I wonder when, if ever, I will get back to gentle America-bashing
By A. Shahmolki
September 25, 2001
These are very strange days.
Images, phrases, sounds are swirling in my head. I become distracted
by them as I watch the images on television.
There are phrases that seem to emerge: Clash of Civilizations, End of
History, Just War. A concentrated mix of all things I had studied in and
out of university rise to the forefront of my consciousness. I know I am
witnessing history. A new era is beginning and I am trying to make sense
of it all.
I think about evil. Or in someone else's words, "Why bad things
happen to good people?" The evil that we have witnessed, happened to
the United States. It was brutally inflicted on people. Individuals are
experiencing horrendous pain. For what?
I watched a man on CNN today who had lost 700 employees in the attack
on New York. He was crying. He was crying because he had lost 700 people.
He was crying because one of those 700 was his brother. And he was crying
because he wanted to take care of the families of his dead employees but
he did not know how.
Back to the phrases: Are we witnessing the beginnings of a clash between
the West and Islamic countries? What if there is another attack on the U.S.?
Will Americans still put the same effort into saying they are after terrorists
and not fighting Muslims? And what about the justness of any American response?
How should a great and powerful country react to "asymmetrical"
threats? Should there be an asymmetrical response -- meaning killing fifty
thousand for the five thousand that were killed in America?
I try to imagine the perpetrators of this crime brought before a court
of law, international or domestic. The world witnessing the painstaking
presentation of evidence against them, the vigorous defence mounted on their
behalf, and finally a reasoned judgment. I also see a light show put on
TV to satiate the American public's thirst for revenge. There has to be
some type of show of force. But what a statement it would be if America's
passions are restrained by its own higher wisdom.
What about the evil that was visited upon individual human beings? One
can hear people crying, Why? Why did this happen? Why do they hate us? Why
did those particular four, five thousand people die and not others? It is
the voice of Job from the Bible. It is the voice of Oedipus before finding
out the truth. Job satisfied himself by submitting to the will of God. Oedipus
realized that truth and self-knowledge come at a heavy and painful price.
I always preferred the story of Oedipus.
I am not American, nor do I live in America. I am, however, close enough
to feel that things are different now. I wonder when, if ever, I will get
back to the gentle America-bashing that -- being de rigeur amongst the smarter
people the world over -- made me feel oh so intellectually superior. It
won't be for a while. I am too busy reminding myself of the ideas that make
America. Like Thomas Jefferson's radical notion that all men are created
equal. And Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to free humanity from senselessness
These days some hitherto unknown part of my brain occasionally decides
to play the Star Spangled Banner in my head. It is a majestic piece of
music. It reminds me of all those American ideals and values. I think I
always had a soft spot for it.