Uncomfortably numb

I am numb and have been since the first word of this tragedy came across my radio on my commute in to work last Tuesday. I feel like I should be angry or filled with sorrow, and I am in my thoughts. I just don’t *feel* it like I should. I wish I would have cried – yelled when I heard the news – but I was just sort of startled – but not even surprised. What is wrong with me? Am I afraid now? No. Should I be? Probably so, yes. If not for me then for the U.S. and other countries’ soldiers that will be fighting and dying in the coming months/years – for their families – for the Afghani people who have never wished this act on us but now may suffer for it. Sure there is some concern that biological or chemical weapons could be used on the American (or any) population, but that just doesn’t seem real. It should, I guess.

Besides numbness there is a feeling of helplessness overcoming me. An idea that I am awash in a tide whose course is predetermined and non-changeable – a tide unleashed by the American public and its allies in a united outcry, parroted back by the politicians and media (or is that the other way around?) and no matter what I may do or say we are all bound to crash into our “destiny” for better or worse – a destiny that could bring us into the most deadly war the world has ever seen. And to think, me, numb to it all.

Making the world a better place – for dummies

Yesterday’s post mentioned 3 things that the U.S. and the rest of the world could do to stop terrorism and some bigger global issues. Today I would like to present some ideas for how we could go about doing these 3 things:

1. Focus on and solve the problem (i.e.. the hatred of the U.S.)

We as Americans have to be more conscious of how we act on the world stage. We are that 500 pound gorilla, always showing our strength and imposing our ideas. We need to deal with ourselves – make us better neighbors.

2. Find & punish the perpetrators of terrorism (all of them)

The U.S., its allies, and every other nation on earth should come to an agreement on terrorism and terrorists. Every nation should be vigilant in its efforts to root out and put down any terrorists within their borders. Failing to do this will result in strict penalties for the negligent countries. Privileges like the opportunity to fly planes into the “rule abiding” countries and economic sanctions are just a couple of the ways that we could put pressure on countries that are more friendly to terrorists types.

3. Solidify the alliances (and even unify) with the governments of the world

Finally, the most difficult task is to begin to make strides towards diminishing national and cultural borders. Much like how the European Union hopes to diminish economic borders in Europe, we must all work to reduce the misunderstandings and misinformation that causes tension today; create a new vision of a more unified and cooperative world for the near future; and actually start building the framework for a new world organization (can the United Nations ever be effective the way it stands now?) that will aid in governing and maintaining the world’s population, ecosystem, and lasting peace.

Are these ideas utopian. They may appear that way. But they really aren’t all that far-fetched. We may even see all three of these things begin to take shape in the next 20 years.

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I know others have linked to this site. These infographics are just too darn good at conveying complex info concisely. I had to offer it up for all of you.

What would be enough?

The following is a forwarded letter I received yesterday. I think it really resonates with what I have been thinking the last couple days. It was written by Tamim Ansary an Afghani-American writer. Here is his take on Afghanistan and the whole mess we are in.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about “bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.” Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but “we’re at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?”
Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we “have the belly to do what must be done.”

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived here for 35 years I’ve never lost track of what’s going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I’m standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler.
And when you think “the people of Afghanistan” think “the Jews in the concentration camps.” It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country. Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan–a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They’d slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move too fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn’t really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban–by raping once again the people they’ve been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of “having the belly to do what needs to be done” they’re thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let’s pull our heads out of the sand. What’s actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden’s hideout. It’s much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we’d have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I’m going. We’re flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants. That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion people with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of view. He’s probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

– Tamim Ansary

What would take more courage – be harder to “belly up” for than not taking the easy way out and bombing and killing the Afghani people? How about changing the way we are viewed in the world by changing our actions and policies so that we are not seen as an imperialistic, oppressive bully the world over?

What to do then? We can’t sit idly by you say? No we can’t. But we must:

  1. Focus on and solve the problem (i.e.. the hatred of the U.S.)
  2. Find & punish the perpetrators of terrorism (all of them)
  3. Solidify the alliances (and even unify) with the governments of the world
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Why are Americans hated? Why can’t we see why?

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A chart of the World Response to Tuesday’s terror. This link is from the World New York site which is a very good site for the continuing events in New York and elsewhere. This site was in turn shown to me by Jason.

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It seems to me that whatever action the U.S. and its allies may take, it won’t satisfy us. If Afghanistan delivers Osama bin Laden and his henchmen to us, they stand trial, are found guilty, and are executed it will not be enough. If Afghanistan does not give up Osama bin Laden and we bomb them over and over will this be enough? Hardly. No military action can ever be enough. No amount of punishment can be dished out that will allow us to be ok with what happened – to feel vindicated. We, as Americans need to come to a resolution with our feelings long before we start looking for satisfaction with tanks, and bombs, and wars.

We will come out of this thing with our flag held high

Feel like slinging around racial slurs? Wondering exactly what people mean when they say Arab? Generally ignorant about many of the world’s cultures? Try this guide to Arab Americans to learn more and not be ignorant about your fellow citizens or most of the other innocent Arab peoples of the world. [from kottke.org]

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I am usually fiercely anti-nationalistic but in times like this I think that the people of the U.S. need something to rally around. I feel that the following tribute to our generosity and goodwill is warranted.

A Canadian radio broadcast [real audio] is being circulated in email circles yesterday and today in which Gordon Sinclair (a Canadian) delivered one of the greatest tributes to the U.S. that it has received in its 200+ year history. Though most of the emails being sent around seem to imply that this was a current broadcast, in actuality it was given at the end of the Vietnam War in 1973. Gordon Sinclair later died in 1984. I thank him for this little shot in the arm to our spirits (mine at least). Read more about this broadcast.

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I disagree with sentiments that things ought not resume as normal. Case in point, the NFL is considering canceling this weekend’s games. The NFL Player’s Association is calling for the games to be cancelled or postponed. I think the games should go on, not because I am a big football fan but because I believe it would be bad for the nation if we continue to “give in” to the fears the terrorists are trying to instill. The more we cower the greater their victory is. The more we play right into their hands. We should stand up and say we are not afraid. We cannot (nor could ever) forget what has happened but we must heal and get beyond this anger and need for revenge. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” – Mohandas Ghandi

After reading this last paragraph again, I am feeling really guilty. I have felt like “moving on” in most capacities since early yesterday – far too early after such a tragedy. I think it is my way of coping – think about something else – everything is fine. If I think about this too much I fear I may break down.

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What are you doing!?! – You want to spread fear and terror, too? You want to be just like those responsible for this tragedy?! What is wrong with you!? Spreading hatred against Muslims of the world isn’t going to benefit anyone. Help make the world a safer place not one filled with more anger, violence, and terror!

My turn to weigh in

I have to concur with Jason that we should not make these recent terrorists acts a political issue or even a rallying point for our nation. This is a global issue – an issue for all humans. Making this an issue of the U.S. vs. anyone trivializes the event. We need to look at this and ask why this happens. Is this even a political issue? What religions actually say this is alright? What is at the heart of this and let’s fix it. No more brokered peace accords between Palestinians and Israelis – this isn’t going to work, Why do we keep trying to divide up lands and come to compromises when there is something underlying any talks that will not let them succeed. Figure this out. If it is purely fanaticism then what? How can you reason with unreasonable men?

Here is a nice multimedia explanation of the events. [source: kottke.org]

Nothing I can say… well there is something

I quick walk around the neighborhood last night, confirms that we may have a reenactment of scenes such as these. People are lining up for blocks at all the local gas stations near my home in Minneapolis due to rumors of $5/gallon prices in the coming days.

Luckily the lines at local blood banks are equally as long. Don’t lose all your faith in humanity just yet.

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I wouldn’t want to be living in Afghanistan during the coming weeks. Bush’s words made it clear that they would not be spared the U.S.’s wrath if they harbored any terrorists who were responsible for these actions.

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I am profoundly saddened today. What else can I say.

Here is a link to Kottke and a great home video of the crash. As Jason suggests please go to the nearest hospital and donate blood if you can.

Cam World also has some good coverage of this event that is being likened to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Another link to CNN’s coverage and other links available at the Drudge Report

Plus: Were we warned? Can we even consider the ramblings of fanatics as warnings?

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Recorded earlier:

Scott’s got me worried, and that started me thinking, could I be one of those bastards he is writing of? He has been ignoring me a little of late. So I decided to write a list of my major faults and post them here for my own humility. It’s only a list major faults because I think they are more “juicy” and interesting than the fact that I blow my nose too hard, or that I have a weird way of trying to “conserve” bits by reusing rather than deleting letters after I mistype. So here goes (and this is by no means comprehensive):

  • I am stubborn.
  • I think I know something about everything, even though in reality I might just have second-hand knowledge of a subject, or have heard mention of a subject on NPR on the way into work and then get to mention said topic or issue in as many conversations as I can while attempting to seem smart or worldly.
  • I sometimes feel like brooding, even though I rarely do.
  • I am highly competitive and, related to this, I tend to make an ass out of myself when losing at any sport or competitive activity.
  • I am far too materialistic. Why do I think I need things that I merely want? (I blame Microsoft)
  • I am easy to get riled up. I get excited easily and anger without much provocation.
  • I judge people almost instantly on only the most basic level of interaction between me and them.
  • I swear too much.
  • I think while I am speaking. Said otherwise, I often end up regretting the things I say because I tend to say things as they pop into my mind.
  • I watch too much TV and then feel like I am worse for doing so. Like I am not one of those cool anti-TV people that read more and go outside. Damn those people! (see there I go with the swearing)
  • I have little patience.
  • I care way too much about my favorite sports teams winning.
  • Maybe related – I don’t do well when trying to deny myself something. (i.e. diets, budgets, etc.)

I could go on and on but I am starting to feel kind of down for some reason. Maybe I’ll just go and brood about these faults. It’s actually a wonder Scott ever liked me to begin with!

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<# of consecutive days eating just vegetables = 2> Ok so I slipped a little. It is hard to go camping and not eat meat. Everything that seems to cook well over a fire or on a stick seems to be related to the flesh of one animal or another. Couple this with a few of the faults listed above and you see why this is so damned hard! I am working on it.