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Pure As the Driven Slush (Personal Journal)
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 thing long-term.

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. Today."


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.

(earlier still)


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?

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