so I could more accurately quote it, but I came up dry.

    The suggestion of those folks’ being spared by God was strong.

    Plus, I thought to myself “What would Jesus do?” and it was a no-brainer. Jesus would NOT forward that e-mail.

    Footnote: Isn’t it interesting that the two first comments on a post mentioning Christianity are from Simon and Peter? Just sayin’.

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  4. Now the first four comments are from Simon, Peter, Mark, and Josh. If Matt(hew) is next I gonna be suspicious, of what I’m not sure yet, but definitely suspicious. Just to show how much my perspective has changed in the last few years, after my mom woke me up with a phone call that day to tell me the news, I called in upset to work and went surfing all day. And it was a big day. Six years and two kids later, I’m sure my reaction would be slightly less selfish. Sending the “Jump” track is one of those things that’s just wrong.

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  5. I’ll break the biblical name chain…

    I’ll never forget the moment before that awful event on September 11. I had just wished my wife a wondeful 25th wedding anniversary. So much for that. Needless to say, we postponed our celebration for a few days…

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  6. Interesting post Markus. I have a hard time tuning out ignorance as well. The New Testament tells us that we are directed by free will, and the e-mail you are referencing flies in the face of that teaching. To suggest that only a few people were spared due to their supposed “stronger” religious beliefs is a concept more descriptive of being guided by the hands of fate. It’s really a contradictory thought to begin with, and I’m more amused by that than anything else. “OK, you’re right…they went to church 4 more times last year than Suzy who was killed in the tragedy.” Preposterous.

    Oh well…I hope it doesn’t ruin your entire week, even if it did halfway ruin your day. :-)

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  7. So your name has to either (a) be in the bible, or (b) start with C.

    Charles, I’m not sure what you’re getting at there; are you saying that the omnipotent God of the Bible (whether you believe in him or not) does not have control over his entire creation?

    Again, I haven’t read this email — and if it showed up in my inbox I probably still wouldn’t read it — but isn’t “what those people must have done to deserve God’s grace” (sic. Mark) a bit contradictory, since grace by its very nature is undeserved? If that message claims otherwise, then I’m with you 100%.

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  8. I wish I hadn’t read this. Or rather, I wish that email hadn’t been sent. One of the things I hate most about life in general is having to accept that there are people like this in the world. Causing problems, on one scale or another, by spreading hate and ignorance.

    Thousands of innocent people have lost their lives and there is no excuse, Divine or otherwise. Nothing can change that or explain it away.

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  9. Oh, and by the way, I just read through your entire Blue Straw series. I’m not sure what to say, except… wow. You made me care about cups.

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  10. I too questioned my decision whether to post today. I happened to come across Tom Brokaw’s report about the air traffic controllers on that day, re-read it and thought about how many tens of thousands of people were directly involved, not just impacted, by the events of 9/11.

    I worry that, each year, more people may forget the degree of pain that people continue to feel each and every day by not only the attacks themselves, but the illness and emotional pain afflicting the first responders, illnesses suffered by Ground Zero workers, the horrific wounds of the returning soldiers, both mental and physical and of course the thousands of deaths from combat.

    I’m bothered by the fact that soldiers die daily and if mentioned at all on the evening news, it’s brief.

    While I do have some (maybe misguided) belief about God sparing lives, I certainly don’t believe it has to do with how spiritual or religious a person is. I just believe He has other plans. I don’t think He is responsible for my lost keys.

    One last thing: to joke about any aspect of 9/11 is despicable.

    Sorry for the long comment.

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  11. Peter’s last comment there is delightfully irreverent and totally on par with how the rest of us now feel about cups too.

    Welcome to the cult, Pete.

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  12. Josh – Oops. I left myself out of the biblical name joke. Thanks for that and for adding yourself, Joshua.

    I think some reading your comment might assume that by “surfing” you meant “surfing the web,” but I know you meant actual surfing. And, I think we can forgive that. Everybody reacted in his or her own way. I just stayed at work and tried to keep my mind off of it, but that was impossible.

    Curt – Gosh, what a way to ring in such a wonderful accomplishment. So, I hope you’ve made the 30-year mark and never looked back.

    Charles – Good points, there. All religions that call on the Bible as their source would do well to pay attention to that.

    Peter – I like those rules, because my name falls within their boundaries.

    I would never speak for my brother, but since we were raised in the same church, I think we learned that God does indeed have control over his creation, but that people were given free will. Otherwise, what would be the point in telling folks that if they believe they will be saved and if they don’t they won’t? Kind of fits the whole “you’re either with me or against me” scripture. It doesn’t say, “I decided before you were born whether you would be with me.” Without the power to control one’s own spiritual destiny, people are no different from animals.

    I’m not saying what I believe, but what we were taught and how I took the Bible’s meaning.

    Also, I’m glad to see you got sucked right into the storm drain along with us! The cups are not finished yet.

    Linda – So well said that I have nothing to add. Which, in itself, is saying something.

    Hazel – Very nicely put. I will say that NPR mentions soldier deaths every morning. Or, it seems to me that they do.

    Loved your point about jokes about 9/11. I can’t say I’ve heard any besides that one the guy sent me, and I’m happy to keep it that way.

    Simon – The Cult of Cuponality? No. That doesn’t work. Hmm… there’s… nope, I got nothing.

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  13. Mark,

    I remember that day fairly well. What is odd is that I wrote up early that morning after falling asleep the night before. Last night after teaching my night class and getting home, a strange thing happened on this September 11. I woke up early around the same time or maybe earlier like I did on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

    Back in 2001, My Mom and Papaw were asleep at my Papaw’s house. I had stayed at his house. I drove over to my Mom’s house that morning to do some work on the Internet. When I got to my Mom’s house, I turned on the TV to Good Morning America. A few minutes later, I saw my local ABC station switch from the tape-delayed Good Morning America to a shot of the Twin Towers where the first plane had gone in. I witnessed the second plane crash into the other tower. Then, the Pentagon was shown. Then, the crash occurred in Pennsylvania. Then, the towers fell. When the order came to land all aircraft, it was really strange to see Little Rock later that day with no airplanes or any flying craft in the sky. My Mom had a doctor’s appointment that day on September 11, and I had to go with her that day to the appointment.

    As the events unfolded that day, I have never seen anything like the coverage when many of the cable channels began simulcasting one of major news networks on multiple channels such as ABC News was being shown on ESPN, ABC Family, and many of the other ABC-owned or connected cable channels. It was very eerie.

    About the e-mail from your co-worker, I have to agree that the suggestion of being late to work is a good thing because it saved some people and that God was the reason for them being late. I agree it is rather arrogant to make this assumption.

    If God had some influence in some of these people’s lives, I do not think I could accept that the reason for their survival was because they were late and God wanted them to be kept from being on time to work that day. There may have been other untold reasons why they were late or why they were not on time for work. For others, it may have just been luck.

    I believe that God had a hand in my fiancee and I meeting when we did. My fiancee and I meeting each other is very different from the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.

    In a side note, MSNBC replayed in its entirety Tuesday morning the morning coverage from The Today Show from that morning of Tuesday, September 11. The replay was syncronized with the actual time. When the first tower fell on the taped broadcast, my watch was close to the time when that happened on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was like reliving that day once again.

    I have mixed feelings on the Iraq invasion as well.

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  14. Wow, the insensitivity of some people sending out trash like that.

    You were a lot more…. lenient on them than I would have been.

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  15. Sorry, just happened back through here and although I could wax verbose about several things, I’ll just hit this one:

    It doesn’t say, “I decided before you were born whether you would be with me.”

    Actually, God tells Jeremiah (the prophet, not the Zorannic) that very thing in chapter 1: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart”.

    The word “knew” is a term that denotes intimate familiarity, and is often translated “chose”.

    On a side note: how refreshing to be able to talk about these sorts of things in a semi-public forum without the irrational hate and trollery that tend to accompany such a discussion.

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  16. Peter – I couldn’t agree more about the class of the participants.

    I also believe that the Bible contains contradictions galore, and almost every Christian denomination out there picks and chooses the ones that best fit their beliefs, and kind of pushes to the side those that do not.

    But, we’re only human!

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  17. Mark – I couldn’t agree more with that last bit. We humans are all too prone to pick and choose what parts of reality we wish to acknowledge (today).

    I respect your opinion, though of course I think otherwise (and I’d love to hear more about your own reasons for believing this), but I’m left with a question: if the Bible is so rife with contradictions as to be nearly meaningless, why even attempt to state that “it says ____” on a particular subject? That would appear to impute some sort of definite position to the book as a whole.

    As always, I may have misinterpreted what you were trying to say here; the internet as a vehicle for serious discussion can prove starkly lacking.

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