September 11 Tragedy
Posted September 14, 2001 5:40am
It's a tiny gesture, but I took the last 30 days' worth of donations to help fund this site, some $175, and donated it through Paypal's special donations fund to the American Red Cross. In addition, I added $25 of my own funds to it, making it $200 even, and on behalf of my family I also donated $200 to the New York City Fire Department's Disaster Relief Fund. My heart goes out so completely to those fire fighters and police and volunteer rescuers, especially those who were trying to save lives when they themselves died. It's really hard for me on this wet coast, some 4,000 miles away from this tragedy. I want to be there, helping dig in the rubble, helping to find survivors. I cannot do that, so I try to help in other ways. If you want to donate funds to the relief effort, you can do so through Paypal, through Amazon.com, or through Yahoo.
I wrote this on Thursday in the newsgroup alt.coffee. I would like to repeat it here, with a few amending comments:
Wednesday was a day of reflection for me. I'm not a religious man, in fact, I'm agnostic. I was brought up a Catholic, but for reasons I won't get into now, I am, well agnostic. But I do believe in spirit. The human spirit. I only mention this because in my own way I found ways to honour and reflect on the lives of those lost in the horrible tragedy and criminal acts of Tuesday, September 11.
One of the things I reflected on were the reasons why this event has struck me so deeply, and have affected so many of us worldwide, not just in the United States.
I came to realise that the events of Tuesday were not just an attack on the United States. They were an attack on free democratic societies around the world, and a wide range of cultures that, while sometimes intrinsically different in many small and sometimes significant ways, still habour the exact same overall principals towards humanity and way of life.
The US is just the most visible "face" of this society we all share. For whatever minor and often petty social and economical differences we may have, we are a unified group on this planet. This attack was an attack against Britain, France, Holland, Brasil, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and every other free and democratic society on the planet. As a result we (the citizens of this society outside the US) don't just offer our grief and thoughts and prayers, we share the grief and pain with you Americans... my brothers and sisters. I would feel no different about this event if these planes tore into the heart of Vancouver or Toronto, destroying thousands of lives.
One thing we need to do as a free and democratic society is to rise above this in many, many ways. To prove that we are better than those who caused these acts. Not better in military power, or trumpets blaring or chest beating, or economically, but better in mind, soul and "being". This catastrophic crime against humanity is a life changer, a turning point in our history. We can either be weakened by it, or we can become stronger. We can be angry and full of hate, or we can be angry yet resolved, and full of the need to seek justice, not revenge. We can join the level of those we despise and hate for this activity, or we can find other means to avoid hate, yet still seek justice and prevail.
I was extremely dismayed yesterday to find out that a few of my friends, some of the Muslim faith, one of the Jewish faith, faced serious racism and hatred on Tuesday and Wednesday both here in Vancouver, and in other parts of Canada. One friend of mine was refused service at a convenience store and was cursed and belittled simply because he has dark skin and wears a head dress. Another friend of mine who is Jewish but also has dark skin faced similar discrimination while out in public over the last few days. If you would like to witness this kind of racism from a first hand perspective, visit the website of a fellow Canadian of mine and read his Wednesday Sept 12 entry.
This, my friends and community, is plain ignorance and stupidity. This puts us down to the level of those we "hate" for the actions of Tuesday. These is not the actions of a society of the "free" and "democratic". It reminds me of the collective witch hunt scenarios that played out for hours and days after the Oklahoma bombing. Yesterday, as I was out and about (no pun please), I made an effort to reach out to anyone in our multicultural society here in Vancouver who was of a different culture resembling the Muslim faith to say hi, to let them know that I for one will not play the game of ignorance and place accountability on a culture and race that are for the most part as shocked and humbled by September 11th's events as I am. My neighbour across the street, a Pakistani (and fellow Canadian) gentleman I've spoken to briefly but congenially in the past came over at my invite and we spent an hour or so discussing the events of Tuesday over some Turkish coffee, something he (and I) really enjoyed.
Yesterday for the first time in my life in this, my home country I made an effort to get to know some strangers on the street, in the park, in the cafe or store, and I managed to turn my despair into a kind of hope for our society. In my tiny, small way, I tried to make things "better". It's a small step, but I felt really good, really wholesome after it. This may sound a bit sappy, but in a way I felt that if a bit more of this happened, a person at a time, slowly but surely, it really could change the world. And if by some hope and chance actions like this continue to happen and the world and our community becomes closer and reaps more understanding and tolerance, I cannot think of a more fitting memorial to the lives lost.
My message to my fellow community members in this newsgroup is fairly simple - hate will not make you overcome this terrible tragedy. Do not get me wrong. This was a crime against humanity. The perpetrators of this event must be found, and must be punished as severely as the Nuremberg Trial Nazis were, if not worse. But reasoned, thought out, yet swift justice is the answer here, not indiscriminate bombing and destruction, pointing fingers, isolating or generalizing.
Do you really "hate" those Palestinian people, even the children who were dancing in the streets after hearing the first reports of this tragic crime? Or do you pity them? Part of our problem is ignorance on our own behalf. What makes these children on the street cheer over the initial reports? What isolates them to the point where they believe through generalization that all of America (indeed all of the free world) is evil and deserves this punishment? Ignorance my friends, plain ignorance. In the nicest and worst meaning of the word. And you despise them for this. And many people despise all Palestinians because of those vivid, hurtful images. The same kind of generalization that breeds further hatred. It is a vicious, evil circle.
Remember that hate breeds hate. It was a hatred for capitalistic democracy that bred the actions of Tuesday. Hate is a vicious circle. As a free democratic global society, we're better than that. Let's show it. The guilty must be punished. The dead must be grieved. But I believe we have the power within ourselves to really overcome this, to become stronger and better by it. It is my hope and belief that the terrorists, the criminals against humanity that caused this event will not succeed in their wants. Not because they will be caught and punished, but because we as a society will overcome.
Lastly, I do have to emphasise that in no way am I advocating any kind of comely, passive actions against State or Individual sponsored terrorism. It is a blight on our society and a planet. And just as the world stood up to Adolph Hitler, the world has to stand up to these criminals and enemies of the planet Earth. My fear is that hate, generalizations and ignorance, three of the seeds that sponsored these criminal acts, will also take over our society's response. There HAS to be a better way. It is up to us to find it.
And to my American friends and readers, I say this. For most of my life, when I heard the phrase "Canada is just the US's 51rst State", it used to disturb me, and bother me on a few different levels. This week, this phrase has a completely different meaning, and I am very proud of the association.