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Soft spot
I wonder when, if ever, I will get back to gentle America-bashing

By A. Shahmolki
September 25, 2001
The Iranian

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 and prejudice.

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.

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