In America (Part 1)
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
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
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
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.
for "Lost In America (Part 2)" next Tuesday, October