View Full Version : This article sums it up (long)

09-19-2001, 03:30 AM
Well, recent events last week have increased the discussion as to what happened, the cause, and the effect of the tragedy. I for one am proud to see that this topic has been/ is being discussed. The other day, a friend of mine who lives in Miami, called me to ask me to read an editorial/article (not sure which) that was printed in last Wednesday's (Sept 12,2001) Miami Herald. The article was written by Leonard Pitts Jr. Here's what he wrote. (I didnt get A's in college writing and english so I apologize and hope this doesnt violate any copywrite laws). I think this sums up our thoughts.

We'll go forward from this moment

It's my job to have something to say.

They pay me to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.

You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.

What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.

Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.

Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.

Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae -- a singer's revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse. We're wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though -- peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us, people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.

Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us weak. You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.


Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning and we are in shock. We're still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel. Both in terms of the awful scope of their ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and, probably, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.

But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall. This is the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length, in the pursuit of justice.

I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people, as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.

In the days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We'll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.


You see, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well. On this day, the family's bickering is put on hold.

As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.

09-19-2001, 05:54 AM
Only one objection, from afar. The author wrote : ".. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us [Americans], people of faith, believers in a just and loving God."

He should have edited that out. That is what every country believes about itself and its "uniqueness" in religious benevolence. No, what makes the United States different is the tolerance for ANY kind of religious belief, including atheism, without preference nor support for any particular one, polytheistic or monotheistic, Judaism or Christianity or whatever.

For sure this must not be a jihad of believers in a just god against believers in an unjust god, even if the fanatics who are behind the terrorist acts, want to start one like that. And it should not be a jihad of Americans against Muslims (or Arabs) either. It should be a "jihad" of every civilised country in the world against terrorism.

09-19-2001, 01:10 PM
I'm not convinced that he should have edited out thge reference to most American's believing in a just God. Even though I agree with the rest of your post especially -

"He should have edited that out. That is what every country believes about itself and its "uniqueness" in religious benevolence. No, what makes the United States different is the tolerance for ANY kind of religious belief, including atheism, without preference nor support for any particular one, polytheistic or monotheistic, Judaism or Christianity or whatever. "

To really be an open and tolerant society one must not only be open to diversity but able to recognize that if these groups are to be vital they will think the others wrong. Tolerance is easy when you think the issue at hand is unimportant but much harder when you think it is important.

The challenge is to find a common basis for acceptance and action without abandoning ones beliefs.

09-19-2001, 04:24 PM
The ambiguity and contradictions rife in this short piece mirror the overall message we're getting from media and the government these days. I want to point them out because I'd be surprised if anyone thinks they're defensible.

Notice he begins by appearing to address those that conducted the attacks: "You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard," "your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us." Certainly everyone hates the scumbag terrorists. But since he's not purporting to speak to body parts, he must mean other people, co-conspirators perhaps.

If co-conspirators remain at large, a fact not yet in evidence (although likely), no one to my knowledge has speculated about more than a few dozen or hundred of them. Nor is it clear that military force will be necessary to bring them to justice.

But even if the writer believes that several thousand people are guilty for the 9/11 attacks, the rest of the piece makes it clear that he's advocating more severe means against a much larger target that he prefers not to mention.

If he were talking about a thousand criminals, he wouldn't refer to a future that, based on what he knows about Americans, makes him "tremble with dread." Nor would he warn of a response so unspeakable that not even terrorists can imagine it ("You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of.") This isn't what you write when you're threatening murderers with justice, or even killing them after torture. He's talking about something massive and even apocalyptic, as in the chilling reference to "the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow," the otherwise inexplicable reference to God, and the weird reassurance he receives from what he predicts will be a terrifying future. This is what you write when you're preparing people for world war, and not the prosecution of murderers.

Advocating responses so terrible that they can't be imagined, much less stated, against victims one cannot yet identify, is a virtual endorsement of Col. Kurtz's dictum: "And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends." In short, what begins with a condemnation of terrorism ends up sounding like something written by a terrorist.

In the larger media, we're being bombarded by two contradictory messages: that particular people responsible for this specific attack remain at large, that the mastermind is Osama bin Laden, and that they're capture in foreign lands might require the use of military force. This might all be true. At the same time, however, we're told that we must prepare for a long, difficult war of inestimable duration against many groups in several if not many countries, none of which we can presently identify, with the goal of eradicating all terrorism and, in more extreme rhetoric, of evil in the world. (Of course, no one thinks for a second that our targets will be Irish, Basque, Tamil, Moro or Chechyn or any of the hundreds of violent groups that generally don't interfere with concrete U.S. interests).

Our justifiable hatred at those responsible for a particular crime is therefore being channeled toward a larger response against larger targets, and this piece is a good example of how it's being attempted.

09-19-2001, 10:55 PM
I'm 48 years old and have lived in and around New York City my whole life. Besides "the bomb" and communism the scariest thing I remember worrying about was the MAFIA. When I was a kid the only thing I knew about them was that if you looked at them they'd kill you. Report them they'd kill you and make you watch as they killed your mother. Testify against them and you'd have to watch them torture your entire family to death and then they'd kill you by rolling you over with a steam roller; starting with your feet and slowly working their way up. Pretty scary stuff.

As I think about the image the US has throughout the third world I'm pretty sure I'd prefer for them to regard us as I regarded the MAFIA when I was a kid. Let them be scared, let them be afraid, let them feel we might not always play by the rules.

When our hostages were taken 1n Iran in 1979 we did nothing. Perhaps if we had regarded our hostages as front line soldiers who sometimes must die for their country and we had bombed our embassy and taken Teheran with it I'm pretty sure state sponsored terrorism might have taken a giant step backward.

The hostages, if you remember, were released on January 20th, 1981 when Reagen took office. Khomeni was probably scared to death of this guy. Who knew what he would do? Well, Khadafy found out and he's been pretty quiet since.

I'm not advocating world war, and I really do not want to see the Afghan people go through yet one more horrible conflict. But, the little monsters of this world must be shown that there are and will be terrible consequences when they target us. And if we cannot impress this upon the little monsters because they have little or nothing to lose thenh we have to impress it upon those states that offer them a safe haven, a willing supply of brainwashed soldiers, and economic aid. They must be shown there will be a terrible price to pay so that hurting us hurts them to the point of extinction. It's terrible to consider, but if we can make our point once, demonstrably, then perhaps we will save countless lives on both sides for the rest of eternity.

09-19-2001, 11:40 PM

Your response reminds me of Marlow's line at the opening of Heart of Darkness as the boat sits along the Thames and Marlow begins his story, "And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."


09-20-2001, 09:31 AM
It's sad that someone can be so reflexively anti-U.S. that even this tragedy doesn't dent there presumptions.