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1 November 2001, 04:19

Have you seen the news lately? Actually, a better question would be have you been able to avoid the news lately? Horror has come to the doorstep of home and all I can do is stand with my mouth ajar. I am truly sorry for the loss that so many have suffered and I do wish that it all could be undone.

It was all in slow motion, September 11th was. And yet, it was like watching some bigger than life, surreal TV show with unbelievable special effects. I didn’t cry or panic or get angry – I just went numb. I don’t know whether it was the distance of it or the sheer thunderous immensity of it, but I couldn’t attach any concrete emotion to it. It was just an abstract nebula of black and grey and numbness. How alien it was to go on with my life – and not to put a too fine a point on it, and not to trivialize the event, but life in an uncomfortable way, after an abrupt halt, started to grind forward again, albeit, with a few changes.

For the first week after the attack, the two faces of society emerged – an unflinching, aggressive courage and kindness of heart was exposed as individuals held out their hands to help another. Strangers turned to the one next to them and gave of themselves. Money, food, medicine, sweat, tears, and effort pour forth, washing over a wounded city – a wounded country. And, although, I looked sideways at a few of the efforts made, such as the commercials for those little rubber American flags that attach to car antennas (only $19.95 a set, of which a portion goes to those victims of the attack – and don’t you want to know just how much a portion is…) I was thoroughly impressed. Surges of patriotism and pride swelled the hearts of Americans, politicians seemed a little less dubious, American pride seemed a little less hokey. I’ve never been one for patriotism or jingoisms. I’ve had a distaste for the nationalism which I find polarizes instead of unites – something that screams out for individuals to be categorized as us or them – and I’ve never been one to say, “my country right or wrong”, but for a very brief time, even I wanted to kick SOMEBODY’S ass for taking away the security my country enjoyed up until September.

And then there was the Ugly American, who is currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance showing up again and again. He was in Delta airline captain who kicked a passenger off because he looked liked the wrong kind of person – the Arab type – and he didn’t feel safe flying with that individual on board. He is in the drunken driver who rammed his truck into a Mosque. He rears his head and his bravado on campuses across the country as Arab students are beaten and intimidated. He laughs as a nine year old Arab-American girl is teased and harassed at her elementary school. He is in the student who angrily shouted epithets at me as I voiced my concerns at the country declaring a vague war at some menacing “they.”

Myself, I had said debated someone years ago about this very subject, on how American can’t be isolationist in a world that has grown too small for anyone to hide in anymore. Arguments on how foreign policy could have a detrimental effect on domestic affairs were dismissed, as if the two oceans flanking our nation were really some giant energy field keeping the boogie man in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We are now experiencing what most of Europe has been living with – potential domestic disaster. Armed military muscle striving to deter the madman with a briefcase bomb at the airport is now the norm.

Scary, eh? You think I would be stressed, with fatal diseases delivered to my door via the mail, or the threat of some suicidal mission executed by one who has nothing to lose by rushing his communion with Allah. It all has me pretty nonplussed, and I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you why I didn’t scream in agony at the tremendous loss of life, or feel the heavy hand of sorrow of which my fellow Americans have been push by. I can’t tell you why I’m not frightened by the loud sounds of unexpected vehicles or suspicious of those not like me. I can’t tell you why I’m not angry as hell at a whole category of people who hate me merely because I am American.

I can tell you my mama hamster had babies a week ago. Small tiny little lives. I saw them yawn and move and respond to my voice. I can tell you I was getting excited even thinking about these small wonders of nature, in awe of these babies, who looked like small pink moving pieces of raw chicken.

And I can tell you, I was saddened to the point of tears when they died yesterday.