September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:It serves them right a taxi driver told me on the day after 9/11, in Sri Lankas capital, Colombo, while expressing sorrow at the tragedy. When Colombo Airport was attacked in July 2001, the US Government advised its citizens to stay away from here. The attack on the WTC proved that targets in the USA were as prone to terrorist attacks as Sri Lankas. However, his grim satisfaction at justice seemingly done was more than mere fulfilled vindictiveness.

A decade ago Bill Clinton said something to the effect that, under Bush, America was in danger of becoming like Sri Lanka. This tendency, of making this island out to be just one step above the civilisation of the apes, was one perpetuated by cartoonists like Gary Trudeau and the author of the Brenda Starr strip and it represented something more than the mere parochial. It was an expression of a superiority complex, sneering at what was considered the innate backwardness of the darker-hued people from poorer countries, the affairs of which were not considered important.

The strange thing is that this attitude did not change after 9/11. What followed seemed to be not so much the outpouring of grief at the tragedy, as vengefulness at this insult to the pride of the superpower. There was rage against Muslims, who were subject to public venom; retaliation against someone was the need of the hour.

Taking a long hard look at how other people look at the USA may be the way to avoid a repetition of the tragedy of 9/11. Understanding the viewpoint of my taxi driver might be a step in adopting a foreign policy that is acceptable to the rest of the world - and that would need to be one that looked at the rest of the world differently.

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