Friday, May 20, 2011

And then I'll shut up

It’s probably weird that the Arab world is going through a massive upheaval, Osama bin Laden is dead, and America has gone to war with Libya, and I haven't said anything. But honestly, I haven’t had much to say that hasn’t already been said in the millions of opinions floating around, so I’m listening – and trying to avoid reading about Bin Laden’s Porn Stash.

Randomly, on the night of Sept 10, 2001, I was reading this book:


Yes, I know, I know. I must have felt a great disturbance in the Force. Actually, it was published in 1999, 2 years before I picked it up, so I already felt I was coming late to the game when I opened it. From what I remember, Bodansky argues persuasively that OBL was a threat, and that Clinton-style responses to terrorism weren’t working, and it was only a matter of time before the big one struck. I fell asleep on the sofa with the radio alarm beside my head, and woke the next morning to voices – not the rock station I was used to hearing, but panic, a sense of emergency. I lay there and listened, and then jumped up in shock.

It's not hard to remember how this was a horrifically new kind of malice. We’d seen hijackers before so we knew about terrorism, and we had Pearl Harbor, but this was kamikaze terror on a whole new level, and it had happened in New York City.

It also introduced the idea that someone hated Americans enough to kill them indiscriminately. Or rather, that someone hated American ideology/government/foreign policy enough to start taking their rage out on ordinary people. (Back in the early days, nobody knew which.)


Sorry, it was time for a bunny. 

Anyway, we were gobsmacked. Because normally, we’re that country that has to turn people away from our teeming shores because we know we’re awesome and everyone wants to live here. But we’re also that country whose citizens routinely travel abroad and claim they’re Canadian. Because everybody hates Americans and we know that, too. We just didn’t know they hated us THAT much.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past decade, it’s that there isn’t much out there – not much that we have done – that has healed the pain from that event. War in Iraq? Afghanistan? Drone attacks on al-Qaeda? Sorry, still feeling shitty. Some of that war has been necessary in regards to al-Qaeda, but no war, no matter how necessary, is going to heal pain. It’s just going to (hopefully) get rid of the potential for more future pain – while attempting not to create too much of its own. A contradiction kept in uneasy balance.

Or not
So the pain is still there. I don’t think about September 11 much, but when it does come up, it still has the power to make me cry. For example, just this week in the Economist:

World Trade Center

The Idealist in me feels a missed opportunity now that Bin Laden is dead. I wanted to see him come around. Watch old age make him decide that porn was all right after all. An apology would have been nice, maybe a few regretful tears. Because you know that no matter how fervently you believe in something, there's always the potential to believe the opposite, and sometimes the more vehemently you believe..... (Sorry. Idealist.) 

Realist: quit cryin' about stupid shit and start worrying about the next one. 

Coming soon to an airplane near you
Of all the things that have happened in the past ten years, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have been the biggest slap in the face to al-Qaeda’s ideology of violent jihad. Although not bloodless, they were consciously non-violent. They’re a “screw that shit” to the fantasy of bringing back a religious caliphate. And every time someone demands a greater female presence in the fledgling Egyptian government, they are twisting the “take that, MF” knife in the chest of al-Qaeda and its fundamentalist corruptions of Islam. Yes, I just used violent imagery to explain non-violence. What can I say? Never lacking for tact.

Egypt, Tunisia, you are rocking the world. Every time you step forward, you’re not just healing your own countries, you’re helping heal some old pain over here, too. (Qaddafi, take a frickin lesson.) 

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