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The Framing of Frenzied Minds
September 27, 2001
by Breasley Bruin

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Meandering down an aisle of my local supermarket last Sunday afternoon, I couldn't help but overhear two women voicing their solutions to end world terrorism. Being the political junkie that I am, as well as the inquisitive and nosey type, I pretended to be going through the painfully excruciating process of deciding between vanilla yogurt and the strawberry-kiwi variety, when in truth all I wanted was to hear the thoughts of these two women. In order to gauge the mindset, if you like, of the typical (or as I later hoped, the atypical) American grocery shopper.

"We should be bombing Afghanistan for what they did!!" says one to the other.

"I heard someone on the radio say that we should drop a nuclear bomb on them. Well that would be too good for them."

"Your not wrong," says the other, "I don't know why we just don't go in and kill the whole lot of them... and we should kick all the Arabs out of America too while we're at it!!"

"Yes, well George Bush does say we are at war, they did round up all the Japanese in World War 2, you know."

No, this wasn't Anne Coulter doing her weekly grocery shopping with John Cooksey in drag - but what appeared to be two suburbanites with no features that would distinguish them as raving lunatics. Unless big hair has suddenly become the preferred coiffure of the nations xenophobes.

These are trying times for us all, especially for the families of those killed in what has become known as "The September 11 Atrocities." I certainly wouldn't blame any one of the victims' families for wanting the same treatment these two women endorse meted out, although what we have seen from many victims families is the exact opposite - pleading for peace and not retribution.

In the two weeks since September 11, members of America's Arab communities have been worried about a backlash from the ignorant and uninformed, and it seems sadly, with some justification.

Lebanese-American, Moukhtar Kocache, was told by a seemingly respectable Manhattan couple to "go back to your country, you f---ing Arabs, we should bomb the s--t out of you." Mosques have been firebombed and vandalized around the country, a Huntington, NY, senior citizen even attempted to run over a Pakistani woman as she walked to her car in a mall parking lot. And on the outskirts of Chicago, young white men bearing bad attitudes march on a mosque every night to yell abuse at worshipping Moslems, the vast majority of whom were born and raised in The United States, some even having served in this nation's armed forces.

Piercing through all the horror and grief of the tragedies in New York and Washington is the total ignorance and lack of knowledge some Americans have towards the Middle East, and their total lack of understanding of both the reality of the current situation and of the people who emanate from that region .

Sadly, for some Americans, one only need to "look" Middle Eastern or wear a turban to be immediately thought of as being not only Moslem, but a supporter of terrorism.

With such ridiculousness and ignorance, is it no wonder that even turban wearing Sikhs and Lebanese Catholics are also being targetted by these fools?

Lets face it, there are indeed Americans who still believe that the current President Bush is in fact the same one we had in the four years following 1988 (and there could be some truth to that, I'm not denying it) and I doubt they, and even others more learned than them, could pin the tail within a thousand miles of Afghanistan if given a map of the world, let alone fully comprehend the true causes of Middle East unrest.

But it's in the reactions of so many Americans like these that one becomes nervous and worried about where this country is headed. Reactions and views that have been framed by the Bush administration, with their dangerous overuse of the word "war," a word that we have become accustomed to being applied to the likes of the Great War or WW2, wars where we had a defined enemy, an enemy we could actually see, an enemy that was an actual country or countries and not the dark, hidden enemy we now face. Unlike our current protagonists, these enemies could be defeated by brute force alone.

Right-wing cable talking heads liken the current situation to Pearl Harbor. It is no Pearl Harbor - there the perpetrators emanated from one country. Our current nemesis is spread world-wide, first hiding and scheming their attacks, then hitting us before hiding again.

To defeat or even suppress them will require a little more subtlety and a lot more competence from the intelligence departments that failed us all so badly this time around.

Our over-the-top cable news channels, with their ever present banners splashed across the top or bottom of our television screens, also go a long way in framing the narrow views of their viewers - like CNN declaring this "America's New War," as opposed I guess to "Our Last War" - or MSNBC's latest war cry, "The New Battlefield" - or even FOX News' dramatic "War on Terror" caption, where they used the grisliest looking font they could possibly find to apply to the word "'terror" in order to achieve maximum dramatization of an already horrid event (as is their normal practice.)

These right-wing biased networks solely concentrate on what the military action against Afghanistan may be, bringing in supposed "military experts" to give their views on how best to attack Afghanistan. They never give their viewers an in-depth insight into the country or the region it resides in, instead they are complicit partners, along with the Bush administration and the military complex, in declaring war on Afghanistan and its impoverished people.

Add this to the usual senseless rantings from right-wing talk radio hosts - like G. Gordon Liddy, who has proposed attacking no less than five Middle Eastern countries he says harbor terrorists - or the Seattle, Washington talk jock who has suggested the U.S use small nuclear weapons to remedy the situation (God help us) - to right-wing hacks like Anne Coulter, with her insane proposal to invade the whole Middle East and then convert the entire population to Christianity. Is it any wonder that so many Americans are so naive as to the problems in that part of the world and are whipped up into such a frenzy that they too want to nuke the Middle East ASAP?

Anger and retribution for what was done are both natural and very understandable. I certainly demand it, but it needs to be against the persons responsible.

Will we really feel any better once we've exacted retribution by killing yet more innocent people? People who are supressed by a cruel, draconian government, who are too poor, too weak from the long lasting drought they have endured and too uninformed due to the ban on newspapers, television and radio (funnily enough, in this country the opposite has the same effect on vast numbers of Americans) to either be capable of mounting such attacks on US soil, or to even know what had happened here September 11?

But sadly, there are some Americans who would like to see them bombed nonetheless, having come to the conclusion that every Afghan is responsible for what happened, thanks to an administration hell-bent on "war" and a media that fails or steadfastly refuses to educate their viewers on some truths surrounding this affair.

Like the fact that the vast, overwhelming majority of Afghans have absolutely nothing to do with "terrorism," them only having the misfortune of residing in a country controlled by extremists, whom most of the people despise, extremists who give safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists.

I'm heartened that the Bush administration has not done anything foolish as yet - but I fear that it is only a matter of time.

An all-out, massive U.S attack on Afghanistan will result in a humanitarian crisis the world has never before seen, with millions upon millions of Afghan refugees fleeing to all the other 'stans surrounding them, and thousands more being killed. This of course will then result in more innocent Americans being killed in the ensuing wave of retribution attacks from the terrorists.

The big wheel of death will keep going round and round and round.

So, are we going to act civilized in hunting down the evil behind the September 11 atrocities and bringing them to justice, or are we also going to be a "rogue nation," bombing and killing the innocent in the name of retribution?

Oh, for the record, I chose vanilla yogurt in the end. I thought I could stomach that more easily than the views of my two fellow shoppers.

 
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