In "A Different Israel" [August 5/12] Martha C. Nussbaum wrote that she became relaxed in her "moralistic heart" while accepting an honorary degree from the University of Haifa in May. She indicates she was able to wear the Star of David during the ceremony, while she never does when in her "anti-Zionistic frame of mind." The University of Chicago professor of ethics and law says her relaxation resulted from the peaceful cooperation in Haifa among Israelis and Arabs. The reason given for accepting the degree was to oppose the "ugly campaign" among academics to boycott Israeli universities.
One should distinguish between relaxation and anesthesia! Perhaps if Nussbaum had gone to Ramallah instead of Haifa, as an acquaintance of mine did recently, her "moralistic heart" would have remained awake. As Nussbaum did, my acquaintance is converting to the Jewish faith of her father and of her husband. Unlike Nussbaum, having seen the Star of David used by occupation troops as a graffiti symbol of hatred and humiliation, she does not feel comfortable wearing hers. Perhaps in Ramallah the campaign to boycott would not have looked quite so ugly.
CLAIBORNE M. CLARK
In Haifa University Martha C. Nussbaum found another Israel. But her praise for the university as a symbol of coexistence and peace belies the dismal reality of that campus, which does not (according to one of the many fallacies in her article) have "many Arab faculty members" but only six, out of 600. Her stress on the Arab-Jewish nature of the campus is particularly annoying, as Haifa University has been singled out in the past two years for its harsh and oppressive treatment of Arab students.
There is a university other than the one Nussbaum described after she received a precious prize there. I have been in the university since 1984, and I think what Nussbaum describes is more in line with the aspirations we had back then but has very little to do with the realities on campus today.
Haifa University nowadays is an institution that tried to expel me in May because of my claims that Israel committed an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the 1948 war--a claim that contradicts the Zionist narrative of that year. I have been prosecuted, and my tenure nearly annulled, for my support of an MA student who was disqualified for his revelation of an unknown massacre perpetrated by the IDF in the village of Tantura in 1948. Had it not been for overwhelming international pressure exerted on this "peace-loving" university, I would have been out of a job.
This university has silenced its Arab students. They are barred from any political activity on campus, while the Jewish union can openly preach its Zionist ideology. Arab students are discriminated against in accommodations and scholarship policies, and their basic rights as a national group totally denied.
It is hard enough to watch helplessly the demise of pluralism and free speech in Israel in general and at Haifa University in particular. It is worse when it is supplemented by embarrassingly pro-Israeli stances in the United States that either fail to see reality or, worse, are knowingly serving the present Israeli regime and its evil policies.
New York City
I agree with Martha Nussbaum about a "different Israel." I was invited to give a lecture in June at Ben Gurion University, where progressive, liberal and left scholars, activists and professional community workers in and outside national and local government were discussing ways to build a more just, peaceful and secure society in Israel.
I also met with ninety community organizers from Shatil, an independent, foundation-funded organization. For more than twenty years Shatil has worked in almost every distressed community in Israel and with its most excluded population groups. It has Israeli-Palestinian Arab, Bedouin and Druze staff, and Jews from many origins and cultures. They are engaged in coalition-building around the environment, intergroup relations, poverty, health, housing, education and welfare, and social insurance. With the informal support of some government planners, it is organizing an antipoverty movement, because the government is cutting back on the amount of social allowances and healthcare.
What was devastating to these articulate and involved progressive people was the sense of hopelessness about the larger political and military picture that surrounds them. They see no peacemakers on the horizon. They view Sharon and Arafat as warmongers and can't identify a single leader on either side who could shift the kaleidoscope toward peace and security.
They were buoyed momentarily in June because for the first time a group of Palestinian scholars, activists and poets wrote an open letter in Arabic to their leaders calling for an end to suicide bombings and for negotiations. Just as many of us here are working hard to improve the quality of life and conditions for people in this country despite Bush Administration policies, so are many Israelis. There is another Israel, and it must be seen.
Claiborne Clark's odd logic holds that if a nation is doing anything bad, there cannot possibly be any good in it. This demonization of an entire people is just the sort of nonthinking that produces ethnic violence all over the world; it is all too common between Palestinians and Israelis. To counter this pernicious tendency, we need to find examples that show that cooperation is possible and that peace and justice are not impossibly utopian aspirations. I therefore welcome Terry Mizrahi's letter and agree with everything it says. I can add that the group of Palestinians whose letter opposing suicide bombings has by now been widely published is headed by Sari Nusseibeh, a courageous politician, philosopher and university administrator who is one of the best hopes for responsible leadership on the Palestinian side. Nusseibeh is so far from supporting the boycott of Israeli scholars that he has written books with some, and he makes a point of speaking at international conferences that include Israeli speakers. When in the United States, he insists on addressing both Arab and Jewish audiences.
Clark also gives an inaccurate impression of my article. I said that I decided to accept the honorary degree both as a statement of opposition to the boycott of Israeli scholars and as an opportunity to make a public statement about issues of global justice that have implications for the just solution to the conflict. As I recorded, I was encouraged to make such a speech and did so. (My position is roughly that of Amram Mitzna, mayor of Haifa and candidate for leadership of the Labor Party, who favors immediate resumption of negotiations, eventual evacuation of the settlements and a partition of Jerusalem.) I can now add that the identity of other recipients of honorary degrees at the ceremony, including Joschka Fischer, the German Green Party foreign minister, encouraged me to believe that this ceremony was a celebration of dissent and the search for justice. What surprised me was that I found in Haifa an entire city that makes peaceful cooperation and the search for a just solution a way of life, that understands Zionism as I do, as a moral commitment, not a commitment to nationalistic triumph. No moral commitment is without struggle, since we live in an imperfect human world. But it seems right to focus on reasons for hope at a time when too many are losing hope.
I had not heard of Ilan Pappé before I went to Haifa, and I am not in a position to speak about his grievances against the university. I therefore prefer to cite an official statement by the university, responding to his letter:
"During the course of the past years Dr. Pappé has waged a puzzling and eccentric one-man campaign to defame his colleagues and the University of Haifa. The university has reacted with great patience to his curious and unethical behavior as the issue of academic freedom and freedom of speech is of great concern to us. Dr. Pappé's letter is predictably and consistently inaccurate. Here we will address only the most conspicuous nonissues raised in his letter.
"1. Contrary to his claims that there are only six Arab lecturers at the University of Haifa, there are in fact sixty-two, nineteen of them in tenure-track positions. This modest number is constantly rising. Moreover, there are more Arab faculty members at the University of Haifa than at any other Israeli university.
"2. The University of Haifa is proud of its efforts in recruiting Arab students and offering them a wide range of affirmative-action programs. The Arab students are, themselves, aware of these programs and, as such, tend to choose Haifa over other colleges and universities in the country. In fact about 18 percent of our student body are members of Israel's Arab community. No other university in the country has such a large percentage of minority students.
"3. We are dismayed by Dr. Pappé's bewildering claim that Arab students have been barred from political activity while their Jewish peers preach Zionist ideology with impunity. Nothing can be further from the truth. Despite the impossible situation of daily life in Israel and the tense, close encounters between Jews and Arabs on campus, we have upheld a brave policy of full and uncensored freedom of expression. Our only limitations were short and limited moratoriums on demonstrations during exceptional periods (when, for example, some of our students were killed in terrorist attacks). These limitations applied to Jews and Arabs alike. Moreover, even during the most stressful times, we did not limit other features of free speech (fliers, information booths, political assemblies, etc.).
"4. Dr. Pappé's assertion that Arab students suffer discrimination in student housing is a mystery. During the course of the academic year 2001-2, the percentage of Arab students in our dorms reached 30 percent, while the percentage of Arab students at the university is about 18 percent.
"5. Contrary to his claims, the university made no attempt to expel Dr. Pappé. One of his colleagues did indeed lodge a complaint with the internal faculty disciplinary committee. The complaint focused on Dr. Pappé's unethical efforts to disbar his colleagues from international forums for daring to contradict his views. The complaint had nothing to do with his political views, which are shared by other members of the campus community. Moreover, Dr. Pappé has omitted the important fact that he was never summoned by the disciplinary committee, as the committee's chairperson decided not to pursue the complaint in its present form.
"6. As for the MA thesis mentioned by Dr. Pappé, the claims in this study were the subject of a court case, during the course of which the student-author of the paper tendered a court-sanctioned, written apology for misrepresentations. Following the court settlement, the student was offered the opportunity to revise his MA thesis.
"In sum, Dr. Pappé does not appear to be concerned to give
readers of The Nation a full and accurate account of the facts.
Needless to say, despite his odd and unethical behavior, we shall
continue to invest efforts and resources for securing our island of
sanity in this troubled region.
--University of Haifa"
MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM
A LAUGH, A CRY...
To Tony Kushner: Thank you so much for your words, for the heart and soul behind them, for your humor and for bringing tears to my eyes each time (so far twice) I have read "A Word to Graduates: Organize!" [July 1] I hope to organize more.
PUSHING PILLS FOR PROFIT
I applaud Marc Siegel for exposing the hazards of direct-to-consumer drug advertising in "Fighting the Drug (Ad) Wars" [June 17]. You might think that as a women's health advocate I'd welcome direct-to-patient appeals and an emphasis on prevention. But ads are not unbiased. Their promises to cure and prevent everything from allergies and depression to cancer and heart disease downplay--or leave out altogether--the serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects of the pills they push.
AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen, has urged healthy women to ask their doctors to prescribe a heavy-duty drug to reduce breast cancer risk, despite a wide array of dangerous side effects, from endometrial cancer to deep-vein blood clots. Because the Food and Drug Administration, still leaderless, is turning its back, new consumer health coalitions like Prevention First, whose members accept no funds from pharmaceutical firms, are calling for a ban on these ads. Lowering the risk of breast cancer, indeed good health generally, is much more likely to result from clean air and water, healthy food and unbiased information than from popping pills with life-threatening potential.
BARBARA BRENNER, executive director,
Breast Cancer Action
'THE [UNEXPURGATED] HOUSE I LIVE IN'
I was pleased to see Dick Flacks and Peter Dreier highlight my grandfather and Earl Robinson's song "The House I Live In" ["Patriotism's Secret History," June 3]. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the song is making a significant comeback. When I noticed in November that it had been played on Entertainment Tonight, I wrote a piece about the song and my grandfather's politics, which appeared in the February issue of O. Meanwhile, the short 1944 movie by the same name starring Frank Sinatra appears regularly on the Turner Classic Movie channel, and Michael Feinstein has recorded the song, the proceeds of which he is donating to the September 11 fund.
One important fact about "The House I Live In" will not be apparent to those who only see the Sinatra movie or hear his recording. My grandfather wrote the following lines in one of the verses: "The house I live in/My neighbors white and black." Flacks and Dreier correctly note that "the song evokes America as a place where all races can live freely"--however, that particular line was omitted from the Sinatra versions, recorded and onscreen. I believe only Paul Robeson's recording includes those lines.
Readers who want to learn more about my grandfather should see, in the Spring issue of American Music, a scholarly article by Dr. Nancy Kovaleff Baker, "Abel Meeropol (a k a Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience."
New York City
Jack Newfield's June 17 lead article "The Full Rudy" called Rudy Giuliani "a C-plus Mayor who has become an A-plus myth." What would it have taken to give him a failing grade?
You might re-examine the pluses you award him (e.g., for the drop in crime, which began under Dinkins and was pretty much nationwide) and two minuses the article didn't mention: Giuliani's heartless treatment of Haitian refugees as a federal officer during the 1980s and the vicious racism that marked his successful campaign to oust New York's first black mayor. Newfield could have shed some light on why he and a few other white liberal journalists supported Giuliani in that campaign.
JOHN L. HESS
Jack Newfield's comment about the former mayor of New York, "They don't allow this kind of behavior in trailer parks!" is inappropriate and deeply disappointing in a progressive magazine. Replace "trailer parks" with "public housing" or "Indian reservations," and you'll see what I mean. The Trailer Trash stereotype is an expression of bigotry based on socioeconomic class. That residents of mobile homes are largely white and rural should not make working-class people fair game for leftist scorn.
WHICH WAY TO THE POOL?
In a letter in the July 8 issue, John Bradley presents the appealingly egalitarian notion that women might "have it all" by following the strategy of high-achieving men: choosing a man "younger, poorer and less educated than themselves." I would be much obliged if Bradley could identify that pool of men who would even consider a date with a woman older, richer and more educated than themselves, let alone be willing to marry one, raise her children and tend to her emotional well-being.
AIPAC--SHOW US THE MONEY!
Michael Massing's June 10 piece, "The Israel Lobby," is the first article I've read in a US publication that even mentions the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In England, I listened to a show on BBC radio that dealt with the same subject. It amazed me that I had to go to another country to get an in-depth analysis of the relationship between this powerful lobbying group and Washington. It seems that since 9/11 one has to do this more and more to get the real story--or any story at all.
Port Matilda, Pa.
While it isn't news that AIPAC is so influential in Washington, it is noteworthy that the organization and its effect on policy is so underreported. I can't imagine a story on guns without mention of the NRA or one on workplace safety without mention of the influence of the AFL-CIO. And when did an abortion story last appear without position statements from NARAL and/or Right to Life?
MARK J. STEVENSON
San Rafael, Calif.
Michael Massing is correct: "AIPAC is widely regarded as the most powerful foreign-policy lobby in Washington." Much of its power lies in the concealment from the media and therefore from public scrutiny of the degree of its financial dealings and the political use of this wealth. Unlike other lobbies, AIPAC keeps its cards close to its chest. Despite the Federal Election Commission rules requiring lobbies to register with the FEC and open their books to the public, this behemoth has managed to do neither. It rules in secret and is so massively involved in Washington politics that few senators or congressmen will vote on an issue without ringing up AIPAC to determine which way to vote.
AIPAC, collecting money from over a hundred Jewish PACs, directs just how it will be spent, pouring millions into the campaigns of candidates who vote the AIPAC way while funneling millions to the opponents of those seen as voting out of step with AIPAC.
In an attempt to bring this monster under public scrutiny, in January 1989 then-Under Secretary of State George Ball, then-Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Atkins and then-Illinois Congressman Paul Findley filed a complaint with the FEC, charging AIPAC with failing to register as a political action committee. After almost nine years, as AIPAC fought this through the courts, the plaintiffs received a favorable 8-2 decision in circuit court, only to have the Supreme Court toss the too-hot issue back to the FEC, asking it to review its decision.
In December 1999 the FEC waffled, citing insufficient evidence. The surviving plaintiffs have appealed that decision. I refer readers to two books: Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out and The Passionate Attachment, by George and Douglas Ball.
EDWARD W. MILLER
NOW--HAPPY TO HEAR IT...
New York City
Your April 8 "In Fact..." column carried the following item: "Some thirty public television stations suspended Bill Moyers's NOW during pledge drives, apparently on the theory that the program's controversial stories might offend donors." While we appreciate The Nation's interest in public television's programming, the implication of this story is wrong.
We at PBS do not know of any member station that has pre-empted NOW during pledge drives out of concern that the show might offend donors. Just the opposite, station and viewer feedback on NOW has been overwhelmingly positive. Stations frequently alter their schedules during pledge drives. Such long-running shows as American Experience, Masterpiece Theatre and NOVA have all been pre-empted to accommodate the specific formats and objectives of pledge drives, so it would not be at all unusual for the same to happen with NOW.
Senior vice president
Co-chief program executive, PBS
DAVE DOES DAVIS
Thank you, thank you, thank you for Gene Santoro's "Folk's Missing Link" [April 22]. I first heard Dave Van Ronk at The Catacombs or the Second Fret in Philadelphia in the early sixties. When I moved to northern California in 1971 I despaired of enjoying him in person again--I knew he didn't like to fly--but then I discovered that he, somehow, had a special relationship with a little club in Davis, California, called The Palms, in a rundown barn south of the freeway. I got my semiannual Van Ronk fix there. Now he's gone and the barn is to be torn down, but I will keep the faith by teaching still more generations of field-trippers in my ecology courses the tune and lyrics of "Rompin' in the Swamp." Ave atque vale, Dave.
ARTHUR M. SHAPIRO
THE INCLINED PLANE OF HIS HEAD
Sierra Madre, Calif.
Calvin Trillin is quite right in observing that Dick Cheney has perfected the art of the tilted head ["Cheney's Head: An Explanation," June 24], but I don't think Cheney invented the maneuver. A perusal of 1988 campaign footage will reveal that Michael Dukakis often assumed the slanted-head position. He was preceded by the master of that maneuver, the late Rod Serling, who frequently appeared with his head at an angle in his opening segments for The Twilight Zone.
LE PEN IN FRANCE...
Far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen's upset in the first round of French presidential voting was variously ascribed to rising xenophobia in Western Europe, a crisis of the French left, rising crime rates in France and other possibilities. Doug Ireland, in "Le Pen: The Center Folds" [May 13], subscribes to all three. Yet the evidence doesn't necessarily corroborate these explanations. Instead, what we saw was a major breakdown of France's two-round runoff method of electing the president.
A full 64 percent of voters supported candidates other than the two who advanced to the runoff. Many left voters, looking to send a message of dissatisfaction to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round, split their support among seven candidates. Together, left-leaning candidates, led by Jospin, garnered more than 40 percent of the vote--and divided, none polled enough votes to make the runoff. Le Pen, with 17 percent of the vote--a mere 250,000-vote increase, virtually the same popular vote he won in his other failed presidential runs--benefited from this vote-splitting.
Jospin learned what Al Gore knows all too well: In a plurality electoral system, spoiler candidates and split votes can plague the results. France's use of instant runoff voting rather than a two-round runoff would have prevented its electoral meltdown. With IRV, left voters could have sent a message to Jospin by awarding their highest rankings to other candidates but would have had the option of ranking Jospin as one of their runoff choices. During the ballot counting their votes would have coalesced around Jospin as their front-runner, who would have made it to the instant runoff over the marginalized Le Pen, who has very little runoff support from any other parties or candidates.
Yes, electoral systems do matter--sometimes dramatically. Just ask Al Gore.
Center for Voting and Democracy
New York City
I've long favored instant runoff voting, but Hill's suggestion that there has been no marked increase in French racism and its political expression is shockingly ostrichlike. Hill's facts are wrong: The parties of Jospin's governing coalition--Parti socialiste, Parti communiste, les Verts and Mouvement de radicaux de gauche--together polled only a little more than 26 percent. Hill's claim that the 10.5 percent won by three anti-Jospin Trotskyists and the 5.5 percent won by the Pôle republicain (which asserted that there was no real difference between Jospin and Chirac) should be included in the score of the left "led" by Jospin could only be made by someone ignorant about French politics. Le Pen got nearly 1 million votes more than he did in '95 (while the governing parties of left and right together lost some 5.5 million votes, as I pointed out).
Hill may not think that's a significant increase, but the French obviously did--daily demos poured more than 500,000 of them into the streets after Le Pen's victory to oppose his racist program, which includes setting up special "camps" for immigrants and special trains to deport them; and nearly all major parties, unions, media, sports stars, the patronat (MEDEF) and even the Catholic Episcopate called for an anti-Le Pen vote in the runoff.
Those who, in their obsession with process, exclude the content of politics from their considerations do so at our peril. The increasing demand in France for replacing the Gaullist constitution of the Fifth Republic does nothing to address the root causes of mounting racism while allowing politicians to pretend to have responded to the electoral evidence of France's racial fracture. And the most visible expression of this demand--the Committee for a Sixth Republic (C6R) led by Socialist deputy Arnaud de Montebourg--sadly does not include IRV in its proposals.
...AND CHÁVEZ IN VENEZUELA
In "The Coup That Wasn't" [May 6] Marc Cooper contrasts Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez with former Chilean President Salvador Allende, saying, "Chávez has failed to produce much of the radical change he promised." Cooper needs a wake-up call. This is 2002, a time when the constraints on economic policy in Latin America are greater than ever. Never has capital been more mobile and more capable of disciplining governments that attempt to embark upon radical change. If Allende were governing Chile today, he'd recognize the constraints and think twice about nationalizing one industry after another, as he did in the early 1970s.
Considering the constraints the Chávez government has had to operate under, it has achieved some notable reforms. In a recent interview with Le Monde Diplomatique editor Ignacio Ramonet, Chávez lays out some of his government's achievements: "We have lowered unemployment...created more than 450,000 new jobs.... Venezuela has moved up four places on the Human Development Index. The number of children in school has risen 25 percent. More than 1.5 million children who didn't go to school are now in school, and they receive clothing, breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. We have carried out massive immunization campaigns in the marginalized sectors of the population. Infant mortality has declined. We are building more than 135,000 housing units for poor families. We are distributing land to landless campesinos. We have created a Women's Bank that provides micro-credit loans. In the year 2001, Venezuela was one of the countries with the highest growth rates on the continent, nearly 3 percent.... We are delivering the country from prostration and backwardness."
Cooper makes no mention of this, nor does he say anything about the hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelans who descended upon Caracas in defense of their temporarily ousted president. Most scandalous is Cooper's repetition of the coup plotters' version of events, as he claims that Chávez "turned police and armed supporters against peaceful protesters...provoking a shootout that injured scores and killed more than a dozen." Cooper never points out that this version of events is highly contested. Several witnesses to the bloodshed, including former Fulbright scholar Greg Wilpert and Kim Bartley, an Irish filmmaker, contend that unidentified snipers initiated the carnage, shooting into crowds of pro-Chávez demonstrators that had surrounded the Presidential Palace.
Repeating the coup plotters' version of events and invoking Salvador Allende's good name are shameful.
It has been claimed that Latin American governments opposed the coup in Venezuela. This is not accurate. Some governments denounced the coup (Argentina, Brazil), but other countries welcomed it (Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, among others). The OAS did not call for a return of the Chávez government; instead it called for the holding of elections as soon as possible, a de facto recognition of the coup.
In fact, it was part of the coup plan to use the OAS as a way of legitimizing itself. In fact, the coup government invited the OAS head, Cesar Gaviria (from Colombia), to go to Venezuela to help with the "transition to institutionality." The OAS, however, was overtaken by events. The coup lost power, and by the time Gaviria arrived in Caracas, Chávez was back in power.
So we should not be fooled. The OAS was going to be used by Washington and the coup plotters. The "defense" of constitutionality by the OAS took place after Chávez was returned to the presidency.
Woodland Hills, Calif.
The global economic constraints described by Justin Delacour are indeed real. And if, as he suggests, Allende would today have to think twice about nationalizing foreign firms, then how can he defend Chávez's record? Instead of enacting authentic reform, Chávez chose the posture of a loud-mouth demagogue, only narrowing his parameters by rattling the cages of his very powerful adversaries. His playing pattycake with Saddam and Qaddafi and hide-and-seek with the ignoble Colombia guerrillas pissed off Uncle Sam and elicited laudatory editorials from Havana's Granma--and it put food on the table for exactly nobody and created jobs and housing for just as few.
Chávez might as well have nationalized the entire Venezuelan economy, for nothing could have further alienated his domestic financial and investment elites than his hypercharged revolutionary, but hollow, bluster. Yet Chávez imposed the same budget-slashing austerity of any neoliberal IMF adjustment program. Indeed, the only statistics I need to rebut Chávez's self-congratulatory list of accomplishments quoted by Delacour are the myriad pre-coup polls showing the Venezuelan president's popularity plummeting to around 30 percent. It seems the Venezuelan poor don't read Ignacio Ramonet and are ignorant of their impressively improving status.
As to who shot whom on the day of the botched coup: Wilpert, Delacour's star witness, has written in online accounts that armed Chávez supporters were involved in the bloodshed that took more than a dozen lives. Chávez has as much as admitted the same. That other forces may have been involved in the firefights--unnamed rooftop (or were they grassy knoll?) snipers, uniformed police acting on behalf of the opposition, sectarian squads, etc.--is still unclear. What is certain is that armed bands of Chávez supporters were present at an otherwise peaceful rally and were directly involved in the lethal mayhem. In an authentic civilian democracy, the president of the republic does not tolerate armed gangs, even of his own supporters. And they certainly don't show up, ready for action, at opposition rallies. In short, your enemy's enemy should not always be considered your friend. It's possible for both the US government and the Chávez administration to have similar if not equal disdain for democratic rule.
Professor Nelson Valdes is an always astute observer of Latin American affairs, but on this issue he's a tad off the mark. I fully share his suspicion as to the depth of democratic commitment to be found among OAS members. That said, during the thirty-hour period that President Chávez was displaced by Pedro Carmona, virtually no Latin American government recognized the latter's administration. This continental balk was hardly a dramatic rupture with Washington. But the gesture certainly contributed to the vacuum that eventually sucked the usurpers from power.
BRAVE'S NEW WORLD
Ralph Brave scores points off Francis Fukuyama by ridiculing the concept of human nature Fukuyama attempts to defend in his brief against genetic engineering and the "posthuman future" ["The Body Shop," April 22]. It's true that as part of an effort by some social conservatives to derail the uses of cloning and related biotechnologies to fabricate designer human embryos, Fukuyama falls into genetic determinism and other varieties of essentialism to characterize what he would like to preserve. But does the fact that human nature is changeable mean, therefore, that the production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests? Draw the line wherever you want and the technological-medical imperative will eventually roll over it. If you don't mind someone making stem cells from twelve-day clonal embryos, how about better stem cells from two-month clonal fetuses, transplantable livers from six-month clones, or bone marrow from clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains? If you don't mind parents genetically engineering their offspring so as to not develop hemophilia, how about to not be less than average height, to have perfect pitch, greater upper body strength?
Brave seems to think technology is, uncomplicatedly, something "we" produce to satisfy "our" needs. Thus the automobile industry has always just given us the vehicles we demanded, the fuel industry just wants to keep us mobile and comfortable indoors and the processed food companies just want to feed us. As we sit in traffic jams contemplating the climatological and health costs of such technological advances, we might also think about the consequences of adopting Brave's laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology, which looks as strange in the pages of The Nation as Fukuyama's technological skepticism does coming from the author of The End of History.
STUART A. NEWMAN
I used to feel heartened when Stuart Newman stepped forward as a scientist expressing concerns about genetic technologies. But his blatant misreading of my review now worries me. Nowhere do I advocate a "laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology," or that "production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests" or "clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains." Although Newman says it is impossible to "draw the line" to prevent unethical biomedical practices, it is done every day. Otherwise even Newman's own research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate limb development would be suspect.
On the serious issue of clonal embryos for stem cell research, the potential ability to create genetically matched tissues or organs to treat disease and injury is no small matter. The current need of transplant patients to use antirejection drugs for their entire lives, drugs that suppress the immune system, making them unable to defend against infection or cancer, is a treatment compromise that needs remedy. Criminalizing both the research to address this and the resulting therapies themselves, as Newman, Fukuyama and George W. Bush advocate, is what I would label "strange."
ALLAH GOD'S CHILDREN
Christopher Hitchens reminds us that of the three religions of Abraham--Islam, Christianity and Judaism--Islam is the only one that admits the legitimacy of the other two ["Minority Report," April 15]. A further reminder: The reason Jews have been able to pray at the Wailing Wall for nearly 500 years is that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Successor to the Prophet, Commander of the Faithful, Shadow of God upon Earth, ordered his chief architect to construct a porch for them to pay their duty to God at the most visible surviving portion of their ancient temple.
Christopher Hitchens, admired for his analysis of modern-day events, should be a bit more careful in his examination of earlier ones. The enlightened paradise of Muslim Spain may have indeed been dealt its death blow by Ferdinand and Isabella, but its much-vaunted tolerance ended many years before, in the twelfth century, when power was seized by the Almohads, a fanatical Islamic sect from Morocco, which does bear comparison to the Taliban. They waged a campaign of terror on all Christians and Jews, especially those with political power. Many Jews fled to the more tolerant Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, while others fled to more tolerant Islamic kingdoms. Among those who fled southward was the powerful family of Maimonides, which hailed from Córdoba but could suffer the brutal regime no longer. So it is a bit disingenuous of Hitchens to hold Maimonides up as a symbol of Muslim tolerance. Even in its best periods, Islamic history is no less checkered than our own.
FINKELSTEIN REBUTS NEUBORNE
In response to advertisements in The Nation for my book The Holocaust Industry, you took the unprecedented step of both effectively calling me a liar and providing Burt Neuborne with maximum space to defend himself ["Letters," Feb. 18]. In this brief rejoinder I will ignore Neuborne's witless comparison between me and Osama bin Laden. I will also not engage Neuborne's professional history. It bears notice, however, that a distinguished civil liberties record doesn't preclude--as the example of Alan Dershowitz vividly testifies--gross lapses in the name of tribal solidarity and for personal enrichment. Rather, I want to focus on the central question: Did Neuborne serve as lead counsel in a campaign to blackmail Switzerland?
A committee headed by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, exhaustively investigated the main charges against Switzerland. In his letter, Neuborne alleges that the committee's findings "validated the core allegations underlying the Swiss bank litigation." Consider, however, the Volcker committee's central findings:
(1) The lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks systematically denied Holocaust victims and their heirs access to their bank accounts after World War II. Yet, the Volcker committee found that "for victims of Nazi persecution there was no evidence of systematic discrimination, obstruction of access, misappropriation, or violation of document retention requirements of Swiss law";
(2) the lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks systematically shredded documents to cover their tracks. Yet, the Volcker committee concluded that "no evidence of systematic destruction of account records for the purpose of concealing past behaviour has been found";
(3) the lawsuits alleged that the Swiss banks pocketed $7 billion to $20 billion left in the accounts of Holocaust victims. The Volcker committee was unable to provide a monetary value for Holocaust-era dormant accounts. Since publication of the committee's report, however, new official data have become available. The value of accounts belonging to Holocaust victims thus far totals all of $10 million in current values with accrued interest. This figure is unlikely to climb anywhere near the $1.25 billion extracted from the Swiss banks in the final settlement (let alone the $7-20 billion initially demanded) after all the accounts are examined. Reporting on these findings, the Times of London headline read: "Swiss Holocaust cash revealed to be myth."
Indeed, the world's leading authority on the Nazi Holocaust, Raul Hilberg, has explicitly charged that the Holocaust industry conjured up "phenomenal figures" for the monetary value of Holocaust victim assets in Swiss banks and then coerced the banks into submission. "It was the first time in history," he goes on to observe, "that Jews made use of a weapon that can only be described as blackmail." No amount of liberal posturing by Neuborne can alter the fact that he played the pivotal role in a blackmail campaign.
NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN
BLACKLIST FILM--'SEASON'S BEST'
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Every now and then a major Hollywood film centers its plot upon the defense of the First Amendment. Imagine the surprise of Nation readers when Stuart Klawans dismisses The Majestic with three paragraphs of pure, if shallow, contempt! ["Films," Jan. 21] Don't be fooled, though. This film is the best of the season, and Jim Carrey is at the top of his form. The more you know about the real Hollywood Blacklist, the more you'll be able to appreciate the subtleties that seem to have eluded Klawans.
HUEY, MEET MO
John Nichols's "Huey Freeman: American Hero" [Jan 28] was immensely useful. I would like to add a feminist dyke cartoonist, Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, which appears in alternative papers. Bechdel's main character, Mo, who works at a women's bookshop, cries foul over Bush, flag-waving, big-box stores (e.g., Bunns n Noodles, Bounders n Muzak, Papaya Republic, Baby Gag) and the general straight and gay cultural/political landscape is not to be overlooked. Readers can find her on the web at www.planetout.com/entertainment.
Hundreds of readers, aged 16 to 94, replied to our request for
letters detailing how September 11 changed (or didn't) "your views of
your government, your country, your world, your life." Many responses
are personal: A husband and wife separate; family members no longer
speak to one another; a woman searches for, and finds, her biological
father--all impelled by the fallout of that day. New Yorkers--and
others--report sleeping less soundly; a Brooklyn man leaps from bed in
the night at the sound of crashing booms, rushes to the window... and
finds it's a thunderstorm. A woman recovering from a Caesarean section
watches the towers fall from her hospital room and wonders what sort of
world her son, born the day before, will grow up in. A reader whose 9/11
birthday has become a deathday vows to light a candle this birthday "in
hope for our world that one day 9/11 will become a day that...changed us
for the better." Below is a selection.
Largely because of my age--75--September 11 didn't change my life one iota. Except for this: My reaction to the fascist foragings of John Ashcroft and the dude who sponsored him, "Shrub," has been to rejoin the ACLU after an absence of twenty-seven years.
How has my life changed since September 11? My life goes on much the same--except that I'm not living in America anymore. In America, people are not disappeared. In America, cherished constitutional rights are not abolished with the stroke of a pen. In America, disagreeing with the government doesn't make you a terrorist. In America, ordinary citizens don't have to wonder whether their e-mail is being read and phone conversations taped by government agents. In America, there is no Ministry of Truth (for telling lies) or Ministry of Love (for making war). America doesn't wage unending war. America doesn't casually threaten first-strike use of nuclear weapons. I see the nation I love, in its fear and rage, stinging itself to death like a scorpion.
New Haven, Conn.
Our government's militaristic response to the crimes of 9/11 and the failure of the Democratic Party to challenge Bush's flawed and self-serving war on terrorism pushed me, after thirty-four years as an active antiwar Democrat, into working for the Green Party in our November 2001 municipal elections. Today, I am a Green Party candidate for the US House of Representatives.
Unlike the "Arthur Andersen Democrats" and the "Enron Republicans" against whom I'm running, I am a patriot who is not afraid to challenge the so-called Patriot Act, which guts the Bill of Rights, or the "war" on terrorism, which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians, created more terrorists, earned more profits for military contractors and made the world safer for oil companies but more dangerous for the rest of us. Vote Green in November.
September 11 changed my life because of the government's immediate response and continuing abuse of it as an excuse to erode civil liberties. So what have I done? I subscribed to The Nation for the first time ever (I'm 25), and so far have given away three gift subscriptions. I began giving money monthly to environmental and pro-choice organizations, as well as regular donations to the ACLU. Motivated by John Ashcroft's total disregard for the Constitution, I will be going to law school in the fall of 2003 to join the ranks of those who work on the side of justice that strengthens and protects civil liberties.
I was in the Pentagon on September 11. Our office was on the opposite side of the building, and as we filed out none of us guessed how horrible it was until we saw, from the parking lot, the columns of smoke. That first evening, amid the shock and sense of loss, I thought, "This is what blowback really means." No one can excuse Al Qaeda's murderous hatred, but I now realize that this terror network was made possible by the arms and money we provided the Afghan mujahedeen during our demented anti-Soviet crusade. Those Americans who supported these thugs and psychopaths should be ashamed. Whenever I see that antidrug ad that claims that buying pot helps terrorists, I am reminded that our own cold war "patriots" helped to slaughter 3,000 people, and tried to kill me at my desk.
Prior to 9/11 I spent my 83 years maturing in a cocoon spun by America's fuzzy, heroic image. While well aware of its flaws, I had been sustained by an aura of essential good will as we fought fascism, rebuilt Europe, forgave former enemies. My cocoon erupted on 9/11, and I emerged irate but deeply troubled by the vision of an America that would justify such an attack. I realized our Marshall Plan spirit had morphed into a superpower mentality, where political problems are solved by bombs rather than sweet reason: Witness Vietnam, Baghdad, Panama City, Belgrade, Afghanistan. With knee-jerk enthusiasm we've obliterated infrastructures and dealt out "collateral damage" to poor nations. No wonder we've become a target for organized hate. Can we curb our arrogance and revive our image as people of good will before we self-destruct?
LLOYD EDWARD SLATER
I am of the generation that reached maturity in the 1960s and '70s. A time of struggle and pain, yes, but also of hope. We marched, fought, demanded a new world paradigm. Comes Reagan and my righteous generation finds greed. What then happened to that promise? Sweet upward mobility; the dawn of our renunciation. The 2000 election fiasco. A leader takes power by judicial coup and not a whimper from the streets, and I cannot comprehend. I am lost.
September 11. Our hand is forced. The time for intelligence, discussion, debate, understanding, reflection has come, yes?
No. Wrong again. Now we love our fear. Good versus Evil this is, and we joyfully surrender our liberties, our humanity and embrace a permanent state of war with an omnipotent, omnipresent enemy. Our new paradigm: sadism. I am not prepared for such a savage reversal of fortune. I am ashamed.
After the savage attacks on September 11, I felt scared, angry, confused. Days later, I found my way to an interfaith service at All Saints Church in Pasadena. I was deeply moved by the scriptural readings, prayers and songs offered by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others. Out of that healing event, we created Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (www.icujp.org), which has been the center of my personal efforts to contribute to greater understanding and lasting reconciliation between people of all nationalities and beliefs. At a study group arranged by ICUJP, I sat next to an African-American Muslim teacher. He turned to me and said he didn't have a Torah. I responded that I didn't have a Koran. At the next meeting, we exchanged our holy scriptures. It brought us closer together, and we have become friends.
STEPHEN F. ROHDE
After the initial shock/grief came the stunned recognition of the despair and deep hatred felt against the United States, then finally the gut-wrenching knowledge that the vast majority of US citizens love being hated. They shower approval on the Administration and Congress for every piece of legislation that increases US killing power, entrenches inroads on constitutional freedoms and inflicts economic and physical handicaps and health hazards on all the populations of the planet.
The Pentagon/Administration response to the "act" was so fast, the erosion of civil liberties so quickly and deftly accomplished, flags blanketed the continent so speedily and providentially--I can't help but think that the act of terrorism was not only expected but that contingency plans had been prepared months, perhaps years in advance--a Stalinist-type master plan. These duplicitous plans have been welcomed and incorporated into everyday living with hardly a ripple to indicate a residue of thoughtfulness or alternative possibilities.
Yes, I am changed. I am ashamed of my country and bitterly acknowledge that there is no prospect of new directions.
September 11 changed my life by directing my 94-year-old, still-functioning wits and remaining energies from the sheltered smugness of an assisted-living home out again into the real world with a determined campaign to compel G.W. Bush to answer this key question: Why were no jets commanded to divert those three lethal hijacked planes after each had appeared off-course on radar and all failed to obey the orders of air controllers? Why, Mr. Bush?
JANE SHERMAN LEHAC
Liars! From the very top on down, my government does not know the meaning of the word "truth." In light of the billions of dollars we spend on electronic communication monitoring installations at Menwith Hill, Britain, and at several sites in the continental United States, we taxpayers have been deceived. Our NSA claims to have worldwide monitoring capabilities over all electronic communications.
It is inconceivable that with all the electronic communications before 9/11, some intelligence was not deciphered and passed on to the appropriate officials. When, where, by whom was the necessary intelligence intercepted, interpreted, analyzed, collated and forwarded to the responsible agencies and parties? Polygraphs everyone?
JAMES B. BURKHOLDER
Colonel, US Army, retired
September 11 has reinforced all my negatives: suspicion of government motives; frustration at the perpetuation of failed policies; horror at the immense war budget; fear of nuclear proliferation; opposition to oppressive and domineering globalization; anger at support given to repressive regimes while raving and ranting at Cuba; despair that an equitable Middle East solution cannot override oil interests; and finally, that we are doing absolutely nothing to address the grievances of "terrorists" while eroding our own democracy and allowing degradation of the environment.
September 11 is an American hegemonical construct, a good guys vs. evil vision that is as much a part of American cultural imperialism as McDonald's or the latest Hollywood movie. Sycophantic French politicians and intellectuals (like Bernard Henri-Levy) quickly proclaimed that "we are all Americans." The result has been a frustrating diversion from the real issues. To limit the discussion to terrorism--who has the world's biggest arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? Who refuses to sign any treaty outlawing them, or landmines for that matter? Who--and for good reason--refuses to reject genocide or pre-emptive nuclear strikes? The biggest threat to world peace today is not minuscule terrorist groups but the US government. As an American who has lived in France for the past twenty years, for me September 11 epitomizes the self-centered worldview of too many of my countrymen.
I have not felt so alienated from this country since Nixon was elected to a second term after Watergate and all his misdeeds in Southeast Asia. I was so devastated by the instantaneous deaths of so many people, and then so appalled by the nationalistic frenzy, the lust for revenge and the level of pure propaganda in the mainstream media. So much emotional manipulation, so little cogent analysis. Having Bush in the White House made it all much harder for me, given his general ignorance of foreign affairs and his entourage of cold warriors. I have never appreciated the alternative press, especially The Nation, so much.
North Bend, Ore.
I'm a Democrat and former Green Beret with a BA in political science and get my news primarily from ABC, NPR and BBC radio. After Al Qaeda spectacularly murdered a couple thousand Americans, we "brought death" to Afghanistan in retaliation, belying "Clinton's weakening" of our forces. That twice as many Afghan citizens died collaterally, many Americans died from friendly fire and Al Qaeda apparently returned to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, might bear investigation. No?
On the home front, our Attorney General has, modestly, hidden Justice, and God knows what else, but the anthrax murders remain unsolved. Our National Security Adviser's patent culpability for the attack's success is unremarked upon. Republicans' malfeasance, ideological incoherence and compassionless corporatism, ever more glaring, go unchallenged. Do most Americans still want a national health plan? Yes?
Nothing has changed, nor will it unless Democrats fix Dumbya and try a testicular implant (metaphorically speaking, of course!).
Long Beach, Calif.
September 11 is a lot about the enemy from without. But the enemy from without will never, try though it may, extinguish the American experiment. We Americans, on the other hand, are armed and capable of such a result. As I fear us more than them, September 11 has little changed my life.
I am of Indian origin and before September 11 learned to avoid racism by presenting myself in a relentlessly middle-class fashion. And if the precise diction, discreet deodorant and the late-model four-door sedan proved insufficient, then out came the race card. "Is my race a problem?" I would ask with a faint British intonation. I felt a sense of entitlement in challenging the closet racial profiler to deny his own prejudices.
But 9/11 changed all that. My identity as a comfortably assimilated immigrant who moves easily among various cultures, languages and geographical regions has been shown to be a fragile myth. To the security guards at the malls, airports and theme parks around the country, I look like the sister of the nineteen hijackers. My cosmopolitanism, my ability to read ancient Tamil love poetry, my advanced degrees become irrelevant in the face of such appalling culpability.
"We'll never be the same," broadcasters kept pronouncing while replaying jets slamming towers. That sounded so false, from people worried about their makeup surviving marathon airtime. (Do I seem cold?) My firstborn son died from an auto accident on August 11, 2001. I don't expect to be the same. A month later, I felt families' desperate waits, dwindling hopes. Not the urge for revenge; I lacked that option. Leaders who scare me more than bin Laden jumped to exploit the revenge rush, while the "commentariat" lock-stepped in boosting an amorphous war, blowing off civil liberties. My faith in journalism tanked. I'm a freelance reporter. An apparent economic fallout from 9/11 was the folding of a little alternative magazine I wrote for. I still feel powerless, but better since visiting a conference to interview peacebuilders from several continents. Their spirits moved me. Accustomed to danger, children dying, they hadn't given up.
Flat Gap, Ky.
Everything changed with the Supreme Court's appointment of George W. Bush, not with the events of September 11. Like a bicycle ride along a peaceful country road when a pack of dogs run out from nowhere and bite your ankle, any sense of security is now an open wound. Even the dogs on your own front porch become suspect and you lose your trust.
CATHERINE S. WELLS
Omaha Indian Reservation, Macy, Neb.
On September 11, Ariel Sharon said all Americans are Israelis, learning that terror can strike anywhere, anywhen. With equal conviction, Yasir Arafat might have said all Americans are Palestinians, compelled to retaliation and pre-emption. Although these metaphors are apt, neither is accurate.
Rather, it may be said with supreme justification that all Americans are Native American Indians, living under occupation by a hostile government ever ready to liquidate our life, liberty, property--our pursuit of happiness--in conducting an endless, self-righteous campaign.
Presaging the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has extraordinary powers, employing DOJ, FBI, CIA and military enforcement and investigations. Intelligence responsibilities are debated, ignoring our experiences: Feds rarely uncover evidence; they create it, solving mysteries and preventing disasters only by expropriating the work of others. Their goals are to destroy, not protect; to master, not serve. Heed us, America. Our plight is yours--our history, your future.
J. WILLIAM MORELAND
Chief Judge, Omaha Tribal Court
I'm a 73-year-old retired American academic who witnessed the events of September 11 on CNN here in Poland. Initial reactions: outrage, angry "patriotism" and a powerful helplessness. As reason replaced reaction, those feelings diminished.
The attack? Inevitable. Built on US ignorance and arrogance and exclusion. Why do they hate us? Years of ruinous intervention and destabilization of Third World countries, especially those seeking self-determination in leftist political movements. September 11 unleashed religious and political fundamentalist zeal, a manic frenzy of "security" threatening constitutional safeguards.
Polish officials assured me of protection. As an Arab-American, would I suffer abuse at home? Life-change? Yes. 9/11 sharpened my sense of responsibility for others. Sadly, the hatred that generated the attacks has not provoked objective intellectual examination of cause, has only brought a violent reactionary backlash effect. The conscience of America remains where it was: anesthetized by greed, racism, nationalism and impotent leadership.
JAMES E. HASHIM
I drive tractor-trailers, tankers. I could do great harm to thousands of people without learning or buying a thing, with a good chance of getting away and doing it again. The fitful inspections of a few trucks after 9/11 are long gone. Since neither means nor opportunity need restrain anyone's hand for long, I was naïve enough to hope that 9/11 might launch some citizen debate on applying the golden rule to the rest of the planet. Our collective reaction to 9/11 has taught me that self-interest and intelligence are not as intertwined as I had hoped.
September 11 haiku:
among the rubble
the chickens come home to roost
waking us up now
I am a songwriter and visual artist, and I thought I would go home
that evening to document the day in words and images, but I found I
couldn't. I just watched the smoke rising, from my window in Brooklyn. I
found that there were experiences too deep for words or songs. That
night I wrote in my journal:
I have no songs to sing, until I can sing all songs
I try to speak, but I have no voice until I can have all voices
I would call on God but I think that God will only answer
to all of his names, spoken as one.
There were oblique benefits. There was commercial-free network TV for four days after 9/11. The twin towers had been the worst hazard of all on the Atlantic flyway, and during three decades of autumn and spring migration on a few mornings, fallouts of thousands of shorebirds and passerines lay on the asphalt below them.
The worst did not occur. If planes had been flown into the Indian Point and Three Mile Island reactors, probably failing to penetrate the containment chambers but destroying the surrounding cooling systems, there could have been millions dead and dying after meltdown.
And there was unintended bathos. In the hours following, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf suggested that it might have been the Montana Militia.
What surprises and disappoints me is how little has changed since the terrorist attacks. I thought the horrific death and destruction on our own soil so clearly demonstrated hatred and resentment toward us that we would work ceaselessly to implement an evenhanded approach to Israel and Palestine. I thought our leaders would ask us to make some sacrifices, and we'd give up our SUVs and other aspects of our everyday life built on oil gluttony and being beholden to Saudi Arabia. I thought a successful attack with box-cutters would highlight the stupidity of "missile defense" and we'd begin to change how we spent our defense dollars. I thought we'd finally acknowledge we need transportation diversity and begin creating a healthy passenger rail system with less dependence on air travel. I thought we'd become less unilateral and work harder to build alliances and honor treaties. I was so wrong.
Stony Brook, NY
September 11 has not changed my life. It has accentuated and invigorated my desire to return home, to Jaffa, Palestine, as soon as possible. I am a graduate student at a US university, and I have not felt as strong a desire to return to my culture, national history and values as in the aftermath of what has become an American right to a moment in time called "9/11."
I came to this country with as little animosity as possible for a Third World colonized citizen, hoping to refute all I had learned as a child. I am about to leave with repugnance, wrath and hopelessness toward an arrogant, brutally hypocritical, mass-destructive autocracy, the United States of America, governed not only by its political head but by its willfully ignorant people.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Having come to America from the Philippines, a country colonized by Spain and the United States and then brutalized by the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, I learned early the meaning and the beauty of freedom. The longer I lived here, the better I appreciated how precious freedom has been in all its manifestations.
Then came September 11. In a matter of minutes, I learned that the thing I have held as so sacred in my life could also be fragile. Why, why? How could there be so much hate when America is the one country that has welcomed people of all colors, races and religious creeds to share in its blessings of freedom?
September 11 taught me more than ever that America is worth fighting and dying for; that out of the ashes, we shall emerge stronger and more united, and that my adopted country will continue to be a shining beacon for the rest of the world.
REMIGIO G. LACSAMANA
I lost my brother to murder in 1984. Some people reacted with dismay that my opposition to the death penalty didn't change. Did they think this principle was based on some bizarrely naïve idea that people never commit terrible crimes? Or was it that the closer to home a perpetrator strikes, the harsher the appropriate punishment? A family conflict erupted after the murder: Was it legitimate to try to understand how these two young men had arrived at the point of committing this crime, to examine the social web of race and class in which they and my brother intersected, or was such an examination tantamount to offering an excuse for what they'd done?
Change the details, and precisely these same tensions have characterized the public debate following September 11. I hope we Americans can work through them patiently and thoughtfully, as my family and I have had to do.
Gays Mills, Wisc.
The events of 9/11 have strongly reaffirmed my commitment to my intentional community, Dancing Waters Permaculture Co-op, created to remove land from the debt cycle through collective ownership. Using consensus decision-making, our collective is a nonviolent attempt to demonstrate an alternative to the capitalist, consumerist ideology that the terrorists symbolically targeted when they attacked the World Trade Center.
The worst thing was going out into my yard while the towers were burning. My cats were there, our garden was a jungle and the Vermont day was so beautiful it hurt. My heart was pounding. I wondered if these simple things that brought me such joy would even exist for another month, another week, another hour.
Unfortunately, with the White House occupied by people who make Dr. Strangelove and General Ripper look normal, I still wonder how long we will have our freedom or our lives. I can't say I am optimistic, but miracles can and do happen. Love must happen on earth, or none of us will survive.
Garfield Heights, Ohio
Having been involved with the movement to shut down the WHISC/SOA for several years, I sat in a bus stop in Cleveland after my school was evacuated on September 11 with the terrible feeling that these attacks were some sort of repercussion of US foreign policy.
As the antiwar movement began to take shape, I became involved as soon as possible. I feel that a change in US foreign policy of militarization and neoliberal economics isn't just needed, it is imperative to the survival of this country, and possibly the world.
I participated in the antiwar demonstrations on September 29, and many more since then. September 11 changed my life in the sense that I now feel that being a single-issue or armchair activist isn't enough, that I must be involved in what I believe and educated and involved in other people's struggles.
The first news I received of the attacks came from my government teacher. The tragedies of that day shocked me more than any event in my seventeen years. Something else that happened was almost as surprising to me. Alongside pictures of toppled buildings came pictures of people in other countries holding vigil for America. That people all over the world cared that much about America surprised me. I knew that we have friends and allies, but it never seemed they were that close to us. We don't seem to feel as much solidarity with others. Instead of doing our part in the world, we do things such as not participating in the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. It seems we only act when our interests are threatened. America is shown great friendship by other countries--we need to learn how to give friendship back.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
September 11 made me, an 18-year-old living in the suburbs, much more cynical, and that's difficult to do. When our leaders had an unprecedented opportunity to lead, all I got was a bunch of talk (unless a behemoth military budget counts as "leadership"). And when I expected citizens to be shaken from their 1990s isolationist, stock-market-is-booming delirium, all I got was the irony of an SUV with huge American flags posted all over it. I really don't intend to sound rude or coldhearted; I was just as shocked, saddened and outraged when I saw the CNN footage. But unity and resolve are not jingoism. And a just response is not unilateralism and carpet-bombing. If the so-called Bush Doctrine is all the "change" I can expect from our leaders (and the willful submission of others, Democrats), then I wish I was ignorant enough not to care. The biggest tragedy of 9/11, aside from the appalling loss of human life, is one of missed opportunity on the part of the government and the failure of its citizens to call them on it.
I cannot identify with the notion that "nothing will ever be the same again." That's a young person's view. For those of us pushing 60, the world turned on its head when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were killed. With them died the strong possibility of social change. By the time Reagan took office, many of us had stopped caring. I know I did.
Oddly, September 11 has made me care again. Not the attacks, which were an outrage, but the federal government's response--the so-called war on terrorism, with its shameful trampling of civil liberties, its reckless threats to engage in war against Iraq and its self-righteous moralizing about "goodness" here and "evil" there. I feel an urgent need to work for peace and nonviolence once again.
My quest to tell the truth led me in midlife to my dream career. I became a reporter for my hometown newspaper. There wasn't a lot of hard news, but the opinion page allowed me to explore broader issues and excite discussion in my community. That all ended on September 11, when exciting discussion became unpatriotic. Censorship and my ensuing protest cost me my job. Mainstream media, I learned, is often the purveyor of silence.
But I have become the resister of silence. I print copies of antiviolence fliers from my home computer to plaster on windshields, and I have discovered independent media. The little girl who was afraid of the sound of her own voice spoke to a crowd on the steps of the State Capitol at a peace rally on April 20. The small-town reporter spoke the truth, and her voice was heard around the world.
Orwell said, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." On September 11 this middle-class, middle-aged middle American became a revolutionist.
The horrifying events of September 11 and the mushrooming horrors unleashed (war, racism, loss of civil liberties) have changed me. Disgusted by the vapid rhetoric of patriotism, I realized how profoundly I prize this continent and its progressive heroes and how repulsed I am by nationalism everywhere. I ache for a transformed world but am more uncertain how we will get there. We cannot be cast forever as sacrifices in someone else's nightmare: Bush's "limited nuclear war," religious fundamentalisms' apocalyptic wet dreams, capitalism's age-old werewolf hunger.
As a lesbian, feminist, Marxist-humanist, I know that Bush, bin Laden, Sharon and Hamas would certainly agree to hate and silence me. So part of my struggle is to live: fiercely cherishing lovers, friends, allies and the beauties of this vital planet.
September 11 and its aftermath have made me afraid for this country. The attacks were tragic evidence that an America once loved and admired around the world is now an object of hatred. Instead of asking why, the Bush Administration and a complaisant Congress used the event as an excuse to kill more innocent people in Afghanistan, justify a bloated military budget, harass immigrants, jail suspects without charges, institute domestic spying and erode civil liberties in the name of "security." I worry about the callous brutality shown when our leaders debate over when and how to launch a war on Iraq, but show no concern for the thousands of Iraqi people who are certain to be killed in such a war. In short, I am afraid that in waging George Bush's open-ended "war on terrorism" America will become the most dangerous terrorist of all.
Chapel Hill, NC
As I watched the towers fall on TV from my home in Prescott, Arizona, on September 11, I shed tears not only for the horror and tragedy of the attacks, but also in anticipation of the reaction of our government at home and abroad. Later I headed two hours north to my favorite cathedral, the Grand Canyon, for some solitude, silence and perspective. I quit my job and now find myself back in my native North Carolina, about to embark on a PhD program in political science.
People hear what I'm doing and say, Good luck changing the system. I say, Well, thank you. Because if at any age I ever lose my idealism and vision for global social, economic and environmental justice, I pray someone will put me on a bus to the canyon for a little perspective.
JENNIFER E. WEAVER
I have been stunned by how a coup d'état can take place in America. The combination of irregular presidential election, traumatic terrorist attack, administrative control by radical conservatives and the intimidation and cowardliness of the opposition have achieved incredible changes. Our country now has an endless war policy, unilateral withdrawal from international agreements, illegal detentions, threats to constitutional rights and theft of the people's resources for military ends. The well-oiled evince a voracious appetite for world domination and homeland insecurity. I feel like an alien in my beloved land, now a place of nightmares.
Can we wake up and reclaim our freedom? I work toward a community of communities across this land who dream a new vision and turn fear, suspicion and greed into generosity and justice for all.
After the horror let go of my throat I thought, that's it, thirty-five years of work for peace and equality down the tubes. Our leaders will now have license to bomb anywhere, anytime, void the Bill of Rights and shoo away dissent with the flag. They won, we lost.
But wait. History doesn't change course in a day. The world a year after the attacks looks a lot like the world before 9/11. Liberty imperiled as always, hard cheese for poor people and poor societies, our leaders choosing which tyrants to support and which to overthrow, the rich in power. But the loony system they rule is weaker, not stronger, than a year ago--is bumping into its own homemade contradictions. If anything, the terrorists deepened its confusion. I'm ready to rise up once more against it.