A struggle against zealots
To the Editor:
To talk of "a war of good versus evil," as if we are good and Islamic extremists evil, is wrong. We are in a struggle to rid the world of zealots who kill.
Zealots anywhere easily become party to infamy, motivated by a mix of religious, political and economic interests and media, as in this case. Throughout history, we have seen zeal erupt in lethal ways: medieval Christian crusades into the Middle East, torture and murder during the Inquisition, fascist atrocities, out-of-control nationalism. In our own marvelous country, we Americans know that murderous believers exterminated Native Americans across the continent, enslaved African Americans until the mid-1800s, lynched them until shortly ago, recently bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Today, we must learn what lies behind out-of-control zeal and address that -- the religious, political and economic interests that lead to heinous acts, here and everywhere. While going after murderers themselves, our nation must address the causes. And I suggest we examine and control ourselves and our motives, monitor our policies and actions here and abroad, so they may be curing and just.
-- Nancy Howard
Ask difficult questions
To the Editor:
Thank you so much for Rabbi Michael Lerner's article "Where Does This Violence Come From?" and Cara DeGette's Public Eye column, in the Sept. 13 Indy. We so much need to look at the bigger picture and ask the difficult questions in this time of loss and crisis. Surely anything less can force us back into a reactionary plunge into a never-ending cycle of violence.
Thank you so much for your gutsy leadership in drawing us beyond the initial shock, pain and rage.
-- Mary Sprunger-Froese
A Brit response
To the Editor:
Countless innocents have died, a nation mourns, a world in sympathy. But is it too much to ask that Americans do not now make a bad situation worse by killing countless more innocents?
When the U.S. military last attacked bin Laden, they killed thousands of very poor people and destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan -- not a country with the money to buy drugs from abroad.
Iraqis and Afghans are massively oppressed by their governments; they are dying under sanctions and drought; they hardly even have food or medicine, let alone rescue facilities like those in New York.
We in Britain love much about America and stand foursquare with you against terrorism, but please know that injustice breeds terror, blind vengeance breeds injustice, and terrible acts of vengeance against innocent populations will only breed more terrorists.
For all our sakes now, please remember that Jesus was a peacemaker, and that there is a world out here of billions of innocent people. We do not deserve the brute punishments of a new world war.
Of course the guilty must be punished, but in this case most are already dead -- God will deal with their souls. We still on this Earth must spread peace, justice and understanding -- then together we can make this world a safer place, a kinder place -- the kind of place most ordinary Americans really want it to be, whatever your leaders may seek to do in your name.
Please, no war, but education, understanding and justice -- for all.
-- Zoe Young
Good from the bad
To the Editor:
This is a personal thank you for your excellent coverage of the events of September 11. I have referred many others to the stories and commentary, which you put together. If the good that comes out of this exceeds the bad, your efforts will have had a part to play in that.
-- Bill Sulzman
Ignorance and hatred
To the Editor:
As not only an American, but also a human being, I am deeply saddened (and yes, angered) by the recent terrorist events. I find it hard to understand how such hate can exist.
I am also saddened and angered by the vigilante attacks and threats made by my fellow Americans against the Arab-American community in this country. These are not the ones who perpetrated these acts upon our soils, no more so than the Japanese-Americans who were interred by the U.S. during WWII. These are law-abiding, peace-loving individuals who weep themselves over these horrifying events.
They came to this country to find a better life than their own country could provide -- whether it be economic or political. Let us look into our pasts and we will find our ancestors did the same at some time in this country's history.
My husband himself is one of those Arab-Americans. He came to America 24 years ago from Lebanon, when his father sent him here to obtain the best education and opportunities for a better life. His proudest day was when he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States. He was in Virginia on business when the attacks occurred. He told me on the phone that he will have to start talking in a French accent. I knew that he was joking, but I knew that he was equally serious in making such a comment.
My high school daughter has witnessed this backlash in her own school when several students in her journalism class began making slurs against Arabs. My daughter proudly stood up to them admonishing them for their ignorance and hatred.
We are all angry, and justifiably so. However, let us not take this anger out on those not responsible. We are only lowering ourselves to the level of those terrorists when we do so. The world's people are on our side, even the majority of the Arab community around the globe. Let us embrace each other with compassion while we proceed against those guilty of these crimes.
-- Shauna Naous
What's a terrorist?
I am a terrorist
when I speed down a road filled with people
I am a terrorist in a hurry
when I run a red light
I am a terrorist who can't stop
when I race through a city park on wheels
I am a terrorist who hates nature
when I flip the finger to anyone who objects
I am a terrorist who can't think of words
when I refuse to step aside on the sidewalk
I am a terrorist who hates people
when I blast kids and elders with motorcycle noise
I am a terrorist with no mother
when I cut people off in my Stupid Useless Vehicle
I am a terrorist who's hooked on oil and gas and fumes
when I scream at my kids or hit them
I am a terrorist making new terrorists
when I intimidate my co-workers or employees
I am a terrorist who collects pain and money
when I don't object to any of the above
I am aiding and abetting terrorism in my town
when I don't see the connection between the above and terrorism
I am aiding and abetting terrorism in my life
when I think there are degrees of terrorism
I am aiding and abetting terrorism today and tomorrow
when I wake up and stop terrorizing my neighbors
I am an unstoppable anti-terrorist force
-- Brian Gallagher
An American living in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Chomsky reference... check!
To the Editor:
Ms. DeGette starts with a sharp, if not quite eloquent point (Public Eye, Sept. 13): This was a "ballsy" attack. She's right. These terrorists are anything but cowards. They are warriors. Fierce, shrewd and hateful.
From there, though, DeGette wanders aimlessly through the Independent's now predictable litany of relativism, justification, blaming the U.S. for all the strife in the world, and ominous warnings that our leaders are drooling over the opportunity to use these attacks to impose martial law. Do you guys have a checklist you go through (Chomsky reference ... check!), or is it now so deeply ingrained that it comes without thinking?
The beauty of the Independent is that your opinions are so scattered, banal and transparent that they make a better argument against themselves than any debate could. In one breath you label the calls for more defense and intelligence spending "absurd." In the next you call the "entire notion of national security" a "myth." What's great is that you're so immersed in dogma you can't even see the connection between the two ideas: Maybe our national security is so lacking because we haven't taken it nearly seriously enough.
The good news is, most everyone else can see the connection, and so your reporting does far more for opposing viewpoints than it does for your own. Keep up the great work!
-- Jim Knutsen
To the Editor:
I'm not feeling very funny this week, and I imagine you aren't either. Right now, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the many who lost their lives in this week's unimaginable tragedy, and with all the heroic individuals who have tirelessly devoted themselves to the unbelievably daunting relief, rescue and support efforts.
No one could have foreseen these events, but even still I am deeply troubled about the RED MEAT strip that ran in your paper last week (Sept. 13).
I wrote the strip in late August, in an attempt to be topical by referencing the recent movie version of Pearl Harbor. However, in light of the events of Sept. 11, the strip's intended meaning may have been transformed by tragic circumstance to one of a possibly offensive or emotionally painful nature. This was certainly not my intent when I wrote the strip.
I try very hard every week to bring laughter by lampooning some of the darker, harsher realities of our lives. Like every artist, I occasionally fail to achieve my intended result, either through my own limited abilities or by coincidental, yet unfortunate, similarities to painful real-life occurrences in the local, national or global community.
To anyone I may have offended, please accept my deepest apologies.
-- Max Cannon
Author of RED MEAT
Tit for tat
To the Editor:
A friend suggested that if my neighbor had wronged me and I wanted that neighbor to stop the wrongful behavior, I would have to respond powerfully against that neighbor, or be forever responsible for the continued wrongdoing.
Here is my response:
We somehow anger our neighbor; our neighbor has a choice of responses.
Our neighbor reciprocates by throwing a rock through our window; we have a choice of responses.
We reciprocate by throwing a brick through our neighbor's window; our neighbor has a choice of responses.
Our neighbor reciprocates by driving a motorcycle through our patio screens; we have a choice of responses.
We reciprocate by driving a 4-wheeler through our neighbor's garage wall; our neighbor has a choice of responses.
Our neighbor reciprocates by driving a car through our front door; we have a choice of responses.
We reciprocate by driving a tractor through our neighbor's bedroom.
We may engage other neighbors in the battle and demolish all the homes in the neighborhood, then the community, etc.
Our children will join in the battle and reciprocate against one another.
If at some point someone doesn't choose a more thoughtful response, people will die.
As individuals, our neighbors number in the tens, perhaps dozens. As a nation, our neighbors number not in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands; as a nation our neighbors number in the millions and ultimately the billions.
With such exponential differences, the smallest act can have the greatest impact, so we must be exponentially more protective of peace and respectful of the differences that exist in our global neighborhood.
We must invest great energy in preparing a response that will provide us with the most desirable outcome. We must look down the road and at all potential consequences of our responses, because we are aware of the profound and potentially devastating impact our decisions will have on the world community, not just now, but in future generations. And we must ensure that this response is one our children and their children can live with.
-- Kate Altieri
The plight of the have-nots
To the Editor:
When I saw the headline today that our president had vowed to rid the world of evil, I hoped I wasn't the only one to see that this arrogance and ignorance precisely matches that of the Arab extremists everyone is focusing on as the perpetrators of the recent attacks on American bastions of civility. Today's headline could have easily been written about Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
Yesterday's paper had a story titled "Osama bin Laden declares holy war" in which only details about the U.S. attempt to find and fight bin Laden were mentioned. Nothing whatsoever was written about his holy war.
The world is one, and we are always looking at a mirror image of ourselves -- except the reverse picture makes it difficult to recognize who we are looking at. The attacks, while heinous and inexcusable, are not, as so many claim, the worst tragedy ever visited upon our country. Every day, thousands of souls' psyches are murdered in our culture and in those cultures under our influence. It's the plight of the "have-nots," the losers, the inferior. The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center come from the same angst and desperation as the attacks on schools and post offices. They come from the same alienation as the child who murders for a pair of Nike tennis shoes. They come from the same terror and disillusionment as the 30,000 Japanese per year who commit suicide.
Capitalism represents both opportunity and terror. When one of our pillars comes tumbling down, we react with horror. But this horror is inherent and always present. I think of the children, around the ages of 10 to 15, who must have the right fashion designs in order to be accepted into the dominant clique. As long as you're on the upward swing and in the in-crowd, capitalism is empowering and exhilarating, but the underbelly is soft and vulnerable.
One of the results of the tragedy last week is that some of us must slow down. Though we do not appreciate the form of this message, I hope we are all reminded that there are some things even more important than the mighty dollar. If we can see this, then maybe we will be able to see those who so rudely reminded us of this fact as our misguided angels, desperately seeking a platform from which to get our attention in a world of insensitive opportunism.
It's easy to merely say that "they" are evil and deranged, but "they" share the same Earth and consciousness as the rest of the human race. Whenever a society such as ours accepts the idea of a long and protracted war against an enemy that we can neither see nor reliably name, it is time for introspection. We don't need to condone the seemingly irrational acts of a few in order to reach out to the many who are embroiled in conflict in the Middle East. Neither do we need to save them or solve their problems. What "they" (like all of us) need is our concern and good intentions. What happened to the so-called compassion in our conservatism?
-- Tom Simms
When the clouds part
To the Editor:
Peace is a memory. Peace is a dream.
"Love, friendship, respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred of something," read the quote of the week from my school newspaper. Its truth makes me sad, but the finer points must be clarified. Hate should not follow the suicide hijackers to their resting grounds. Hate should not rest on the shoulders of those who planned the attack. Hate should not fall to Americans for the tragedies that are soon to be unleashed. Hate only anoints more hate.
The projected truth is that those who conspired to carry out this attack will die. No force less than God can stop it from being carried out. All that can be hoped for is a quick and precise resolution. The scariest reality of this chaotic nightmare is that there is no correct course of action. If we strike back, we might find ourselves no better than they. And if we stand fast, finding reason in the attack, we risk more American lives.
I am a citizen of the United States of America, for which I am very thankful, very proud, and very blind to the full truth. I will never know the extent of why people that I've never met hate me, and they will never know how much love drives our souls. But love also fuels their beliefs, and the daily manner in which they uphold them. I feel their love in the realization that they are just as capable of fault as I am.
In a pack of dogs barking for war, I am merely a cricket whispering, "Show mercy." In a time of sadness, comfort is found and lost in our turmoil of emotions. We, the nation of America, have screwed up in the past, as have those who are opposed to our culture. For the future, all that can be issued is a plea to fully realize the value of a human life.
In days gone by, every one of us heard the thunder from the lightning strikes overseas, but no one realized the magnitude of the mounting storm heading this way. Only now that lightning has struck our soil do we feel just how real that storm is. But this storm is no longer following the winds from the East; it has been redirected to where it began. It has been fueled by the fear of a nation, and will be carried out in a hailstorm of bombardment.
I look up to see the sky is dark. My only real fear is that when the clouds part, the sun will be shining less bright.
President Bush says, "God Bless America." But I say "God forgive us all."
-- Kit Carson Elder
Western State College