Along the Tracks

Monday, March 11, 2002

The Reckoning

I, like many of you, watched the documentary 9/11 last evening. It was raw yet tasteful, never focusing on the carnage we already know was everywhere that horrible day; rather, it helped us to understand the heroes. On the surface, they were just “regular guys,” but as their stories unfolded on screen, it became clear they are not regular at all. Men and women who dedicate themselves to uniformed service - firemen, EMTs, law enforcement personnel, the military - make two important decisions upon entering their field: They decide to forego material gain and use their labor to save the lives of others; and they accept that the cost may very well be their own lives. Their choices make them anything but “regular” - “heroes in waiting” would be more accurate.

In his six-month observance speech this morning, President Bush called the war on terrorism “a reckoning.” The word choice was precise - and perfect. The concept of a “reckoning” comes from biblical tradition; a final judgment of rights and wrongs, the end of one time and the start of another. That is exactly what this must be - end game.

In the movie Tombstone, Wyatt Earp asks Doc Holliday why one particularly diabolical Wild West villain he was about to face, named Johnny Ringo, was driven to such evil. “A man like that has a great hole in his heart,” said Holliday, paraphrasing a bit, “and he can never steal enough or hurt enough or kill enough to fill it.”

“Does he want justice?” asks Earp.

“He isn’t looking for justice,” says Holliday, “but a reckoning.”

Pop philosophy, perhaps, but it seems particularly well stated and relevant to what we face today.

In a way, by fighting this war, we are giving the terrorists what they want - a reckoning. If we turned away, it might be delayed, but sooner or later, the reckoning they seek would still come. Facing the reckoning now brings us closer to the end game, and the righteousness of our cause coupled with the strength of our present resolve presents the opportunity to bring real safety for ourselves and freedom and new hope to those still oppressed in the world.

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