It Can Happen Here.
A page for poems and other writings in reaction to the events of that date, and what connects to them for you.
|September 1, 1939 W.H. Auden||An
eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
—Mahatma Gandhi (thanks to Bill Scanlon)
SEPTEMBER 11, 2002
A year ago
A year ago
A year ago
A year ago
A year ago
A year ago
© 2002 Peter Goodwin
boy sees his father
boy expects him to wave
A man who
says he is his uncle
will come back, but is afraid to ask.
name, to pack his things
gives him books, tells him stories
washed out, her eyes swollen and runny.
house is burned, an old man yells.
A few years
later, he moves to another city,
he draws faces in a sketchbook;
troubles began, he does not know.
be the boy's father in front of him,
© 2001 Richard Roe
I walk in the city park in Brittany,
Everything looks fresh
© 2001 Elise Rose
The following was sent to me by my friend Tamim Ansary. Tamim is an Afghani-American writer. He is also one of the most brilliant people I know in this life. When he writes, I read. When he talks, I listen. Here is his take on Afghanistan and the whole mess we are in.
Gary T. (from poetryhosts; I've seen one other slightly different version of this letter)
Dear Gary and whoever else is on this e-mail thread:
I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done."
And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished.
But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats' nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.
Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being women and have buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done. The Soviets took care of it. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans; they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban - by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.
So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.
And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong about winning; in the end the west would probably overcome whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else?
I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.
© 2001 Jo Jensen
© 2001 Robin Good
All of you who are screaming for war: are you prepared to pay the price, to take thousands of more casualties? Because, my big, macho-talking friends, THAT is what this kind of war would be like. America is a complex and open society with a massive and intricate infrastructure that is fragile and vulnerable and susceptible to easy attack and disruption. IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN WITH A BOXCUTTER. Let me repeat that:
IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN IT CAN BE BROUGHT TO A TOTAL STANDSTILL BY A BOXCUTTER!
Nearly a week with no stock market, no commercial television, no professional sports, three days with no planes in the air (for the first time since 1911), no airports open, the country essentially shut down. A week later and the phone lines still don't all work. A boxcutter, folks! Do not be misled into thinking the guy with the biggest missile is going to win this "war."
We will never be able to protect all of us from this kind of terrorism. Back and forth, more buildings bombed, more planes downed, more innocent American lives lost. When does this end? After we have killed every terrorist? When exactly is THAT scheduled to happen? Or is it just when we kill Osama bin Laden, then we win the war? Are you serious? We couldn't even assassinate Hitler during a massive World War that lasted 6 years!
Bush now says this is "a war against the evil people in the world." Oh, really? THAT war! Yeah, we should be able to defeat "evil," oh, sometime in the next millennium or two. Get a grip. "War" is not going to get the justice we demand or make us more safe. You know it and I know it. There is a different way to go, and I will lay it out in a later letter, but to simplify it for now and put it in a nutshell, it goes like this:
When we decide to help improve these billions of people's lives, we will pull the rug out from under the terrorists who need those they send to their deaths to be poor and exploited and angry at us. The multi-millionaire bin Laden isn't going to give up HIS life! When all the people in the Middle East have food on the table, a decent home, a good job, and democratic control over their own lives, who among them is going to be convinced to sacrifice his life by crashing himself into a tall office building?
Sure, there will always be those who go insane and kill without reason. The British saw that in a Dunblane schoolyard, we saw it in Oklahoma City. There will always be religious fanatics willing to kill and be killed because they believe God has so ordered them. Ask the families of the assassinated women's clinics' doctors in Buffalo and Florida about those willing to commit evil in the name of religion in America.
There IS a way to protect us from further attack, to lift the rest of the world out of its misery, but it requires some smarts and some guts, two things in short supply in Washington these days.
Our Greatest Task
I'm not the first to say this
© 2001 Art Paul Schlosser
The Greatest Wealth
your Neighbor as Yourself
© 2001 Art Paul Schlosser
Thursday, 13 September
An excellent LA Times op-ed about demonization:
Islam Must Challenge Its Dark Doctrines
By YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI
In the emerging debate over how extensively to define the enemy facing the West we need to avoid both wishful thinking and hysteria.
The minimalists who insist that the enemy is only a small band of fanatics around Osama bin Laden severely underestimate the penetration of extremist doctrine within much of mainstream Islam, especially in the Arab world. But those who invoke a war of civilizations a conflict between Western democracy and international Islam risk widening the circle of enmity to large parts of the Islamic world that have so far been immune to the appeal of jihad, or holy war.
Far from being regarded as fringe lunatics, the terrorists who struck against U.S. civilian and military targets are widely regarded as heroes within the Arab world. Religious edicts have been issued in Arab countries endorsing the attack, and thousands danced in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza. That pathological response isn't just the result of anger at perceived injustice, but of years of hate indoctrination in mosques and from state-controlled media. Indeed, only in the Arab world is Holocaust denial a mainstream notion. Islamic doctrine easily lends itself to extremist cooptation. Islam divides the world into two regions: Dar al Harb, or the house of war, containing all territories ruled by non-Muslims, and Dar al Islam, or the house of Islam, which is destined to dominate the former. In a world groping toward planetary interconnectedness, this Islamic doctrine which justifies the madness of holy war must be challenged by Muslims themselves.
Humanistic Muslims need to face the lethal consequences of their theology toward non-Muslims. Apologetics about the nobility of Islam aren't good enough anymore. Just as much of Christianity has confronted its anti-Jewish theology, and many Jews are struggling to uproot the exclusivist strain within Judaism, tolerant Muslims can no longer afford to defend Islam's more problematic concepts. We are all heirs to complex religious traditions; the obligation of believers is to preserve the beauty of their faith while transforming its negative residues.
Those who try to shift the blame for the latest terrorist atrocities on U.S. support for Israel miss several key points. The Arab war against Israel isn't over occupation but the right of a Jewish state to exist. Last year, at Camp David, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from almost all the territories and to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians and the Temple Mount with Islam.
More broadly, the terrorist's holy war isn't aimed ultimately at Israel but the West. Muslim nations are among the most vociferous in ideologically opposing globalization not just its excesses but also its blessings, like a free media and a sense of shared responsibility for international stability.
Indeed, perhaps Israel's greatest offense to Arab sensibilities is its very Westerness, proof for many Muslims of its supposed colonialist essence. Western standards of human rights which Arab propagandists routinely use to excoriate Israel are almost unknown within the Muslim world.
Still, it would be disastrous to declare Islam itself the enemy. For many Muslims, the doctrines of holy war and of Dar al Islam are irrelevant to their faith, and have in effect been allowed to lapse. Sufis, or Muslim mystics, go further, transforming holy war into a spiritual doctrine, a battle against one's own imperfections. Demonizing one of the world's great faiths is an affront against all religions.
The terrorists want nothing more than to widen this war to include the whole Islamic world. And those in the Arab world especially Yasser Arafat who actively nurture the culture of terrorism yet pretend to condemn it hope to avoid the West's judgment. Neither should be allowed to dictate the U.S. response to terrorism.
Yossi Klein Halevi's latest book is "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land" (William Morrow, 2001).
Steel & Concrete, Blood & God
A body flew
Pick a god,
© 2001 john tuschen
Bombs & Snacks
© 2001 john tuschen
A further reply to David Brager and to Michael Moore:
Until recently I earned a (by American standards lousy) living teaching college English. I used to love my job so much I would have done it for free, but in the last few years I had begun to dread it, because of changes in American values reflected to me by my adolescent students.
It was germane in a rhetoric course to discuss how discourse and persuasion influence members of a society to agree or disagree, to embrace or reject each other, to love or to hate. Also how playing to nostalgia for a supposedly simpler, more peaceful past greatly boosts the effectiveness of any propaganda or sales pitch. They were still with me at that point.
Then I suggested that if we actually want to create a world that's less torn with strife and violence, we need to have a more equitable distribution of wealth, because extremes of luxury and deprivation naturally cause strife. I said the money it would take to provide essentials of shelter and nutrition for every human being on the planet is a drop in the bucket of global resources; that there would still be plenty left over to maintain a satisfying difference in lifestyle between rich and poor (I was not advocating communism, though my students accused me of doing exactly that). Well, lots of them hated me for saying those things and just stopped listening. The idea that the privileged should share any of what they have with anyone else was abhorrent and offensive to many of my unfairly privileged, lazy, shallow charges.
You two don't know me; I don't use this kind of language, but I think it's time for truth. A large proportion of my students in recent years believe with deep conviction that the unfortunate deserve their misfortune and the privileged deserve their advantages. And they learned these beliefs from their parents, who are at this juncture waving the red, white and blue. Greed and self-serving self-interest are the gods of contemporary American culture; we have been actively and purposefully exporting this value system to every country and culture on the planet, and a lot of people, including some Americans, resent it (witness the WTO protests, a terrorist action of sorts that a lot of Americans and Europeans quietly supported).
Which brings me to the final point I want to make here (different stuff to come as soon as I get a web page up and running): when I say that greed is the god of American culture, I categorically do not mean to say that all Americans are greedy or shallow. Exactly the opposite is the case: everywhere I go, I meet more good-hearted people than selfish ones. Truly, diversity is our strength; also true is the fact that every group of people you can name, by nationality, religion, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, financial status, social class, etc., etc., is a mixed bag: there are good apples and bad in every bunch. There are rich and poor, sick and strong, mean and kind...
All this is why I don't buy the idea that "we Americans have to be united" at this time of tragedy. I stand with humanity, period, as well as with the Earth and all forms of life and beauty that she sustains. I don't think we can afford to continue thinking tribally/(nationalistically) for very much longer. I think it's the Us vs. Them mentality that's so escalating the dangers faced by all on the planet.
Deborah Kohen, a Las Vegas poet/teacher
Father and Son
© 2001 Jo Jensen
First Flight, 5:59 a.m., September 14
and I glide quietly down Monona Drive
lights at a 45-degree angle
I think, first flight!
© 2001 Jody McIntyre
morning we woke up to find
now I'm sure there is a spirit in the air.
I remember six thousand spirits released.
© 9/13/01 Judy Washbush
From a New Yorker article
The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or 'liberty' or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy which entails disagreement, which promotes candor has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.
of the world's eye
of rhetoric and rationale are descending
for a long
time we've been watching
truly blessed here; immune
to say we're under God
hasn't seen war in almost a hundred and forty years
and the horror
and I'd like
to sit under a cloudless sky
if you want
© 2001 F&JBergmann
Maybe we should have
just paid the damn taxes
instead of telling
George III to fuck off.
Nobody hates the Canadians.
FROM THE MANY, ONE
As the soot
and dirt and ash rained down,
WRITTEN IN RESPONSE TO THE EVENTS OF 11 SEPTEMBER, 2001.
N.B.: As I have been notified, the author is NOT unknown, but Dr. Cheryl Sawyer of the University of Houston at Clear Lake, Texas
Tragedy at Twin Towers
in low that tragic day
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