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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Island Voices
We do not practice what we preach

By Kriss Conley
English teacher, Wai'anae Intermediate School

Everyone remembers a few of them from their childhood, either from your parents or from your teachers. They are those little rules we were taught as children that helped shape the adults we would become and the society that we have helped to create.

Most of those axioms come from sources we believe in, if not at least respect.

Albert Einstein said, "It is impossible to simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." The Bible tells us to "turn the other cheek," and to "love thy enemy" and most importantly, "Do not kill." The Koran says, "to kill one human is to kill all of mankind."

I am a public school teacher and, as such, I find myself spending a great deal of time telling young people how best to react to other people and how to make appropriate decisions. Basically, I am explaining continually to my students how they should live their lives. That responsibility has become increasingly more uncomfortable the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks.

As a child, I was taught many sayings similar to those listed above and, as an adult, I still very much believe in them. Yet for some inescapable reason there is a voice deep inside me that cannot be quieted. It is screaming vengeance at the top of its lungs. It screams that we should kill three people for every one American who died, just to show the world and the terrorists they do not dare attack the United States.

How do I tell my students that violence solves nothing and at the same time cheer on our men and women in the military as they are being shipped overseas to kill?

How do I explain to my students that they should not retaliate violence with violence and at the same time support my country's retaliation?

How do I answer when my students ask me if little children in that country will die when we bomb them?

I am proud to say I served six years in the U.S. Navy. Fortunately, I was never called to battle, because these same questions that are nagging me now also complicated my life as a sailor. I have been a civilian for five years now and am not any closer to having suitable answers for those questions.

It appears my questions do not have easy answers, and, for now, it seems all I am capable of doing is my best from day to day, while I wait for the wisdom that I hope will come in time.