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Monday, September 11, 2006

Elephant in the room

Four and a half years or so. That seems to be the answer to the question, "When will it be time to talk about 9/11?"

Not that there haven't been earlier responses, from Macca's well-meaning but insipid tune "Freedom" to some Michael Moore film and other conspiracy theorists. But in the last few weeks, there have been two major motion pictures and seemingly dozens of TV movies, documentaries and "specials".

So, what I am thinking about five years on? (And how many people will be ticked off by same?)

1. Well, let's start with an analogy. I felt really badly when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. It wasn't because I liked him , but because I didn't. I didn't trust him as Attorney General, and wasn't convinced of his transformation as a populist. So when he was killed, I felt a sense of awkwardness.
But nothing like I felt in 9/11. When the Twin Towers were built in the 1970s, I thought they were awful. Ugly. Ostentatious. Did NOT enhance the classic New York City skyline. So when they collapsed, I felt just a little...guilty. And even more so, when in coming days, I learned they were targeted precisely because of their prominence. Actually, I felt AWFUL, as though, in some small way, it was somehow my fault.

2. I believe Usama bin Laden does not belong on the FBI Top Ten list. You may or may not know that he's on there for "MURDER OF U.S. NATIONALS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES" (I assume this refers to the two 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa; "CONSPIRACY TO MURDER U.S. NATIONALS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES" (ditto); "ATTACK ON A FEDERAL FACILITY RESULTING IN DEATH" (I guess the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.)
He is NOT on the list for 9/11, because, by the definition established by the FBI, the 10 Most Wanted list "is designed to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives who might not otherwise merit nationwide attention." People such as Bucky Phillips, who allegedly shot three state troopers, killing one, and was fortunately caught on Friday. Now, one may not have known the name bin Laden after the African bombings or after a hole was blown in the Cole, but certainly no one has forgotten him now. Or have we?

3. The near deification of police departments all across America has made me somewhat...uncomfortable. I mean no disrespect to officers who died trying to save others, but the notion that, suddenly, police officers everywhere were exempt from criticism just didn't/doesn't sit right with me. (Apparently, other people have their Forbidden thoughts about 9/11.

4. I can't help but to remember that most of the headlines in the New York Post in August 2001 about Rudy Giuliani were about his messy divorce.

5. Lots of people were collecting LOTS of money - over $1 billion by some estimates - after the event. Some people, including me, were made to feel somehow "unpatriotic" for not contributing. Some of these groups I had never heard of, and I was reasonably (I thought) suspicious.

6. Patriotism is NOT defined by American flag lapel pins, bumper stickers, or ratty-looking flags on their cars (which ought to be destroyed, respectfully), but by being an informed citizen, writing letters to the editor, writing letters to one's representatives, and especially, voting. Which reminds me:

7. September 11, 2001 was Primary Day in New York State, ultimately postponed. As the law stands now, it will be Primary Day (for all races except the Presidency) on average every seven years. Some people think it ought to be changed to a week later, in order to "Honor the dead". I don't. September 11 is a GREAT day to exercise one's freedom. Besides, I think the state primary is too late anyway. At some point in my adult life, all the primaries in New York were in June, but as they moved the Presidential primary earlier, they found the need to move the other primaries later, which tends to advantage the incumbents and/or the candidates with the most money.

8. After the towers were hit, there was a call from the American Red Cross for blood, anticipating that there would be large numbers of non-fatal casualties, when in fact there were maybe a couple dozen. Then the lines were out the doors of the blood centers, and there were complaints that they weren't "more prepared" for an unprecedented outpouring. Some of the blood ended up being tossed, which created even more outrage. In fact, I'm a regular blood donor, scheduled weeks before to come in on September 19, and I was asked NOT to come in that day, but to wait a couple weeks. They thought (correctly) that I'd come back, and that most of these folks would not. So, if you donated after 9/11, and not since, go donate again; I promise you the need is great. This is not to say that the Red Cross didn't make mistakes at that time, such as putting money people wanted to donate to 9/11 victims to the general fund. But go donate anyway.

9. I had some real difficulty with the 9/11 fund that parced out based on the likely income potential, so the three-piece suit families fared far better than the restaurant worker families. And I wonder what the plan will be for the next disaster.

10. I don't care how he spins it now: GWB and his administration repeatedly mislead the American public into thinking there was a link between 9/11 and Iraq. But still: In a February 2005 Harris poll, 44% of Americans thought that there were Iraqis as pilots on the 9/11 planes, up from 37% in the previous poll. (I haven't seen a subsequent survey.) This is not Iraq/9/11 terror link opinion, some alleged (though unlikely) secret meeting between Saddam and bin Laden. This is an issue of FACT. Reading that really hurt my head.

Well, that's enough of THAT. We'll see if anyone comes back tomorrow.
Moby turns 40 today, so of course he turned 35 five years ago. Must be strange.


Anonymous said...

(With apologies to the friends of Guy Fawkes)

Remember, remember
Eleven September.
the Fall of the Towers,
our Nation's resolve.
Corrupted by
the Liar's agenda,
his war in Iraq
dishonours us all.

Anonymous said...

A sharp tongue used on a sad day.

GayProf said...

They still don't allow gay men to donate blood.

Greg said...

GayProf - that might be the saddest thing I've heard in a while. That's disgusting. God, what a country.

Roger Owen Green said...

I posed a question about blood and gays on GP's site, whether entities other than the Red Cross allow donations and here's a response:

ROG & Gayprof: russian and Australia have both reversed thier blood donor policy and gay men are welcome once again - in the US, they are still trying to make sure gay men with AIDS don't come into the country so I am sure the donation policy will end at least by the time Buck Rogers appears in the 25th century.

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buy buy baby gift registryhttp://www.buybaby-gift.infoArguing with a zealot is only slighty easier that tunnelling through a mountain with your buy baby gift registry

Scott said...

I am dumbfounded to find out that gay men aren't allowed to donate blood.

I also wanted to say Roger that I agree with your comments about patriotism.

Roger Owen Green said...

A United Methodist minister in my area named Joe Bradford (who I do not know) wrote this piece, which I believe he delivered on September 10, 2006, then shared on the Troy Conference of the UMC listserv. It's long, but I liked it:

Fear has been dominating our life since September 11th, 2001.
It has formed our thinking,
it has clouded our thinking,
it has influenced our way of going about life.
Last week Debbie was talking about all the things she was not allowed to take on an airplane.
I must, at this point, ask the question, why did it take all this time to realize this?
Perhaps because fear, as a tool of manipulation, is so powerful?
These days the talk has gotten to the point of being scary and straight out of the ideology Hitler used to persecute the Jews.
The other day I got an e-mail “explaining” why Muslims don’t make “good Americans”.
Hitler used the same tactic, successfully, in rallying the German people against a certain race and religion of people; the Jews.
Now Al Quida is being compared to Hitler as justification for prolonged war in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11!
We must resist the temptation to take the easy path of stereotyping or lumping all people in with a few bad ones.
But labeling people, whether on the local level or world wide level is easier than learning about them and trying to understand complex situations.
I read, on average, three or four books at a time trying to get more informed about world situations because I have come to realize that when politicians offer “easy” answers to complex situations – like 9/11 – we must resist the temptation to accept them.
The Saudi Arabians who hijacked the airplanes had been brain washed by a conservative religious zealot who had convinced them that all of America is evil.
There are inherently evil components to all systems devised by man – whether they be capitalism or Islam.
America’s excessively capitalistic ways of dealing with the rest of the world – “What can you do for me?” has turned many other countries off from dealing with us.
The portion of Islamics who justify killing is also corrupted from the original intent of that religion.
There is an old saying that perception is 80% of reality.
What that means is that if someone perceives something a certain way that will be “reality” to them – no matter how incorrect!
This negative perception, by some, has left us vulnerable and an easy target because we’re the biggest kid on the block.
The men who crashed those planes intentionally hit a symbol of American wealth and power – the WTC, the Pentagon – a symbol of America’s military dominance, and we can only assume that the last plane was destined for the White House or Capitol Building before the brave people on board took matters into their own hands.
Why would they aim at these targets?
Because America has become perceived, in other parts of the world, as a self centered bully.
We have thousands of military bases all over the world and hundreds more that are covert and undisclosed.
Military bases lead to our culture infiltrating the local culture, for bad or for good.
In strictly religious areas bars and prostitution has sprung up due to our military’s presence there.
On the other hand America helps more countries than any other in the world which should temper the anger of the few, but is overlooked.
If we look at who has attacked us
we find, interestingly, that the people we get our Oil from and have made Billions off of us
are the very people who attacked us – Saudi Arabians!
Now we are bombarded daily with media accounts of the dead in Iraq.
A country that had nothing to do with 9/11. President Bush said that last week!
Stories are starting to make their way onto the front page about Afghanistan again, which had everything to do with 9/11.
We are in a no-win situation in Iraq – we shouldn’t stay but we can’t leave and in Afghanistan the Taliban is making a return as Heroin sales increasing under their rule.
Yes, Poppies, where heroin is cultivated is the main cash crop of Afghanistan.
The whole thing just gets more and more evil, doesn’t it?
The more one knows about these things, the more frightening and sad it becomes.
So, how do we escape the fear that others, be they terrorists or politicians, (in some cases their methodology of death and destruction is very similar)are trying to use to manipulate us?
I would like to now tell you about something called “Restorative Justice” that can and has been used on a local level to help remove fear within communities.
Allow me now to put fear on a local level for us all.
Supposed someone breaks into the house next door to you.
If you were the person victimized, you would have many feelings – violation, anger, and fear.
Now you, as the next door neighbor, no longer feel safe and secure either.
That lone act can render an entire community apprehensive and afraid of everything that goes bump in the night.
The burglar, unlike terrorists, did not intend to frighten an entire neighborhood, they just stole something from one family or person.
But the consequences of their actions has a ripple effect that negatively effects all the surrounding area.
In certain areas of the world, American Corporations have left people with the impression that we are the burglars – taking what we want and leaving a mess behind.
This is not the doing of American citizens though.
It is the doings of those motivated by greed, profits, and power.
With Restorative Justice, the goal is to make the offender aware that they do not operate in a vacuum, that their actions negatively effected a great many people and for, potentially, a very long time.
Restorative Justice attempts to give a community a voice and allow them to regain a sense of control over their lives.
Many people who have been burglarized think that someone was stalking them for weeks or months, when in fact most burglars just drive to around looking for a home with the lights off, the garbage cans still out days after the trash has been collected or no dog to alert the neighbors of their presence.
Many in Virginia were strong supporters of having guns in their homes to prevent such situations.
But most armed robberies are done with the guns a former burglar stole from someone’s home.
Hence, a dog will protect your house when you are not there, a gun won’t do a thing if you’re not there to pull the trigger.
The entire point to Restorative Justice is to give victims a voice and a place at the table.
To help them restore their lives and vent their frustrations in a moderated arena.
It has also been shown to have great results in curtailing crime, particularly amongst vandalism crimes committed by youths.
Why have I tied 9/11 and Restorative Justice together?
Because our nation’s wounds of 9/11 are kept fresh by those vying for power in Washington DC.
One side says they are all about “keeping us safe” while cutting spending on national security behind closed doors, to try to balance the budget deficit Iraq has created.
The other group claims that the first group is not being honest, but then they themselves offer little to no alternative solutions to the many problems that confront us.
One way to curtail the threat of terrorism, in our world, is through communication, not killing and violence.
Killing and violence are the tools of terrorists.
How do we plan to eradicate terrorism by using the same tools?
The truthful answer is, “We can’t.”
Certainly we need to track down certain individuals, but terrorism, as a movement can only be stopped by giving future terrorists alternatives other than killing!
There are those who love to rattle the saber, but rarely put themselves in harm's way, who say that talking to terrorists is appeasement and should be avoided.
If we kill first and ask questions later, we will eventually have a world full of death, hatred, and mistrust.
If we open up dialogues with not only the terrorists, but with their potential recruits, giving the recruits a hope greater than suicidal death, then we minimize their efforts and effects on our world.
By showing Christian compassion for our “enemies”, we can best undermine the propaganda of terrorist recruiters.
I saw a T-shirt that said,
“Love Thy Enemies” strongly suggests that we not kill them!
Wanting to kill those who might do us harm originates from our fear of the unknown.
It would be very difficult to take seriously the claims of Al Quida that we are “the Great Satan” if we are supplying the needy of their lands with food, shelter and clothes.
We can only truly win the war on terror with compassion, not violence.
The Bible points out – violence begets violence.
Some think this approach naïve.
But if sitting down and talking works on a local level to lessen fear and help us all learn more about one another, why wouldn’t it work on a global scale?
The population of the world, after all, is made up of people, just like us.
Sure they are different colors, speak different languages, have different religions, but they all need food, shelter, clothing, and compassion.
The only way to save our world is through works of compassion which sow the seeds of trust and stamp out the Satanic tendencies of humanity towards disagreement, hatred, violence, and death.
Jesus died so that in situations like this, we would choose life not slavery to fear and not that which the world offers us as easy solutions to very difficult problems.

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