Borrowing the title from a Dixie Chicks song, I am wondering if I should let the day pass without remembering this anniversary of a terrible event; I'm tempted because it is so painful.
We can probably all remember where we were. I was wakened by my Youngest and Other Favorite Daughter who said I should get up and watch the news on TV, that something Big was happening. I can remember the shock and fear that went through my body. Then sadness, because I knew, knew in my bones, that this would not be over for a very, very long time.
I know I'm just one ordinary woman and I have far more questions than answers.
In my travels around the world, I have encountered so many people in the Third World in particular who live the results of the imbalance of power and wealth everyday, whose patience in the "trickle down" theory has long ago expired. While I didn't expect my friends would be rejoicing on this day (they were agonizingly saddened), I wasn't surprised either by the celebrations in the streets by some in the Muslim worlds.
For another Muslim point of view read Rashied Omar: Islam and Violence.
And the reactions in the First World were also so predictable and primitive. Blunt headed. Force and power never ultimately win out unless you are prepared to totally annihilate "the enemy". But who exactly are the enemy? Women and children too?
see Freedom’s Untidy: Democracy Promotion and Its Discontents
And then, what do you do about the niggling doubts within your own camp, those who think maybe we brought it upon ourselves by our oppressive foreign policies, creating a vacuum of thinkers and leaders wherever we enter to "bring democracy", siphoning out billions and billions of dollars from those countries with the natural resources we want with the conspiracy of their puppet leaders, leaving the citizens of these countries worse off than they were before we arrived there to offer them "development", having unimaginable dollars in our war chest all while spending pennies on aid, and giving aid into the hands of corrupt leaders without holding them accountable for anything but furthering our political/financial interests in those countries, aid that goes into foreign bank accounts of those leaders and again subjects their people to another suffocating layer of oppression and heartache.
(On another level, there are those that argue that aid organizations are a self-perpetuating agency unto themselves, or that aid perpetuates the very problems they seek to remedy.
See Dambisa Moyo and Why Aid to Africa Must Stop)
I wasn't surprised that voices of opposition to the US policy immediately after 9/11 were silenced. ( ideas to mull around this comes from Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman's bookbook Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine )
See Green Day perform American Idiot
And I wasn't surprised that I found ordinary people I knew all around me, Canadians, suddenly identifying themselves with the Christian right and the US and ready to go out there and kill off the infidels and terrorists. The novelist Stephen Lewis said long ago that "when Fascism arrives it will be wrapped in a Flag and carrying a Bible." And several intriguing comparisons were made by some writers to the propaganda tactics of the US government post 9/11 and the fascist ideas of Hitler and the WWII era.
But as all such conflicts have deep, complex histories and no easy solutions, I struggled to find dispassionate readings while maintaining an open-hearted sympathy for suffering on all sides.
During the time since 9/11, among several books that I read related to this conflict, here are a couple of books that I found very thought provoking:
Infidel, by Hirsi Ali, Ayaan
Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, by Buruma, Ian
These two books sparked off a furious debate between the liberal idealists and conservative factions in the West, mostly among European intellectuals and politicians, trying to understand how the values of democracy seem to be working against the kind of society that has been our goal. For a more in-depth treatment of the debates see Peter Collier's article.
However, I have not seen much of this kind of real debate in the media in North America.
I longed to hear voices of reason. I longed to hear somebody speaking of hope and understanding. I longed to hear somebody admit wrong-doing and asking for forgiveness. But that is not likely to happen, is it. Having a conversation is just too hard.
Labels: building peace through consensus