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September Rants
by Ronald Bruce Meyer
A collection of opinionated thoughts not deserving of a separate page or a full essay




tattered flagSeptember 29, 2001 How to Respond?
I wrote to a friend today, "As you've probably surmised, I'm undecided on what the best course is for US internationally, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attack, though I admit that I'm taking that attack on US citizens personally. I guess I want blood. But, unlike some pundits, it really does matter to me whose blood is shed. That's a knee-jerk reaction, anyway, born of anger and pain, and as I've said to many friends, no one makes their best long-term decisions when they're angry and hurting.

"On the other hand, and history will be my judge in this, I cannot stand by while the magic of politics makes our freedoms disappear. What is it the US stands for, anyway? As I say in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, "[Our rights] are not privileges granted by a benevolent government, after all, but natural rights that we empower government to protect."

"I have to tell you that in revising it for publication, I softened some direct criticism of Mr. Bush: for example, I took out the reference to our "court-appointed administration." With a 90% approval rating, I guess I don't want too many rocks aimed at my window!"

The excised paragraphs are these:

If you watch carefully what I'm doing with my right hand, you may miss what I'm doing with my left hand. The subtle art of misdirection has been a successful tool of magicians and politicians for centuries -- millennia. While the U.S.S. Resolve churns its way toward a battle against Terrorism (which, forgive me, I cannot locate on my world map), the U.S. Congress, under pressure from this administration, is beginning a battle against American citizens. The magic "art of the possible" may make all of our liberties disappear.

I think this is just what the terrorists want us to do, and we are supporting their cause with great haste. Old-style monarchies and despotisms used to bring their countries together via war. They would maintain power by maintaining a state of emergency, a national crisis. That way, they could pass any law that might help, and restrict any right that might inconvenience, the prosecution of that war, either at home or abroad. Adopting that tactic, and armed with a 90% approval rating, this court-appointed administration will have it that much easier to dispense with the freedoms we are ostensibly declaring war to defend.

The problem of terrorism is real, but whether or not the attack of September 11 means there is a crisis, and whether or not our response to that crisis requires a war, lands us in the realm of the unreal. Crises are continuous, not sporadic -- which is what terrorism is. Wars are declared against nations, not people, and certainly not against tactics -- which is what terrorism is. The first casualty in war is not just truth but accuracy. ..."

tattered flagSeptember 22, 2001 What He Said
NPR runs a Saturday morning news show called "On the Media." One of the hosts is Bob Garfield and he ended the day's broadcast with a criticism of Dan Rather, who pretty much said "whatever you want, Mr. President, you can have it." Obviously, there is no shortage of people to wave the flag (or the bloody shirt), but journalists should not be among them. If they can't be impartial, even skeptical, they should find another line of work -- or complete their transition to the entertainment side. Mr. Rather's comment was very patriotic, but somehow inappropriate for a journalist. "Journalism's job is to unravel, not to unfurl," said Garfield.

I thought that was well stated.

tattered flagSeptember 18, 2001 What the Left Thinks
A friend had invited me to a meeting of Chicago's Direct Action Network, which looked to be a group of liberals and socialists who wanted to put the brakes on the impending war against... well, whoever the usual terrorist suspects are. No one had really claimed responsibility for the attack a week ago. I thought it might be interesting to hear what they had to say, though I had gotten a look at the five "points" they wanted to discuss and I could agree with only two of them.

The attendance was greater that I had imagined! There must have been 300 people in the hall, which is about 1/3 stage and wider than it is long. The rostrum had a microphone, but the meeting leaders deferred to small group leaders, who presided (or guided) in about 20 circles of chairs on the floor and the stage. My group's guide was kind of pretty, but I forget her name. I had prepared an essay of my own thoughts on the September 11 terrorism, but I had not idea what form the meeting would take, so I didn't know if I would get to "share" -- or even be encouraged to.

Surprisingly, there were even some attendees who, like me, were old enough to remember the peace protests of the 1960s. Most were student leftists, socialists and such, which didn't bother me, but it would be a tough crowd for me because I didn't agree with much of what they had to say. I sat next to a Palestinian-American who might have been 30. Otherwise, I think there were only one or two other Arabs in attendance. My neighbor did mention something I never suspected: not all Arabs are Muslims (some are Christian) and not all Muslims are Arabs. I really need to learn more about this religion. (Part of the discussion was on anti-Arab violence and discrimination.)

We first went round the circle giving our reactions to the terrorist attack a week ago today. Some said they were sad; some were certain the US had brought this on themselves; one said the time for grieving is over. I said I was outraged and angry, rather than sad. If someone had killed a friend of mine, or a relative, I would kill in return. I would not hesitate. That shook them up. But I was just getting warmed up!

Next, we went round the circle giving our analyses of the incident. Some beat the anti-US drum again; some blamed imperialism and capitalism; some wanted an all-out anti-war protest. I said I see nothing wrong with our American way of life and that I am proud to be an American. (I resisted the naughty impulse to ask which of them would like to try their DAN protests under the Taliban!) Furthermore, I didn't want it to be overlooked that American working people died in the attack. And I said I was afraid that Mr. Bush would take all of the money out of the Social Security "lockbox" and lock away the Bill of Rights in its stead. That frightened me more than terrorists, I said.

Finally, a few of us gave select comments on action to take. My last words to the group were a warning to be for something, not just against war. I said that if DAN attempts to go head to head against capitalism, they will lose. If they sound like they are blaming the victims (by blaming US foreign policy), they will lose. I want retaliation against whoever did this vile thing to my fellow Americans -- but I don't know what to do because I don't know who to do it to. Neither does anyone else. My Palestinian neighbor seemed impressed with me and thanked me for participating. I said my farewell before leaving the hall. On the way out, I was accosted at the entranceway desk by a young man who asked if I wanted to leave my e-mail address for the DAN group's information exchange.

I don't have to tell you that I never got any e-mail from DAN!

tattered flagSeptember 17, 2001 An Internet Rumor
A friend related to me an Internet rumor that he thought would be of interest. Of course it was a pro-gun story, as kind of a follow-up to a previous gun control debate:

He said that in the early hours of last Tuesday's terror attack at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it was reported that yet another hijacked jet was winging toward to Chicago. The report was later denied and all airlines reported that all planes were accounted for, but the rumor narrative was that there really had been a jet heading toward Chicago, but two passengers with guns managed to subdue the hijackers and redirect the plane into Canadian airspace. Once on the ground, the hijackers were detained and gave up the names of many of their associates in North America and abroad. Currently -- and this is the validated part -- there are at least a thousand people now being detained in connection with the terrorist attack last Tuesday. A few have been arrested based on that information.

So, my friend asks, what do you think of gun control now?

In fact, I think the same thing that I thought before. Those passengers with guns could just as easily have been terrorists. How did they get on board with guns? That makes me very nervous. Even the presence of armed Sky Marshals -- arguably a good idea, just coming a little late -- is only a partial solution: the terrorists of last Tuesday, presumably trained in hand-to-hand combat, would have outnumbered any Air Marshall three or four to one. They could have had his gun for themselves. Then we would have no heroic, pro-gun tale like his Internet rumor, or what I suspect happened on UA Flight 93, which crashed in western Pennsylvania rather than into a populated part of Washington, DC, perhaps because some fearless passengers -- without guns -- overpowered the terrorists.

Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.

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