(Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor penned by the late Charles Dukes and published in the September 18, 2001 edition of The Herald Gazette following the terrorist attacks on our country a week prior. Dukes died this summer on the morning of his 88th birthday following a brief illness. This letter was read at his funeral on July 31 by his son John Dukes. The Dukes family resided on Thomaston Street here for many years and opened their home and hearts to every charitable need laid before them.)
Last week’s scenario is still in some ways unreal, like some novel by Tom Clancy, like something that can be put on a shelf and rendered harmless by moving on to another and less apocalyptic story. But, it is real, causing a relative quiet to settle over the day to day conduct of things – no sports spectacles, no boiling crowds in airports, no boiling crowds anywhere for that matter.
Routines are altered by an attitude of watchfulness – not the cringe of fear, but the quiet resolve to join in the task of, once more, confronting and destroying an evil that threatens the entire free world.
It is a new type of battlefield but an old story: the corrosive evil of militant and deadly fundamental religion that preaches death to anyone who doesn’t agree with it.
Once again, God is asked to take sides in his own name. Once again, we face warfare over the question of who is right about God, which is the wrong question to begin with. Warfare over that question makes everyone wrong, for no one, no group, no nation, has the ultimate answer to the existence of the object of our neurobiological urge for order and control.
Mankind still ignores the lesson of God’s answer for Moses: “I am…”. There is no further possibility of description without limiting and thereby negating the idea of a God. God is simply beyond the most complex religions possible – not detached from them, for they are all like fingers pointing to the moon, all to some degree externalizing mankind’s yearning for absolute truth.
Absolute truth cannot be found at this stage in our planet’s history, but enough can be found in the hearts of all who love their neighbor, even if that love is the kind that responds only when it is needed.
Now the world knows what Americans have always known; we are a community, a neighborhood bound invisibly together in all our diversity and ready to sweep aside all distinctions in order to love our neighbor when they need it. That, after all, is the definition of freedom.