|September 11th, Two Thousand One: Crisis is the Time for Truth
I do assure you this is the last bit I'll write today. Then I
plan to take a shower and go out on a walk with B. and Sofia and
simply be grateful.
But until then, I'm distressed, and I have to let it out, though
I know what I'm about to say is often the last thing anyone wants
to hear during a crisis like this, but in the words of Chellis
Glendinning, on an etching that has sat beside my desk for years,
"Crisis is the time for truth." And while I'm not a subscriber
to the notion of "The Truth," I at least know the things I feel
are true. In other words, what I can at least offer for myself
and others who may need it or want it is what I can speak for
myself in honesty and sincerity.
I am disturbed and distressed not mainly because of grief or sorrow
or worry for those wounded or killed, though I have great compassion
and concern there, and at a high level, which goes to show how
much I am upset about other aspects of this. But I also know that
death and suffering are a part of life. They may be painful, but
they are natural, as is bearing the pain that that brings, and
finding a way to do it which reveres life, rather than demeans
it. So what truly distresses me is what I am hearing out and about.
In the media, I have heard two angles today, loud and clear, again
and again that have brought me to tears several times today.
"This is the worst terrorist attack of all time."
It is? So, I suppose then that the lives lost to genocide during
WWII were meaningless? Or the damage this very country did to
Native Americans when we stole this land, or to Nagasaki, or in
Vietnam, or to children in the Persian Gulf...that has no meaning?
Because that is damage we caused, rather than were directly harmed
by? Because somehow, American lives -- nay, European-American
lives -- are more valuable than anyone else's? I am terribly sorry,
but that is so incredibly vile and disrespectful, and in addition,
we are terribly irresponsible if we cannot at the very least acknowledge
that a lot of this sort of attack is something we are responsible
for. That does NOT mean those hurt are at fault, or that their
lives were not terribly, horribly squandered. They were. But if
we lose perspective, in my mind -- if we try and arbitrarily assign
more weight to any one act of violence over another -- we devalue
the loss of those lives further because we do not accept the lessons
their loss might teach us, and help us to stop this whole awful
cycle in the future. We consume a totally disproportionate amount
of the world's resources, treat our own people terribly, especially
if they are not white, christian or at least middle-class, and
have used the resources we hoarde in terrorist attacks of our
own, even if we choose to pretend they are heroics. Central America
in the 80's anyone? Let's be truthful: the reason there have not
been as many direct attacks on Americans isn't because we are
so much more virtuous than others, but because we usually are
bigger bullies who pick the fights first, and sneakily give the
biggest enemies goodies to keep them from picking on us. And in
fact, our country really valuing sentient life -- ALL sentient
life, for real -- not just whatever has our attention or ire at
the moment is likely, in my mind, the solution to this sort of
Us. That's another word that keeps coming up today. It's an attack
on "us." Funny, it took me a while when I heard that to understand
that us wasn't the people of the world. It was only the people
of America. It's this "one nation, under god" crap that really
puts us in this sort of position. I feel very depressed when I
think of my father's family coming here to escape Mussolini thinking
this was a country far more peaceful and less bigoted than the
one they were leaving. I wish that were so, but I do not feel
that it often is.
And of course, the retaliatory behavior, the cries for blood --
when there isn't even anyone specific to retaliate against, and
well before anyone has had time to even find survivors or dead
and grieve for them fully and wholly. But hey, this is America!
Does that matter? Hell, no. Find a country, grab an Arab by his
toe and point the finger, bomb a few small villages, and we're
even, right? No one seems to remember that "going to war" generally
involves knowing WHO you're going to war with and why, not just
tossing a dart on a map and marching in shooting to make everyone
feel that a score has been settled. Is this a real nation or the
junior high playground? When Bush says that he will make no differentiation
between the "perpetrators and those who harbor them," what does
that mean if WE have been harboring "them"?
If I keep on with that line of thinking, I'll get even more upset,
because I simply do not condone violence and retribution and I
feel very strongly that it can never accomplish anything positive
long-term (and yes, I am aware others disagree, and that's okay,
but I assure you that if you send me email in the next week defending
violence and eye-for-an-eye crapola, it will be received VERY
poorly), and I do feel we develop a collective karma which we
live out. I know that it has never been appealing to me, or even
seemed just, to think of the truck driver who thoughtlessly killed
my father's family and young brother, or of whoever raped and
murdered my 76-year-old great-grandmother, or of those who sexually
assaulted me to be hurt or attacked in return, simply because
I would not wish such pain on anyone else, nor be so vapid to
think their pain could alleviate or negate mine. I would wonder
if I did wish such a thing if I truly had experienced that pain
at all, if you know what I mean. because if I truly had, I just
don't know how I could want for another to feel it, or why I would
want such a thing. In all the commentary I heard in the media
today, and from representatives, I didn't hear one person be truly
brave and say, "Let's let this stop with us. Today." Bombing doesn't
take balls, it takes money. Punishment is generally just egotism
dressed in a fancy costume and schoolmarm shoes. Retribution is
nothing more than anger acted upon because it is far less painful
than earnest grief and offers a distraction from it.
If what happened today really hurt us, really bothered us, or
what has happened like this in history many, many times was as
horrible as everyone says it is, we'd put our effort into getting
OUT of the vicious cycle, not perpetrating it further. In my mind
THAT is the proper show of recognition and value for lives lost.
The big kicker was how many people I heard say, "This will change
my life." While I do understand that is in some part an acknowledgment
of how serious something like this is, what a statement like that
also acknowledges is with how little seriousness or deep feeling
every other human tragedy -- some of which happen day after day
after day, at our own hands -- has been seen. Obviously, those
right at the scene who have not been so close to horror or mortality
WILL be changed. That is a given. For me, this changed nothing.
Nothing at all. I was horrified, and deeply saddened, but I was
neither surprised, nor did this strike me as far worse than a
million other acts like this that have happened globally through
history have been. I have to say earnestly that if today really
changed our lives, than our level of awareness of what was going
on in the world, and our understanding of global history and human
behavior was not what it should have been. And as tragic as itis,
perhaps that in itself is one boon to come from this -- an awareness
of realities, of mortality, of ugliness, of vulnerability, that
needs be there, but was not there before.
Perhaps it feels worse today -- and perhaps I hope this is why
it does -- because for once we may see that we are not above everyone
else, nor are we any less vulnerable. if we're really, really
lucky, what today will do is teach a few people what compassion
truly is. Because "us" shouldn't be determined by races or borders.
And while I understand -- I do, I have friends in NYC too, and
I have lost loved ones to terrible accidents in my life as well
-- that all of this hurts and while I feel that grief for those
lost is necessary, I also feel that grief gives us a certain clarity
and earnestness we should utilize. It is hard to be apathetic
at times like these, and easier to be honest and to see clearly.
I think it's easier to be brave -- not macha, brave. I am not
saying nothing should be done, but what I am saying is that we
should not race for blood, but actually take the time to focus
on what we have at hand first, give respect for the lives that
have been lost for real, and be VERY, very careful with what we
wish for right now, because a lot of what I am hearing strikes
me as wishes to create more loss, not truly work towards longterm
global solutions. We cannot say we respect life if we don't, and
that is as simply as I can put it.
That given, what I crave more than anything is to hear one person
who has some pull, who will act and can act simply say quietly,
"This is a tragedy because we will make it worse, and assure it
will happen to someone else, again and again, as we always have,
unless we let it stop with us and start thinking differently.
It's hard during things like this -- though it truly should be
easier -- to remember to be human. In other words: we're all frail,
we're all vulnerable, we all have complex emotions. So, do try
and be forgiving of others today. Often people react to tragedies
and fear very viscerally, subjectively and without thinking, simply
because they are human. The last thing anyone needs during something
like this is anger or worry over the small stuff. Really. And
yes, I'm talking to you, you-know-who. And yes, that includes
being forgiving of yourself.
But I think it's also important to remember that part of humanity
which has strength and which is real, even when it isn't very
poignant or heroic. For instance, I know I had a very much needed
laugh and emotional release when it was announced on NPR here
in Minnesota that the Mall of America had been evaculated and
shut down. So had our trade center and another building, but you
know, someone thought the Mall of Freaking America was a logical
place for a terrorist attack. Would that it were so, I tell you.
Pity they didn't evacuate it and then put a big bull's eye on
top with a sign that read, "Capitalistic Soul-Sucking Eyesore
Here, Please Destroy With Wild Abandon." Sabrina was just comforting
my minor paranoia and small thought of doing preventative things
by pointing out that Minneapolis probably isn't a target. Unless,
of course, the terrorists hate Ludefisk. And who could blame them.
One last note: if anyone is stuck at the airport in Minneapolis/St.
Paul and needs a place to stay, we could make some room or help
find some at other friends houses. I can't give out phone numbers
for reasons which are likely obvious (sex writer/naked girl +
phone number = stalker central), but again, ICQ or email. I am
nothing if not the queen of pragmatism.
LAMA LA KYAP SU CHI WO
SANGEY LA KYAP SU CHI WO
CHÖ LA KYAP SU CHI WO
GENDÜN LA KYAP SU CHI WO
Om mani padme hum
P.S. I've tried to do this once already for someone today in the
other direction -- if you are in New York, and have email or net
access and need help contacting someone who does NOT have access,
outside of NY, via the phone to tell them you are okay, please
feel free to email me if I can make a call for you. I would be
more than happy to help if I can. I encourage anyone else outside
NYC with a net readership to offer the same.
Yet another postscript: Sabrina reminds me to remind you that
if you can go give blood today, especially in DC or NY, please
do. Update on that: apparently in NYC the Red Cross is good for
most blood right now, but still needs Rh-negative and O-types.
I also feel obliged to say that in the midst of all of this, nothing
-- not video of the WTC collapsing, not not knowing where some
people dear to me are, not paranoia about what may come next --
NOTHING has made me feel as scared and terrible as hearing Bush
state, "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and
punish those responsible for these cowardly acts," et al. Accidents
are tragic. Terrorism is scary. But in my mind, retaliation, and
the spirit of "punishment" and "getting even" for things for which
there is no equalization, is abjectly horrifying. This type of
attitude makes me wish in the deepest pit of my stomach that it
is never discovered who is responsible, because I know all too
well that whatever would be done to "punish" for something like
this would simply create more pain and lives lost than we've seen
already. And of course, what is "cowardly" is anything like this,
no matter who does it and in whose name it be done. What would
be the brave thing to do would be to step out of the nasty, horrible
karmic cycle of violence and retribution.
When, oh when, will people learn that you cannot regain what is
lost by creating loss for another?