WE SHINE FOR ALL
Your magazine remains a
beacon of hope for all of us, even those who revile you for your
progressive values--because we all lose when mindless, precipitate
actions are taken that end up costing more lives and wasting more
resources. You are a refreshing alternative voice to the jingoism
overtaking this nation. Thank you for remaining true to the cause of
LEE--FULBRIGHT OF HER TIME
Thank you for the interview with Representative
Lee ["Barbara Lee's Stand," Oct. 8]. I was reminded of Senator
William Fulbright's comment (in an interview not long before his
death in 1995) responding to the question of how he would vote on the
Tonkin Gulf Resolution given the benefit of hindsight. Fulbright was
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1965. The
resolution, passed with about the same degree of consideration given
the House Use of Force resolution, gave President Johnson a similar
blank check to escalate the Vietnam War. Fulbright said if he had
another chance he would do his best to stop the 1965 resolution.
Barbara Lee is in good company.
GREG STARKEBAUM (Vietnam
MAD PROF--'VOICE OF REASON'
Patricia Williams--finally a voice of reason rather than mere reaction ["Diary
of a Mad Law Professor," Oct. 1]. No sane person would condone the
terrible acts in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But what's
missing from our reaction is self-reflection and self-criticism.
America has drawn increasingly inward with George W. Bush and his
isolationist policies. The walking out of US delegates at the Durban
Conference on Racism is the most recent sad proof that America does
not want to hear or deal with what it does not like. This nation's
skewed foreign policy puts us all in peril. The American people and
our leaders must become more knowledgeable about the rest of the
world and how US actions and polices are perceived. Professor
Williams is absolutely correct. This is no time for ignoring the
causes of the deep hatred for the United States among many people and
cultures around the world.
FLY YOUR FLAGS
It is rare for me to
disagree with Katha Pollitt, but in "Put Out No Flags" she spoke too
quickly ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 8]. She should listen to her
daughter. The flag cannot be allowed to stand for "jingoism and
vengeance and war." We must take it back. It must again stand for the
best we can dream.
As a child during
World War II, I knew that our flag represented freedom. Most homes,
including ours, proudly flew the flag. Our nation fought a war, paid
a high price and helped win a fight that saved future generations
from a terrible fate. Now, to protect our grandchildren from a life
of terror, we must again take up a just cause and fight for
freedom--freedom that even allows for the expression of unrealistic
and offensive thoughts.
JOHN C. BOOTH
Pollitt says that what is needed is solidarity. Right now, that is
what the Stars and Stripes does for this country. It shows that we
citizens of this Republic are united against the perpetrators of
these barbarous acts. The fact that right-wingers used the flag to
support that monstrosity known as the Vietnam War doesn't mean those
on the left must cede this psychic territory of the Stars and Stripes
to the Ann Coulters and Jerry Falwells of the world. To use the flag
when engaged in activities that it stands for--freedom of speech,
freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition the government for
the redress of grievances--what a radical idea! What a nonviolent
rebuff to those who have injured us!
White Salmon, Wash.
with Katha Pollitt's opinion of what our flag stands for. I also
agree with her daughter, who wants to fly it in a show of solidarity
with the victims and survivors and rescue workers, families and loved
ones who have been touched by this horrendous act against humanity.
The country needs to become united with the rest of the world,
Muslims, Arabs, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, everyone.
have agonized over how to show my solidarity without appearing to be
pro-war. So I have hung Buddhist prayer flags against my house and my
boyfriend's house next to his US flag. We feel that this represents
what we feel--support for our country's losses and a wish for
worldwide peace, US restraint and acceptance of everyone, regardless
of race or religion. The prayer flags carry our prayers (for peace)
with the wind, around the globe.
Virginia Beach, Va.
you, Katha Pollitt. Now I know I'm not alone. I refuse to fly our
flag as long as we kill people and don't negotiate. I received an
e-mail saying that we should all wear a purple ribbon for those who
have died in this terrible tragedy, as we did the yellow ribbon
during Desert Storm. I feel that this is much more
flag-waving for the same reason as Katha Pollitt, but I've been
jonesin' for a flag I could believe in. I'd like to see a flag with a
globe on it, as she mentions, so I could wave it proudly to say, I
belong to the Earth and I take a stand for protecting it.
MICHELLE Y. R'MY
It's a painful time for those of
us who have lived through the bad choices our government made in the
twentieth century. As one who has survived all those choices (I was
born in 1909), I fly the Earth flag--a blue banner with the beautiful
photo of our planet taken from outer space, used for the first Earth
Day. Our small organization has distributed these flags to schools
and municipalities for many years to help people realize that, in the
words of the Earth Charter (which all governments must
subscribe to if our planet is to survive), we must "bring forth a
sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal
human rights, economic justice and a culture of
Save Our World
I went to the AAA
flag store here last week and passed the forty or so people standing
in line to buy American flags and asked loudly, "Where are the flags
with the picture of planet Earth on them?" I took one home, and it
now flies proudly next to my American flag--which I fly with some
ambivalence but also with a determination to redefine this symbol of
jingoism for myself.
I have not joined the
patriotic fervor by displaying a US flag even though I deeply mourn
the loss of innocent lives, not just American lives but lives from at
least eighty other countries ruthlessly sacrificed in a perverted
interpretation of Islam. The first impulse I had was to fly the flag
with a picture of the Earth to show solidarity with our brothers and
sisters throughout the world. But since I don't own such a flag, I
have tied a black ribbon to my car antenna in memory of those who
died and as a symbol of the period of darkness that must now be
overcome if we as a global people wish to survive. Patriotism serves
only to further separate us from the sufferings of our brothers and
sisters throughout the world in a time when we need more than ever a
sense of unity and global community.
addresses the flag conundrum quite well. There is an alternative
symbol--the peace symbol--which could show empathy with the victims
and their families as well as expressing the desire for alternative
a global flag. See www.oneworldflag.org.
Thanks to Katha Pollitt for her
ideas for alternatives to the American battle flag. Here in
Asheville, we've made posters of the peace dove. They're hanging in
the windows of homes and businesses, a symbolic alternative to the
Stars and Stripes and the march to war.
Santa Monica, Calif.
We need American peace flags and not blank checks! Check us out to see what we're about: www.peaceflags.org
(click on info).
BILL RUSSELL, JOHN LANDRUM
Santa Cruz, Calif.
important to know our enemies. Listening to newscasters and
politicians would lead one to believe that our enemies are Osama bin
Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Afghanistan or some fuzzily
defined worldwide network of brown-skinned lunatics with names like
Mohammed and Ahmed who take flying lessons in
Listening to the Rev. Jerry Falwell would lead one
to believe that our enemies are gays, Jews, abortion providers,
feminists, the ACLU and (though he neglected to mention them this
time) Teletubbies. Watching the actions of large numbers of Americans
would lead one to believe that our enemies are the 6 million Muslims
living in the United States, the mosques they pray at, the businesses
they run and the schools their children attend.
All are mistaken.
I hope Americans will look beyond these easy
targets and scapegoats and recognize their true enemies as ignorance,
intolerance and fanaticism. I fear we have already fallen prey to all
three. We have seen a man in Seattle drive his truck through a mosque
and begin shooting in the name of patriotism. And we may soon see our
military kill innocent people in the pursuit of one man and his
followers, also in the name of patriotism. As we indulge these acts,
I can only hope that we will not be surprised when their eventual and
inevitable responses follow, once again in the name of
We need to make the choice between a patriotism
we can buy at Wal-Mart for $3 and a greater cause than
patriotism--humanity. We must identify and make war on our own
tendencies toward fanaticism and intolerance. Otherwise, we ourselves
become the enemy, and the terrorists win.
UNCLE SAM WANTS THEM?
Given all the pro-war and American Empire rhetoric, I guess people like William
Kristol, David Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly, Zell Miller,
Ann Coulter and the entire staff of National Review, among
others, will be stepping down from their jobs to go sign up at the
nearest armed services recruiting office. It will be a shame not to
hear their articulate opinions on everything from Monica Lewinsky to
the Taliban, but I believe it is a sacrifice America will have to
make. Such patriotic pundits, banging their war drums, surely will
lead America to victory.
Why don't we trade Henry Kissinger for Osama bin
Laden? Then we each can hold war crimes tribunals and let justice
prevail. It's a curious contrast: The Taliban won't surrender bin
Laden without presentation of evidence, whereas the United States
won't surrender Kissinger even with mountains of
OUR GLASS HOUSE
On September 11 America experienced a true faith-based initiative. Then, hearing the
remarks of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who purport to be
Christians, made it clear that we have fundamentalists in our own
society no better than those we say we must fight. Our forefathers
tried to protect us from intolerance by making our government
secular, with the imperative to protect all beliefs. We have just
experienced the result of deep intolerance and become the victims of
religious fanatics. It is heartbreaking to begin this new century
with "holy wars," and we must not let our leaders put us on those
terms. We must stop those right here in our own country who preach
intolerance. As much as we condemn Muslim extremists, it is difficult
to cast stones when you live in a glass house.
DOROTHY I. MUNDY
A 'HYPENATED PERSPECTIVE'
New York City
Can I be at
war with myself? Watching the World Trade Center collapse, then
living through the aftermath, I ask that absurd question. I'm
American with a Muslim name but nondescript appearance. No one takes
me for Middle Eastern--I was born in West Virginia, and I'm only a
quarter Arab. But thanks to the peculiarities of history, and naming,
I have an Arab-American identity.
The attack on the World
Trade Center puts me in an awful place. Like everyone else, I am
horrified and angered. I could have been there, munching a bagel on
the observation deck. I can't imagine how someone could have planned
such an attack, and my shock is turning into anger and mourning. At
the same time, I feel excluded from the national unity. Why? As an
Arab-American, I'm subject to reprisals. I'm nervous, wondering if I
will somehow share the blame. Slurs, threats and even violence have
been leveled against anyone associated with Islam, and I wonder what
will happen to me. I'm looking for work--will I be denied a job? What
if a wider war breaks out? Will I lose my liberty?
friends have said I should go to Egypt. They meant well, but their
comments betrayed a misunderstanding that verges on racism. Hard as
it is for the safely white to comprehend, there is only one place for
me and other hyphenated Americans: the United States. America
produced me. My grandparents hail from four different countries.
Where else could they have created a family? If I'm out of place here
thanks to my name, I'm certainly out of place in the Middle East,
where I stick out as an American. What is left for me? Do we have to
pick sides in the end? And what can I do if neither side will have
me, if both treat me as the enemy?
Some of my fellow
citizens are striking out at American Muslims. Some are even calling
for a firestorm to be rained upon Islamic nations. Don't they see
that the terrorists had the same inspiration? The Afghans were caught
between the Soviet Union and the United States for decades. Their
country has been reduced to rubble. They have no hope. Violence
occurs in cycles, and, if we respond senselessly, striking innocent
people in our search for criminals, we'll create more radicals, more
suicide bombers who embody the despair of poverty and war. The
monopoly on violence is broken, and I shudder to think what comes
My situation brings a special clarity, one that
opposes choosing sides. What do I see from my hyphenated perspective?
The absurdity of labels, indeed, of the whole idea that race,
religion or flags divide humanity. I have a Muslim name, but my
grandfather was Serbian. How would that fly in the Balkans? Is the
world becoming a vast Balkan state?
I've wondered if I will
have to choose a side. If I do, here is my choice: pacifism and
dialogue. I choose love, I choose humanity. I may symbolize Islam to
some and America to others, but I transcend these distinctions. I am
proof that love conquers hate. My grandparents conquered tradition to
found my family, and I stand tall as an American born from a unique
and tolerant soil. What race produced me? The human race. I plead for
understanding and compassion. Chase the criminals, but let us then
begin to fight. Let us fight not for oil, money or revenge but for a
world where hatred and weapons belong to a distant, barbaric
'NEITHER IN THE EAST OR THE WEST'
I am an Arab-American. I am also a New Yorker born
in America of a Moroccan Muslim father. On September 11 I stood
terrified at my office window above Madison Square Garden, as I
watched in horror and disbelief the devastating destruction of the
World Trade Center--one of the quintessential landmarks of this city
I love. In the distance, down the soundless stretch of Seventh Avenue
hung the ghostly cloud of what moments before had been the mirror for
the Statue of Liberty, the thriving workplace of thousands of people
hailing from all over the planet, each living their portion of the
American dream. Read the names on the Wall of Prayers outside St.
Vincent's Hospital; they will tell you how the blow dealt to New York
truly hit the world, for the names are not only Mark, Jennifer and
Kevin, but Imran, Mohammed and Kumar. The terrorists who committed
this heinous act, if they were Muslim, are no more "my people" than
Timothy McVeigh was "the people" of Christians.
liberal Muslim, I must speak out with the clearest and loudest of
voices and not let fanatics and extremists define me and my
community. For we are in the vast majority--Muslims and Arabs who
condemn the killing of another human being, who believe that Allah is
compassionate and good and forgiving. Who know that the Koran forbids
suicide, who see life as a gift that must not be squandered. My
father taught me his favorite sura from the Koran, where God
is described as a "Light within Light, emanating from a source found
neither in the East nor in the West." The terrorists who carried with
them death and destruction shared neither my vision of Allah, nor my
vision of the world. They were men devoured by hate and stood only
I don't know if we will ever have a real
sense of how much was lost on September 11. I don't think I can ever
stop hearing the bells from the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
that tolled for the dead all day that Tuesday. I heard them as I
walked out of Central Park coughing from the soot and ash, my feet
blistered from the long trek to Harlem, away from the horror. I
feared so much was dying, I feared not just for my college friends,
graduate school buddies and neighbors who worked in those towers but
for my visions of peace and of a better world. I feared for my dream
of an end to the conflict in the Middle East--most likely that vision
had gone up in a cloud of smoke. What of my hopes of cultural
understanding, of erasing of stereotypes, of validating identity and
difference? That, too, had come tumbling down. The terrorists had
sounded the death knell for my vision of a better day to come.
But I will not let them do that. In memory of all those
who died, I will speak up loudly and not let terrorists write the
epitaph of our future. I will not let a handful of hatemongers, who
twisted the minds of desperate souls, convince more people that there
is no way out of despair but through destruction. The differences
that divide the Arab-Muslim world and the West are not a chasm that
nobody can bridge, and I will not let extremists on either side tell
me otherwise. I refuse to let hate draw the blueprints for our
ANISSA MARIAM BOUZIANE