Democratic Underground

Part Four
September 15, 2001
by Democratic Underground readers

Printer-friendly version of this article Tell a friend about this article Discuss this article

Like everyone else, I have been personally shaken by the events of September 11; both my siblings and my father were in Manhattan that day. Fortunately they're all right, as are all the people I'm close to who live and work there. I have heard that at least one childhood acquaintance is among the missing-presumed-dead, and I'm sure there will be more; I grew up in Westchester, and a lot of the people I went to high school with work in Manhattan.

Yesterday I went in to the office and ran into one of my colleagues. We talked for a bit about our relatives in NYC, who are fortunately all safe. My colleague's final word on the topic was, "I want them all killed."

Maybe the reason I find that so chilling is the word "all." I hear historical echoes that bring me back to earlier massacres - "Kill them all, let God sort them out." "Kill them all, big and small, nits will be lice." When I hear people calling for retribution for this, the way they image it is so often global and indiscriminating - usually via either conventional or nuclear bombs. The fact that any such retaliation will certainly involve the deaths of many, many civilians who are just as innocent as the people who died in New York and DC disappears, obscured by the bright nuclear glow of revenge. The footage of celebrating Palestinians that was broadcast nationally in what I think was a serious error of judgment on the part of the networks has had the eminently foreseeable effect of provoking yet even more generalized anti-Arab sentiment. The "bomb them all" reaction seems to be a pretty compelling fantasy for the people who share it. I don't know why it is that I don't share this desire for swift and terrible revenge; but I just can't.

I don't want blood for this. I don't care whose blood it is, I don't want any more of it. This is enough. Part of my anger and grief over this is the knowledge that the destruction won't stop here; that in DC the only option currently being considered is escalation. Whatever about what I want, I know what I'm getting: more force, more bombing, more collateral damage. What I'm afraid of is that all that will accomplish is another strike against us that will be bigger and worse than what happened on Tuesday. I can't really imagine what would be bigger and worse than that; but I feel like if we keep going in this direction, we are unfortunately bound to find out.

What frightens me most about what's happening now is what I see as a narrowing of the spectrum of allowable opinions. I've already seen people viciously flamed for suggesting that America's foreign policy may have led indirectly to this kind of consequence, by people who assumed that to criticize America's government at a time like this is tantamount to rejoicing in the deaths in NYC and DC. Because I believe that the willingness to be critical of America's own actions is absolutely necessary to understanding and hopefully ending the cycle of violence into which we have been thrown, it scares me to see that happen. What I'm afraid of is that soon, genocidal rage will be the only socially acceptable response to this tragedy. And since I don't think genocidal rage is going to get us out of this, I really don't want it to become our only mode of expression or analysis.

Already in the Chicago area there are reports of anti-Arab violence or threatened violence - a march on a mosque, a Molotov cocktail that failed to explode, vandalism of Middle Eastern restaurants. In Gary, where I used to live, a man who runs a gas station was shot at (and, fortunately, not harmed) by a man who had identified him as middle eastern. We'll be lucky if this is as bad as it gets. Since the Pearl Harbor comparisons are already out there, other people have pointed out that our response to that attack was to round up Japanese-Americans and intern them in concentration camps until the war was over. I don't think that'll happen this time.

No, we'll do it the way the British have been doing it in Northern Ireland: widespread police harassment, internment without trial, the passage of legislation that allows us to suspend the human rights of people who are suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. And, as in Northern Ireland, it will lead to horrible abuses on the part of law enforcement, the courts, and the army; but as in Northern Ireland, it won't solve the problem.

I don't really have a way to end this. Closure is a scarce commodity in America these days. I keep hoping that the good things that we've heard about our response to this tragedy - all the people who have endangered themselves to help others, the massive lines for blood donations, the thousands of tiny ways in which people have shown that danger makes us more human and humane instead of less - will be what wins, and that America will take the high road. But what I hope for and what happens, when it comes to America, are usually not the same thing. Let us all hope for peace and healing for those who have been affected by this horrible thing, and that this time it turns out that I'm wrong.

Yours in sorrow,

— The Plaid Adder

I've had a difficult time these past few days, as we all have. It's scary, this terrorism thing - these attacks have us all tensing up when we hear a plane overhead. I'm someone who never considered that a corrupt administration might make us a target of terrorists, that their machinations would do anything other than the status quo disenfranchisement and bolstering of the rich and greedy; in short, I always took for granted that all their twisted practices through the years at best might mean that our power and strength as a nation made us impervious or something... not the case.

As a liberal who questions authority and refuses to respect or follow those in positions of power who misrepresent their offices of our government for political gain, I've been stunned, outraged. You'd like to think that they were good for something, essentially, that at least their bravado would, even to the detriment of all else, be good for our national security; that these public servants might at least, however indirectly, be serving the public some security while channeling monies from things like schools and public assistance into their defense industry business partners' accounts. Not the case.

And the angry liberal in me has not known how to respond to this since Tuesday. Of course now is not the time for finger pointing - we get that, get it better than our "leaders" who've stupidly pushed their irrelevant missile defense and beat the dead Clinton horse. I considered, as I was cautioned by the operators of various left-wing websites, standing behind the President... even though he's not ours, even though I could never trust a liar and a hypocrite of his staure. I considered that until I realized that he's not leading anything, not addressing the public or calming the nation, not capable of doing anything but fabricating reasons for his having run for cover - I considered standing behind him until I realized he wasn't leading us anywhere, and couldn't be found anyway.

And then I began to realize that the present administration led us here, so clearly they have led us here. They have bullied, thumbed their noses at every conceivable international alliance - ironically to be asking them for help when they were too good for them before, too big for our britches - and now we've had a rip in the seam, the chickens have come home to roost... unity behind a fleeing, lying coward calling others cowards is inconceivable, nor could it be adviseable. But unity is possible.

It is possible to unite in the memory of those who have perished. It is possible to unite in our sadness at so great a loss in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. It is possible to unite behind the glorious legacy of those brave ordinary Americans on the fourth plane, who gave their lives - not soldiers, not policemen, not public servants - members of the public themselves, citizens, heroes. Leaders. Not boy kings or crooked politicians: true and heroic leaders.

While the Bush ran and hid, cooked up stories about the commercial jet having designs on chasing him down in what must be one of the most technologically advanced planes in the world, these ordinary citizens gave their lives and averted catastrophe while these symbols of our nation's wealth and defense burned, while the guardians of the state bumped into each other on the ground, nonplussed as the rest of us.

And from their example, we can learn that we, Americans, one nation, indivisible, can make it through despite the absence of strong leadership. We as Americans must keep our wits about us, minimize strife at this tense time, and focus (at least immediately and publicly) not on our disgust with the administration who abandoned us, not on how insecure and vulnerable we now all feel, and not on the negativity the spinmeisters will put out there. This is not the time for that sort of negativity, I don't think.

We are a nation of many who know the definitions of truth, liberty, justice, democracy. We are a nation who has been sold up the river by our leadership, perhaps. We are fortunate that we realize this, and we on the left have some hard work ahead of us in these next days: we must struggle to keep the lines of communication open with those on the right who must feel terribly betrayed right now, even more than we feel. We knew their leaders couldn't care less about them, and this has shown what we've known all along: how must they feel?

While tensions are high, we of the left must remember that "we told you so" is not going to help. While everyone feels vulnerable, we must not let them demonize those of us who have sadly known all along they weren't doing their jobs who've been elected. We won't gain anything from that but maybe some witch hunt. While tensions are high, let's listen for a while. Reach across party lines to your fellow Americans of the right and impress them with your caring, your understanding of how they must feel betrayed, with the fact that your humanity and vulnerability are all you need in common while we pray or meditate for answers and for healing.

This might seem ridiculous, but think about it: one tragedy (already, sadly, irrevocable) is all it takes to make us all need peace all the more, sister and brotherhood, fellowship. Maybe we can reach them now, while they, like we, are stunned - and before the religious right gets them hating, before the moneychangers who were supposed to have been guarding the temple convince them the Internet or the Clintons or Jane Fonda are to blame. Love them now, your fellow Americans; reassure them of the bond we have with each other on the level of basic humanity and kindred ideals. Don't profane the names of their leaders now, and don't be smug about big bullies falling hard. Save these frustrations for times amongs ourselves.

We can't change what's happened no matter how angry and divided we are. In the wake of this terrible, life-changing, world-changing event, though, our liberal army has at our disposal a very scared, disoriented group of people who thought they were at least invincible having looked the other way while their leaders sold the soul of our nation. Reach out to them now, comfort them, weaken their defenses by assaulting them with your own fear, kindness, understanding, support. Kill with kindness the parasitic propaganda they've all been spoon fed and swallowed for so long.

Reach out to them now. Remind them later. Your fellow Americans need your purity of heart, your kindness, your willingness not to blame them for the mistakes they might see more clearly when we've healed each other.

Thank you for reading this.

— Nikelaus Lubard

As an American its shameful that you will still put online attacks on the President, now is not the time to be a democrat or republican... it is time to Unite against evil!!

Take down all the anti Bush questions and posts. Please join the Nation in its day of mourning and try to put only information that is helpful.

Your actions are not helping, the enemy is still on our soil, we need to show that we are UNITED in trying to rebuild and become ONE as a nation behind our President and as AMERICANS first!


As someone not born to the United States, I believe my perspective on this may be a slightly different one, I don't know. America has a political system built on the greatest ideals, built by flawed men with all the prejudices and inequities of their time, but who captured so much of the essential truths of Democracy nonetheless. The truly astonishing thing about the documents and nation they authored was how far ahead of their time they were, in the realization of the importance of open free discussion and criticism as the lifeblood of a free people. Even though they could never have foreseen the emergence of modern day media technology and it's subsequent commercialization, they grasped the vital nature of it's role in informing and instructing the masses against the blind acceptance of government. Of course, these documents are not perfect - nor were they meant to be - but instead serve as the frame on which a careful, alert people were to build and adjust the laws of their land to suit their evolving needs. At least I think so.

Today we have let ourselves forget this. We have forgotten the essential obligations of our freedom - vigilance. We have let the integrity and impartialty of a free press be bought out in the name of commercial profit. We have let the forces of corporate greed and self interest slowly erode our rights to open, balanced public discourse. We have let the closed minds of backward thinking regressionists stifle the living breath from our laws and constitution under the guise of "original intent," a meaningless, subjective, unworkable phrase that ignores the need for organic, flexible, dynamic legislation. As we stand now, an unelected, undemocratic, malignant adminstration is systematically stripping our rights and protections away. Very few voices can be heard above the din of talking corporate heads, stroking the very multinational powers-that-be that write their monstrously inflated checks. My American friends, for the most part, share - to varying degrees - my escalating fears and concerns about the shape of things coming....

And then, a catastrophe like this happens. And the deal is off. We must rally behind the President. We must present a united front. We must not criticize. We must not be NEGATIVE. We must not UNDERMINE.


The American people are united in their time of grief. They are united in their sense of outrage. They are united in their wish to bring these bastards to justice. They should NOT be united in an unquestioning, obedient mass behind an administration that flaunts the very democratic system it purports to protect. They should NOT acquiesce to any and all proposed means of retribution without careful consideration of the facts and possible consequences of those acts. They should not let their sorrow and anger be turned and focused into a jingoistic, flagwaving endorsement of a fundamentally corrupt regime, under their own noses.

There should be compromise in all areas of the government of people. We should always be open to the thoughts and ideas of others, and be amenable to modifying our desires and finding a common ground.

But, only to a point. To a very fine, definite point. And that point is the heart of the matter, the very process itself, the democratic system that supports it all.

There can be no compromise there. You can't be a little bit pregnant. The ends can't justify the means. There may be corruption in the system, covert in the form of bribes or overt in the form of the election "finance". These are problems. Problems that can be addressed through law, legislation - fixed. But installing a President that was not democratically elected cannot be fixed by the law. It has ignored the law. It is above and beneath the law. It has circumvented the institutions and conventions it is supposed to uphold. Every influence it exerts on the nation is illegal. Everything it touches is tainted.

As a wise man once said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. The worst excesses and outrages of history were perpetrated by men who followed with a will. There are people in the Whitehouse right now that will and are using this tragedy to further a twisted and corrupt agenda. Our greatest danger is to follow without question. Our greatest obligation is to be heard asking those questions. The greatest patriots, in retrospect, were always the rebels of their time. The administration currently occupying Washington are responsible for subverting and destroying the ideals that those patriots died for. Even if I believed their motives or intentions were honorable despite that - and I wish I could, but I don't - I could never support them or their actions.

I was not born an American. But I consider myself one today, not because I proudly salute and support the men who hold the highest offices in this land - but, rather, because I oppose them and what they stand for with every fiber of my being.

And, while they continue to illegitimately go about their business in our name - as important as ALL that business may be - I will continue to point out that very same illegitimacy.

— Noel O'Connor

"I'm proud to be American, and I hate Arabs and I always have," 19-year-old Colin Zaremba told The Associated Press during a pro-American march in Illinois this week. As public officials in Washington D.C. debate how to retaliate against the masterminds of the September 11 horror, and decide how to protect Americans from skyjacked airplanes and explosions, they also need to protect us from imploding.

Janelle Brown reports in Salon that "Three days after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, the newswires are filled with reports of assaults and harassment against Arab-Americans, Muslims and others who simply look Middle Eastern."

Dozens of attacks were reported across the country - cab drivers were pulled from their vehicles and beaten up, a mosque in Texas was damaged from a Molotov cocktail, another firebomb exploded at an Arab-American community center in Illinois, six shots were fired into a window of the Islamic Center in Irving, Texas, and on and on. Venomous types trolling the Internet use racial slurs against Arabs. The messages are generally written by those cloaked in monikers or pseudonyms, the white hoods of the new millennium.

According to Robert L. Jamieson Jr. of the Seattle PI, "The anti-Arab backlash is decidedly un-American - and quite American." In the past when the U.S. goes to war we've disgraced ourselves by taking the most un-American American actions: During World War II, Japanese-American citizens were robbed of their property and forced into internment camps.

We must prevent further attacks against Arab-Americans and Muslims who call America their home, and must also prevent assaults on their businesses, homes, and civil liberties. This time let's not disgrace ourselves. It could happen; there are rumblings. It's a real and present danger.

In order to have an America worth protecting from terrorists, it is imperative that we first and foremost look out for our own.

We'll need to use the implements that we have at our disposal to ward off the hate mongers who perpetually hover like rabid vultures cruising for fresh meat. The implements are imperfect, as we've seen repeatedly since November 7, 2000. But our public officials, media, and civil rights organizations are, in fact, the implements we have. Let's let them know what we expect of them.

They're tiptoeing in that direction already, ever so tentatively.

After two full days of the kind of despicable attacks on Arab-Americans already described, George W. Bush belatedly made a statement. On Thursday he said "We must be mindful [that] ... we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve."

That remark sounds disturbingly left-handed, like the ever-popular "with all due respect." Furthermore, it was made in a somewhat offhand fashion during a phone conversation with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki. It was not delivered as a direct appeal to the nation, with Bush's customary trimmings of a TV camera and an aid prompting him through an earpiece. Worst of all it doesn't specify, or even imply, that the weight of the law will be brought to bear against anyone who dares assault the citizens or guests of our country.

Attorney General John Ashcroft did a little better in his own belated press conference. On Thursday he stated: "We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday's violence by targeting individuals based on their race, their religion, or their national origin Such reports of violence and threats are in direct opposition to the very principles and laws of the United States and will not be tolerated."

Still there was something missing.

As has been the case all week, NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, recipient of the "unofficial formerly least likely politician to now be quoted in an admiring tone but, hey, things change award," did it just right. On Wednesday, in a timely fashion, he cautioned: "What we say today will change how we can live tomorrow." He then warned against anti-Arab attacks in strong terms. He announced that neighborhoods with large Arab-American populations would receive extra police protection against backlash incidents.

There's nothing missing from that. Mayor Giuliani used his office and authority to make clear that the full weight of the law will be brought to bear against anyone who dares assault the citizens or guests of our country. That is what we must demand, what we have every right to demand, from our elected officials, and from George W. Bush as well.

First we need to write, email, phone them all, and impart the following:

We are grateful to members of the U.S. Senate for passing a resolution denouncing discrimination against Arab Americans. But we need something with teeth.

They must protect Arab-Americans and Muslims with whatever means necessary, and punish offenders with the full force of the law. Even Bush, who was utterly willing to acknowledge hate crimes as governor of Texas, needs to recognize that crimes against Arab-Americans and Muslims in this superheated climate, are hate crimes.

Arab-American lives, faith, and livelihoods must be protected. If they are driven out of business then they cannot survive. If they don't feel free to exercise their faith then that is outrageous and unacceptable.

They should meet with Arab-American community leaders to discuss efforts to combat intolerance and discrimination; and conduct an outreach effort to encourage Arab-Americans to report hate crime incidents.

Clearly, the Bush crew can be stunningly assertive when they feel strongly about something, as they demonstrated during the election's prolonged recount ordeal. And Attorney General Ashcroft has the office and authority to enforce hate crime laws.

Second, we must urge the media to continue writing editorials on the subject. Thank them for the initiative they've already taken, and ask them to urge public officials to forcefully protect all Americans and guests.

Third, ally with The American Civil Liberties Union. According to Janelle Brown in Salon, the ACLU has already expressed concerned about racial profiling, and set up a phone line for Arab-Americans to report any civil liberties violations. Join the ACLU (which understandably makes them much more amenable to input), thank them for their rapid response, and urge them to diligently protect the rights of Arab-Americans.

Forth, express support to the Arab-American community. Hussein Ibish, communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said they have received more supportive calls than threatening ones. "I'm glad to say the better angels of our nature are winning right now."

Be one of the better angels. Become familiar with their concerns and contact them at The Council on American-Islamic Relations can be reached at

Many Americans of Middle Eastern descent had weeks like us. They wept. They lined up to donate blood. They gave money. But then a difference. They received death threats and firebombs.

As President Clinton said so eloquently when he visited the traumatized in NY on Thursday, after flying 24 hours from Australia to reach them, we must not turn on our neighbors. These neighbors now live with the double anguish of the September 11 attack and the undeserved backlash.

President Clinton speaks from the heart and from experience.

When the Oklahoma City bombing was initially and erroneously blamed on Middle Eastern terrorists, and tempers were likewise supercharged, he cautioned against rash judgments. In that tragedy the main culprit turned out to be a white American man.

But even if the vicious attackers are from the Middle East, then it is their actions that made them our enemies, not their nationality, faith, or race.

"We have friends and family who work in that building, the World Trade Center. We have family and friends that worked at the Pentagon," said AAI President James Zogby. "While we would like to mourn like everybody else in America, we end up looking over our shoulder because someone is pointing a finger."

No more finger pointing.

No more implosions in America.

— Myra Bronstein

On to Part Five