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Lost In America (Part 1)
October 5, 2001
By Whyzayker

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In about 8 weeks we will sit with our friends and families around a large table to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many families will celebrate this holiday with an empty chair at the table. Somebody will be missing. Maybe they were a relative, a friend, a coworker. They will not be there to give thanks or share what is supposed to be a time for us all to reflect just how fortunate we are. Something will be different this year. Very different. America has changed in 3 weeks since the WTC and Pentagon assaults. How much will it have changed when America "gathers together?"

I remember, as we all do, what I was doing that morning. I remember the shock and disbelief as I watched what looked like a Bruce Willis film take place before my eyes. The feeling of distrust I've harbored for many months exacerbated my horror at what was taking place before me. As much as I couldn't believe what I was seeing, I could not believe what I was being told by those who had a voice that week. But I put it away for the sake of the country I loved and the thousands of lives that would be forever changed.

I spent the next few days, as many of us did, watching the television. I saw the very definition of "hero" in the faces of the rescue workers who swarmed the sites of such destruction, searching for strangers. Searching for family. And they stayed, day and night, never stopping, never giving up hope, never even considering the risk they placed themselves in their search for life amongst the ruins. And they remain there to this day, as they will until their work is done. They are the true meaning of hero. They are the true meaning of unity. They were and are the reason I take pride in this country. Along with the people who were just ordinary citizens on September 10th who went above and beyond to help a stranger on that tragic day, those folks are the reason I'm proud to be an American.

And the very next day, the so-called "Day After," it started. Like a Fourth of July like I had never seen before, the flags started to appear. They were everywhere. In storefronts, on car antennas, hanging from almost every home I saw. And it looked good. I felt bad for the veterans who had never witnessed such a display in their honor. But, for about 24 hours, America was united like never before. Then things got ugly.

That Wednesday morning I heard a caller to a radio station that wanted to dedicate a song containing hateful lyrics to "all the Muslims in the world." I saw a restaurant marquee reading "God Bless America - Try Our New Taco Pizza! $4.99!" Ah, profit and patriotism - how American. A few days later, columnist Ann Coulter stated that "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Did it ever dawn on this dim-bulb and those who would agree with her, that this attitude just might be part of the problem? But the real heroes kept digging.

In Arizona and other places in this nation under God, some Americans decided to start the retaliation early. Any Arab American, or anybody who looked like one, became a target for harassment, vandalism and, in some extreme cases, murder. The theme of "unity" was becoming subject to interpretation.

The Internet community was becoming a very ugly place. Under the cloak of anonymity some people felt fine posting remarks about using Muslim children as bomb shields or how Afghanistan should be just "leveled." Of course, things wouldn't have been complete without the usual mouth-breathers blaming Clinton and anything liberal for what had happened. All some people wanted to do was bomb somebody - anybody - guilty or not. And woe is the poor slob who would challenge these people to think, to use careful restraint, to measure the long-term consequences of any military action lest they be labeled "unpatriotic." America was no longer united. We had already split apart because this person's take on the tragedy and what we should do was different from that person's. The Hawks and the Doves departed their nests. Anybody who doubted that September 11th was anything but a clear-cut case of "us vs. them" didn't deserve to live in this country. Patriotism began to merge into Nationalism. And true Unity became history. But the real heroes kept digging.

And then there are our leaders, political, religious and the media. Jerry Falwell announced as if God would actually let this boar speak for Him, that the Almighty was pissed as hell for America to allow the ACLU, pro-choicers, gays and other threats to civilization to be tolerated in this country. And there was his buddy Pat Robertson going, "yup, yup, yup" right along with him. Anybody who doesn't think that God's got a big spanking paddle reserved for these two yahoos needs to seriously rethink their "what would Jesus do" philosophy.

The corporate media was a real big help as well. Americans were fed repeated showings of the two planes striking the towers. We also got to see Palestinians celebrating our anguish. For 24 hours a day, the media would tug at our heartstrings while at the same time keep us foaming at the mouth. Not wanting anybody to think for themselves or question what we were seeing or why we were made targets, the media made America drunk with images and selective commentary geared to make us want to "Rambo" somebody. But the real heroes kept digging.

I don't recognize my home anymore. I find myself watching planes passing overhead more closely. I see my children and wonder what this country will be like when they're my age. I wonder how many of their school mates will be unlucky enough to find a gas mask in their Christmas stocking. I wonder if, on Christmas Eve, the media will show us all pictures of the real heroes still digging. Just to make sure everybody stays angry. There are so many questions we should all be asking. Some were asking September 11th. Some are asking now. Some will never ask.

And that is the real danger.

 

Look for "Lost In America (Part 2)" next Tuesday, October 9.

 
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