What comes next?

80,000 gathered at Seattle Center to share their grief and support.

80,000 gathered at Seattle Center to share their grief and support.

THIS IS NOT a time for quick, decisive action. And thankfully, despite the president’s rhetoric that we are at war, the government so far has shown restraint. While there is nearly universal condemnation of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 (even, incredibly, by Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi), it has been coupled with growing comprehension that we don’t know who we are at war with. Despite all the rhetoric, Osama bin Laden is not the leader of Afghanistan. He is a criminal, not a statesman. There is no country to bomb, no territory to take, no bridges and supply stations to take out. America has proved that it’s good at dropping bombs; it has not shown that it’s nearly as skilled at intelligence. Even Tuesday morning, while Bush was on TV thanking Americans for their generosity and support and assuring citizens that we have the ability to succeed, text running across the bottom of the screen said that the government is looking for citizens who speak Arabic, Farsi, and Mandarin. Astoundingly, there aren’t enough people in the government who speak Arabic. This is the result of globalization through domination: Too many thought if enough people in the world saw Titanic, drank lattes, and wore Air Jordans, we would become a world with one culture, one language, and, maybe worst of all, one religion.

People say that it’s impossible to understand the zealotry that would drive such an attack, but it’s the same mind-set that drives fundamentalist Christians to murder doctors, nurses, and receptionists in abortion clinics, that leads environmental terrorists to set life-threatening fires, that makes activists think it’s OK to break windows, even that drove one of our mayoral candidates to injure another. Those people are in the minority, but who among us hasn’t felt some sympathy with some crime of passion?

So we do understand. The rage we feel against the machine that killed 8-year-old Zoe Falkenberg along with her parents and younger sister on American flight 77, and Sarah Clark, 65, a sixth-grade teacher from Columbia, Md., and TV cameraman Thomas Pecorelli, and Sonia Morales Puopolo, 58, retired ballet dancer, and Timothy Haskell, firefighter, New York Fire Department, is the rage felt by the hijackers. But most Americans, I sincerely hope, will understand that there is a difference between revenge and justice.

One story that’s going around is that the passengers on United flight 93 took a vote to decide if they should rush the terrorists to ensure that the plane would not hit its target. We’ll never know if that actually happened, but that plane didn’t kill anyone on the ground. In the days and months ahead, let’s hope that the people we voted into office remember that sacrifice and that vote; action should be taken with great consideration and fairness, and the voices and views of all must be considered.

Another encouraging note came Saturday morning at the Seattle Center gathering. Unscripted and only loosely organized, a group of Sikhs in traditional clothing stood at the entrance to the fountain and greeted the crowd with hugs and remorse. Yes, there have been reports of retaliation against Arabic-looking Americans, but they have been few. The calls against racial profiling and discrimination came loudly and swiftly. All indications are that most people understand that the hard part of “liberty and justice for all” is the “for all.”

Audrey Van Buskirk


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