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Dispatches from Brooklyn


Cartoonist Dan Perkins, whose cartoon "This Modern World" regularly appears on our Letters pages, witnessed last Tuesday's attacks from his apartment in Brooklyn. Here are some of his comments on the events and the aftermath. -- Ed.

These events have brought out the best in many of us. The rescue workers who headed into the unknown, ready to risk their lives -- what can you say? At times like this, they are the only human beings whose jobs matter. Cartoons seem very, very, very low on the scale, I must say. ...

These events have brought out the best in people, but I fear they will also soon bring out the worst. Already there are reports of Arab-Americans being targeted -- an unruly mob marched on a mosque outside Chicago before police turned them back, and in Suffolk County, N.Y., a man tried to run down a Pakistani woman with his car, shouting that he was "doing this for my country."

I do not doubt that there are more dark days ahead.

Some of the e-mail I have received has shocked and saddened me, and I fear it foreshadows the divisiveness and polarization that lie before us. Immediately after this happened, a man wrote me to complain about the previous week's cartoon. When I asked him how he could possibly be thinking about a newspaper cartoon he didn't like at a time like this, he replied:

"One reason I was thinking about it is because of the similarities between people like you and the terrorists. Neither of you is interested in the truth. Both of you want people to think a certain way, believe certain things, regardless of what you have to say or do to accomplish that end. You simply choose different ways to try to convince people. Thankfully your way is peaceful, but it is still destructive."

In other words, this man views those who express political opinions contrary to his own as the moral equivalent of mass murderers.

The first cartoon I put out about this horrific tragedy was a simple expression of grief (Letters, Sept. 13). Shortly after it was published, I received this callous message:

"I'm a little surprised at your reaction to the Sept. 11 tragedy. Do you suggest you have some sort of deep affection for the country you constantly berate?"

And there's been more like that. And I fear this is only the beginning.

We went to a candlelight vigil last night, in which hundreds of people gathered on the streets of our Brooklyn neighborhood while fighter jets circled overhead, as they did all day during the president's visit to lower Manhattan. The crowd gathered to pay tribute to the 12 men from our local fire department lost in the tragedy, and it was both moving and disturbing. Some in the crowd sang "Give Peace a Chance," while others chanted "U.S.A! U.S.A!" as if they were at a football rally.

I walked away feeling that this was the cusp, the moment at which the mood turns from grief to vengeance.

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