September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
I've not read this all the way thru yet (too long)
Good luck w/ project (again)
Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 00:12:40 EDT
Subject: Fwd: some thoughts from Europe
This is an email I received from my friend, x. It is one of the most beautiful and thoughful letters I have read about our recent tragedy. Please take a few moments to read it.
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 23:56:46 EDT
Subject: some thoughts from Europe
An interesting, thought-provoking, genuine letter that has been pssed on to me from my brother in law. It expresses many of the sentiments and feelings that Jan and I feel at the moment.
It puts into perspective a point of view that many who live "womb to tomb" within the borders of the USA, who neither have traveled outside USA boundaries or possessions nor choose to be exposed to or educated in other cultures, mores, or customs, need to hear and read.
Subject: Healing and Reeling Here in Germany
Probably a lot of these emails floating around -- from friends and family reporting on their personal experiences and feelings. Thought you might benefit from one more . . .
I guess it's time that I, myself, take up the call to get back to work, to reconnect with the people and the unfolding days and the functions that, despite my stubborn wishes to the contrary, move on with relentless insensitivity. I am grateful that one of my constant functions involves communication with all of you, and I'd like to kick back in with my "weekly" by sharing with all of you some of my own thoughts, written to the background sounds of military jets zooming through the airspace above my head, a routine here in Germany and it is, after all, a Wednesday when one can depend on hearing their ear-piercing wails through the air. Maybe you're getting used to them as well in your neck of the woods. We can call this installment "Thoughts from A Broad Abroad" or something of that nature. We must inject some levity whenever we can, don't you think?
I was of course shocked by what happened on September 11, and by what continues to happen to all of us. As many are discovering, myself included, September 11 was just the first slap in the face, the first kick in the gut, and I fell to my knees with it, doubled over with pain and confusion. Over the past couple of weeks I've been kicked while I was down, though, and instead of finding a gentle soul to share in my dismay, to soothe my wounds and tell me that everything would be OK, I've found many souls chastising us for our arrogance and ignorance as Americans. "This is a result of US policies," some say, and "You really need, as a country, to reexamine yourselves and try to uncover the source of why you are so despised in the world." Heady stuff,
uttered gently enough from the comfort of Western European minds and homes.
But I refuse, as the victim, to be blamed for my stupidity in participating in the global society. I refuse to be blamed for being born into a family and a culture who raised me to believe that, if you worked hard enough, most things are within your reach. I refuse to believe that it is wrong to think for oneself, to invent, to create, to prosper, and through that prosperity to affect the world with my perspective. Perhaps it's the American in me which causes me to stubbornly stick to my cultural principles and values.
I keep asking, and believe me folks I've engaged more than a few in heated conversations over this, "What exactly does the world want from us?" I'm here, aren't I? Living in another country, immersing myself and my precious children in another culture, trusting that culture to somehow take care with us, in its own way, of course. It hasn't been easy, but we're bravely trudging on. We're learning a new language, we're contributing economically, and I believe socially, to our local culture, possibly influencing families in this town where parents, children, even grandparents are born, live out their entire lives, and when they die are buried in the local cemetery. So much for THEIR world view. I'd stack mine against theirs any day. How much more understanding do they want us to have? We're living it, folks, we're not just giving lip service to this grandiose plan of learning to live together, of learning to understand each other better.
What more does the global community want from us as a country? Even before all of this happened to us, creating an almost obsessive interest in the politics and policies of Afghanistan, the USA was the single greatest monetary contributor to the Afghan refugees, giving 140 million dollars per year. With the great confusion that followed and the mass exodus of civilians-turned-refugees in the days following the September 11 attacks, the US emergency gave 2 million dollars more. Does this not demonstrate, in clear living color, how Americans can rise above their own raw grief and realize that others are suffering, creating more of an outflow of resources, American tax dollars, when the human instinct would be to hunker down and hold everything closer to the chest? In my mind, that one discrete gesture says it all, says what we're about, says what we're capable of. For every way we might misunderstand the world outside of our borders, there are multitudes of ways that we ourselves are misunderstood. I feel at times that we are looked upon as the recalcitrant adolescent; others believe that everything is black and white for us, right and wrong, no gray, no shades of doubt, and sometimes I think the rest of the world sees this tragedy as a wonderful opportunity to educate us about how we've misbehaved, to show us how we haven't grasped the gestalt. They, the world, will use their infinite wisdom and experience to get us on the right path. We are, after all they say, not rotten to the core. We're just in need of a guiding hand. How did we get to be the bad guys in all of this, anyway?
These are the same people who en masse are sitting on the edges of their chairs, watching what US markets will do, because the rest of the world markets follow suit. These are the same people who are lamenting the prospects of significantly fewer American dollars pumped into their tourism trade. These are the same people who are taking measures to devalue their own currencies against the American dollar because they know that our fickle, funky US economy, strong as it is, is based solidly on our ability to consume, and our ability to consume is vital to their own economies. How puzzling, but so far it's worked. These are the same people who are now saying "Your CIA created bin Laden," yet they chastised us over 10 years ago for not becoming involved, because we were strong enough to do so, in helping the Afghani people's fight against the great intruder, the USSR. These are the same people who dragged their feet in Boznia-Herzgovenia, Armenia and the like, while ethnic cleansing was occurring under their noses. They didn't hesitate to lambaste us for not getting involved then, either; we are, after all, the "World's only remaining superpower," whatever that means; it's a dubious distinction and likely in this day and age to get you criticized from all angles. I ask again, what do they want from us?
I'm not saying we can't do better. I've certainly not been supportive of a number of US domestic and foreign policies. I know we can give more and consume less. I'm also saying, however, that their timing is all wrong. It's never time to repair the tendon or bone when the heart has been ripped apart, as it was when we were the target of such hatred and malice on September 11. I will not be denied my time to mourn and then to be angry; I hope I can make my way eventually to resolution. But I must pay attention just now to my heart and to my soul, guard against their being strained and drained, gangrenous and necrotic, and against them turning away from the rest of the world. They can save their lecture on the myriad of deficiencies present in US foreign policy for a less wounded, more malleable soul; perhaps for a fanatic patron of Islam.
I halfway joked with Rex soon after the attacks that what I felt like doing, as a US national, was to draw into myself and my country, wall myself and my family off from the rest of the world. "We have beaches," I said. "We have mountains and ski areas and Grand Canyons, deserts and national parks. We even have a volcano." I felt like closing the borders, closing down the airspace, quitting the travel to anywhere except to where American flags are proudly flown, staying within our borders. Spending our money at home, giving only to our own sick and wounded and homeless. If they don't want us, if they're scared of what we'll do, of how we'll act, of our impulsiveness, perhaps this solution would work for us all. But then I don't think Americans can possibly turn their backs, bear the deaf ear. We care too much. We have too much of an interest in others, too much empathy for the suffering of others. I guess we are somewhat childlike in that regard; we're not the jaded cynics in our approach to the rest of the world. We trust in and take delight in a lot of what life has to offer. At least we did before.
We even make jokes at times like these, as kids do. I heard today that our conditions to the Taliban should include the following: "Turn over Osama bin Laden or we'll take all your women and send them to college." Which brings me to my most heartfelt points about what I feel now should take place.
I've never had any respect for the Taliban and it's policies. Being involved with an organization like Planned Parenthood as I was, the worsening conditions of women around the globe have always been front page and center for me. Very important stuff. I had a discussion with one of my sisters once about how I was always on my guard not to be ethnocentric, and to respect and try to understand and value other cultures, to not judge the behaviors of a culture based on my own cultural beliefs and upbringing. I learned this concept, after all, in college. It must be the right thing to believe.
Paraphrasing and with removal of expletives, my sister responded. "Yeah," she said, "I used to believe that stuff too. But then I thought, 'forget it' with regard to the status of women. I'm not going to stand by and watch my sisters suffer at the hands of an oppressive culture imposed by men without getting vocal about it. They've used it as an excuse for too long. Forget them, and forget that."
I took her words to heart; they made sense to me, and I internalized them and embraced them as my own. And now I don't care what horse you rode in on, there's no excuse for extreme, or otherwise, oppression of women using your religion or your culture or your concept of beauty as an excuse. This applies to the Taliban policies of course, and as I said, I've known about the Taliban since they placed themselves in power in 1996. I've seen this coming for a long time, and I know with all my heart that we need to get rid of the problem.
Now I don't condone going in and dropping bombs on these people, not because of some sanctimonious, altruistic reason, but because I don't think it'll work and I have 2 sons and I'd just as soon not enter into a world war now, or ever. It has the potential to be just that, especially if we react the way Osama bin Laden thinks we will. I do see the Taliban as an ugly, cancerous growth that needs to be cut out, removing its sickening, parasitical influence over the Afghani people. Afghanistan has cancer. it is called the Taliban. Afghanistan needs a cure. Maybe we can help.
I also believe that Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." I think we've already extended the stick 1/2 way across the world by deploying aircraft, ships and troops to the area. All of Afghanistan's borders are closed. I say we just hover, keep them off balance by the mere size and impressiveness of our forces, and wait for them to wither away. One of the volumes of email which came my way and which I've shared with many of you, written by an Afghani-American, asked "Do we have the stomach for the fight?" I don't think I've got much of a stomach for the actual fight, but I do have the stomach for starving them out. It sounds cruel and doesn't solve the problem of the suffering of innocents, but then we didn't create the suffering. Maybe we contributed to it somewhat in the past, but let's face it, the Taliban is responsible for their suffering now, and it will willingly and intentionally place them in harm's way; they've demonstrated this over and over. They've chased every legitimate aid worker out of the country, cut off all lines of communication, making using cell phones or any satellite communication within the country a crime punishable by death, and they've confiscated all of the WFO's food stores, no doubt stuffing themselves with it and lining their underground lairs with it like the rats that they are. Now they're waiting for us to fire the first shot. And I KNOW that once we've made an aggressive move, the tenuous world support for us will crumble away until we're left standing alone. It always happens.
But if we just stay behind the lines the world has drawn for us, international waters, borrowed airspace, if we just hold that ground and look big and bad and mad, and if we don't fire a shot until, if it comes to that, one is fired at us, and if we just wait and be patient and strong, perhaps we can starve them out. And when they raise their angry fists at us and profess to the world how unreasonable we are and how we hate Islam and look what we're doing to them, we can just look around incredulously and say, "Who, us? What'd WE do?"
Millions will starve, millions will suffer. They've been suffering for a long time. I read something very enlightening a few days after the September 11 attacks. A reporter interviewed a woman on the streets of Kabul. She was using the last of her meager savings to buy food for her 6 children, believing there would soon be another war, bombs on the way, from the USA. The reporter asked if she was frightened, if she was fearful of what would become of herself and her family. Stupid question, but her reply was quite telling. "My life has been without hope for so long," she murmured from behind her burka, "that the greatest hope I have now is that I can die with my children."
Oh, my! To feel that hopeless, that bereft of any possibilities of any kind. To feel to that degree such a pariah in your own culture. To feel that unwanted, that uncared for, like a piece of garbage in the street. Perhaps my European friends are right. I cannot fathom the depths of that despair. I have no room in my heart for the hatred some of the men in their society feel for Americans and our way of life. Oh Lord, I pray keep me arrogant enough to always believe I'm worth more than that; keep me ignorant enough to never have to experience emotions such as these. I would not ever in my wildest nightmares want to experience that pain, the prospect of having no hope for myself or for my children.
Has anyone else noticed, as the pickup trucks present themselves at the Pakistani borders filled with refugees, that there are no women, and very few children, among them. They are filled with all males all the time. I'm not mistaken, because they've made their women easy enough to pick out of a crowd; they're the ones behind the veils. They are the walking dead.
The Taliban is a cancer. The treatments, even my "non-violent" ones, require some destruction of the good along with the diseased. I believe in military terms it is called "collateral damage." I am so sorry for this. Even more so that so many of the good are my global sisters and children. That always happens with war and strife of any kind. Before the Taliban these women were news anchors, housewives, bankers, engineering students. Now they are less than nothing and they have no hope. What can I do about that? Someone tell me, please.
I guess I still hold out a hope for the liberation of the Afghanistan women. I continue to be infuriated with the Taliban, and I for one want Osama bin Laden's head on a platter. I'm not exaggerating. I say again that I'm supportive of how we've reacted, in fact I'm very proud of us. I think the world at large is a little surprised and caught off guard by our restraint in action and focus and success in investigating. That's just how I want them.
They've misjudged us because they don't know us, and they really don't trust us. Their loss, the snobs, our righteous gain in the worlds' view of us. I just hope they don't come 'round here later, looking for a bone. Them days is over, by my account. But then I'm not in charge, and that's probably a good thing.
As you can read, guess you've realized I'm fully in my anger phase of dealing with this. It'll pass, to be sure, and I guess we'll all be friends again, but right now my rage fairly energizes me. Therapy for the soul. I do hope, since most of you are Americans, that you're finding your way through this as well, and I hope that this email finds you healthy and psychologically on the mend. I send my love to you across the ocean. x
Email Date:Sun, 30 Sep 2001 10:15:56 EDT
Email Subject:Fwd: some thoughts from Europe