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QUESTION:

In '"Speaker for the Dead'" you state or imply that if you really understand someone, or put yourself in their place, you end up agreeing with them. Could you do this exercise with the mastermind of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Can you understand him? Put yourself in his place? Agree with him?

Also, in '"Ender's Shadow (I think) you say that the best teacher is your enemy. What can we learn from these terrorists that could help us?

-- Submitted by Samuel Silva

OSC REPLIES: - September 25, 2001

I don't believe that I said that you end up agreeing with someone if you truly understand him. I think a character said that, if that was what was actually said. I personally believe that would happen only if you were weak yourself, or didn't really know what you believed. Instead, when you truly understand someone, you end up loving them -- even if you still see that they're hopelessly, disastrously wrong.

So, given what I actually believe, in fact I think I do understand something of Osama bin Laden. He had to go through the normal process of demonizing all Americans in order to justify killing us as he has, and in fact I believe that deep down he knows he has embraced evil, which can be exciting but also devastating. I think that at this point he is filled with despair, knowing he has crossed the line that separates the redeemable from the unredeemable. Yet he still insists to himself that what he did was '"right'" and unselfish and supportive of a noble cause. He hides from the dark place inside where he knows that it's all a lie and he has been -- or has allowed himself to be -- deceived by his own ambition.

But then, I'm just a fiction writer.

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