Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

That Guy

[Ed. Note: This week, I’m not the first one to post something like this, and I suspect I won’t be the last. That’s how incendiary current events have been. So, you’ve probably read tons of these already … and in spite of my policy about giving a certain public figure any more attention, I’m subverting my own directive.

[I just had to get this off my chest.]


Regular consumers of the Blogge will note that, well … I’ve been away.

My last post was a week before Thanksgiving, and here it is, moving into the second week of December. C’mon fella, get with it!

This pause has happened before – usually due to schedule craziness or a lack of writing prompts that I think think warrant a thousand words (or two). (I haven’t got that “short form” thing down, exactly.)

This time, yes, the holiday season has kicked in and life has accelerated predictably. But this time, no, no lack of topics – certainly for this news hound. Things are blowing up, and people are getting shot, and politicians are saying THE DUMBEST things imaginable, and you’d think that would provide some pretty good blog-cannon fodder.

I’ve been figuring that this month-long spasm of news events simply had to die down; then I’d collect a few quotes together, link up a few seemingly unrelated current events details, and voila! Blog post full of incisive commentary and large-arc storytelling.

But this spasm just hasn’t died down.

Most of the last month has featured a steady crescendo of bullets and bombs and boorishness.

I could have written about terror plots and terrified people. I could have written about gun-manufacturer lobbyists’ stranglehold on politicians – politicians who otherwise, freer of campaign money’s grip, might access a little common sense, try to deal with our uniquely American problem with lack of gun control, and become statesmen (and -women). I could have written about the struggles of a particular pro football team I follow. Heck, I could have written about the breathless countdown to the release of, oh, some little movie whose name escapes me at the moment.


I have to write about THAT GUY.

And I’m sorry if I lose you, after you read this essay. It’s possible I may say a thing or two that causes some folks to decide not to come back and read here again. I’m truly sorry if that happens. I don’t want to drive people away. I’m a blogger, for heaven’s sake! It’s not in my best interests to drive readership down.

But I gotta get this off my chest. It’s not the newest thought, but in the last 48 hours it has risen, like food that disagrees with me.

One reason I haven’t written in this space in a while is that every damn day, there’s another burst of stupidity, vulgarity, mean-ness, tin-ear-ness, or outright egomania from THAT GUY. The guy who has caused the Republican party establishment to fall on its fainting couch, wondering how ever their Presidential candidate nomination process could have been hijacked by this, this, this horrible man full of awful ideas and awful ways of expressing them.

[Never mind that this political party has advanced other candidates who say their own awful things in their own awful ways … and has been working up to this state of affairs slowly over the course of several decades. But that’s a topic for another time. In any case, I have friends who are conservatives who would want very little to do with the people who attend Republican debates and cheer boorishly and reflexively for some of the awful sentiments that the current crop of candidates advance. A few of those friends attend my very church, and I routinely have wonderful conversations with them, and lots of laughs besides. There’s a difference between “people with a conservative bent” and the current Republican party loyalist types. I’ve met that difference head-on … and I prefer the former, in a landslide.]

But I’m not writing about the other stupid, vulgar, mean, tin-ear-laden, egomaniacal people running for President from that party. Today, at least.

I’m writing about THAT GUY, who is all of those adjectives in one horrible package.

When I was a kid, any Presidential candidate who, while announcing their candidacy, had labeled a large segment of some other country’s population as rapists … would set a world indoor record for shortest political campaign.

Also, if they had labeled a sitting United States senator as being weak or “a loser” because during that Senator’s military career he’d been captured by the enemy, held for years and tortured outright … they would have been booed out of the room, and also asked serious hard questions by any journalists who had mouths. Not that they’d still be a candidate, but, well, supposing they were.

In addition, if they had whined about being asked “unfair” questions by a debate moderator, and then gone on to suggest that the moderator had treated them unfairly because it was that time of the month, there would have been hell to pay from the Cronkites and Rathers and Chancellors and Brinkleys of the media world.

As well, if while questioning the credibility of one of the reporters covering their campaign, they had physically and verbally mimicked the neurological disease that the reporter suffered from, they would have been disqualified from running for any office ever again. Their last name might have become the code word, the euphemistic verb for “said or did something toxically stupid.”

Throughout the Presidential campaign of THAT GUY, I have done my best to avoid giving THAT GUY any more attention or air time than I think he deserves. I’ve largely succeeded. So often I’ve kept from commenting because I thought he was merely a joke, a circus act … a sideshow that muscled his way out front. I thought he was a blowhard of a carnival barker whose inflated self-image rivaled the MetLife blimp and would, no doubt, at some point cause him to go up in flames not unlike a certain other blimp whose name ended in “-burg” and which came down in a New Jersey town not far from THAT GUY’s home.

But in spite of his frankly unbelievable string of frankly awful utterances, these past few months … he hasn’t gone up in flames. He’s gone up in the polls.

A couple of months ago, I wondered if there really was anything THAT GUY could say that would torpedo his campaign – as every time he said something that was more off-the-wall than the previous thing he’d said, it seemed not to end his political career (as it should have).

In even a semi-rational world, this, from the November 21, 2015 New York Times, would have been it:

Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others.

The daylong furor capped a week of one-upmanship among Republican presidential candidates as to who could sound toughest about preventing terrorism after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. Polls show the national mood has soured on accepting refugees from Syria amid concerns about potential terrorist attacks within the United States.

Mr. Trump’s talk of a national database of Muslims, first in an interview published on Thursday by Yahoo News and later in an exchange with an NBC News reporter, seemed the culmination of months of heated debate about illegal immigration as an urgent danger to Americans’ personal safety.

It came as Mr. Trump has regained some momentum in the Republican presidential race, with polls showing his support on the rise nationally since the Paris attacks, and Ben Carson’s on the decline.

By Friday, though, he appeared to pull back slightly from the idea. … Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims. …

In the Yahoo interview on Thursday, which came on the heels of his calls to close some mosques and carefully monitor others, Mr. Trump suggested, with few specifics, that he would impose new measures to deal with terrorism.

‘We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,’ he said. ‘And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.’

Asked by the Yahoo reporter about the possibility of a database for Muslims or ‘a form of special identification that noted their religion,’ Mr. Trump did not reject either idea. Later that day, as Mr. Trump left a campaign event in Iowa, an NBC reporter followed up. Asked if he would set up a database to track Muslims, Mr. Trump replied, ‘I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.’ …

And when the NBC reporter approached Mr. Trump a second time and asked about the difference between registering Muslims and what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump grew impatient: ‘You tell me,’ he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks took hours to circulate widely over social media. But his seemingly serious consideration for the idea of treating an entire religious group with suspicion created the risk of a new set of problems for a Republican Party already struggling to appeal beyond its largely white political base.”

THAT GUY is proposing government-sponsored discrimination.

(How he got there, in the time since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month: asked about counter-terrorism policies, first he proposed “shutting down the mosques”. Then … tracking (and registering) Muslims in the United States. Later … banning Muslims from entering the US. And most recently … banning Muslims – even those who are American citizens and live here – from re-entering the US if they should leave. I wonder … does that include Americans who happen to be Muslims and who are loyal members of our own military?)

Driving to work yesterday morning, I listened to the audio podcast of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC news show. She interviewed veteran NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel on the subject. Engel is a gentleman who knows a little something about the world. He’s done more on-air reports with background sounds of gunfire than I care to count.

He was nothing short of aghast.

RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Joining us now is NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, it’s great to have you here.

RICHARD ENGEL (NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT): What has happened since I last spoke to you? I was in Paris.

MADDOW: You left the country. We broke everything.

ENGEL: I came back and things have gone totally mad. The country is in a panic. There is demagoguery. This is really not the country that I know.

MADDOW: You are somebody who I know because we’re friends, I know that you do not care very much about partisan politics. You’re not a like horse race kind of guy. And I know that you can, you box a lot of that stuff out when you think it’s kinda small ball. But this, this concerns you. This matters.

ENGEL: This is not small ball, actually. It would be interesting to say “oh, this is just fun. This is just more, you know, he’s trying to score a few points.” But the world watches this. The world sees the leading political candidate from one party making these kind of statements and still doing well and having these rallies. And those vox pops you showed where people are saying, “yes, we need to do them. Send them back home” … those are going around the world right now, and people realize: “this person is leading in the polls. That must be what Americans think.” I was today with an ambassador from the Middle East. Today! And we were talking exactly about this subject. And he said, “well, people in our country watch what is going on, and it makes us very concerned.” So from the world perspective, it is absolutely an image, an impression, a black spot on our collective foreign policy and our conscience. And it also just feeds into the ISIS narrative.

Engel was aghast … and I was faintly sick to my stomach. Happily, by the time I got to his interview, I was sitting in my parked car.

Never mind that Engel is right: the mere mention of THAT GUY’s proposed policies – without him even being elected to any office – would inflame the Middle East, would increase the likelihood of ISIS gaining more recruits, would honestly make the United States an embarrassment in the eyes of the rest of the world. There are fast sweeping plains of wrong on display here.

But here are the main reasons why I can’t possibly support THAT GUY … I can’t possibly even watch THAT GUY … during his bid for the Presidency:

THAT GUY is a walking, talking violation of just about every single Starred Thought I’ve ever heard.

[And this isn’t name-calling. This is journalism … the kind that the toothless Washington media will not carry out.]

Donald J. Trump is boorish.

Donald J. Trump is vulgar.

Donald J. Trump is petty.

Donald J. Trump is mean-spirited.

Donald J. Trump is self-absorbed.

Donald J. Trump is misogynistic.

Donald J. Trump is gleefully nasty.

Donald J. Trump is cruel.

Donald J. Trump is dangerous.


THAT GUY is obscene.


December 9, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By What Small Men

This is by no means an essay about politics. My political leanings have nothing to do with this. Nothing.

Today, the US Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 torture program. Actually what the Committee released was a summary of its actual report. The summary was 528 pages long. The report itself is more than 6,000 pages long.

I’m trying to decide if I have six thousand pages’ worth of details in my whole life. Verbose as I may be.

Five years of investigation have yielded a report that condemns CIA personnel who ran the torture program during the George W. Bush presidential administration. (That program has been called the “enhanced interrogation program” by many; but in one of his columns (to be found at esquire.com/blogs/politics/) today, political writer Charlie Pierce wrote, “[a]nyone who still calls this ‘enhanced interrogation’ is an idiot and a coward and I have no time for them.” He’s right, and that phrase will not be used here, not that I’d planned on it.)

True, the CIA has a reputation for carrying out intelligence endeavors without checking in with any of the actual branches of American government; but it was specifically authorized to carry out this program by Justice Department lawyers David Addington and John Yoo, among others.

[T]he Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality,” said the Senate report. And by this time, many articles and books have been written which identify the people within the Bush administration who fully supported the various legal memoranda which were created to justify all this genuine awfulness, this inhuman activity to be carried out by humans against other humans.

On the one hand, during the Nuremburg trials after World War II, no quarter was given to Nazi personnel who claimed to be “merely following orders”. Sorry, said the prosecutors; that doesn’t cut it. That won’t get you off the hook. Perhaps we can’t know what kind of pressure was exerted upon Nazis who ranked anywhere below Hitler (it may have been difficult to just resign), or upon American intelligence personnel who were authorized to do this, this, and this to prisoners in order to interrogate them fully.

As Charlie Pierce also noted today, there are plenty of CIA agents who have been properly excoriated for what they actually did, but who may also be feeling thrown under the bus somewhat – at the very least because the people, the leaders, whose orders they were carrying out appear to have largely escaped the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ire, at least within their report. Many CIA personnel are done; meanwhile, their superiors of that time are still being interviewed on CNN, are still giving speeches, and astonishingly are still being asked for their opinions about what American foreign policy should be and how it should be carried out.

Great. Thanks to them, the United States of America has ceded the moral high ground in international relations for a good long while.

There are a number of writers, whose work I have read in the last 48 hours, who suggest that all this was not merely done “in our name” … which is bad enough … but that it was done by us, the United States of America, and we all bear responsibility.

Sorry, but I reject this idea. I didn’t authorize such miserable things, and you likely didn’t. My friends wouldn’t have, and I bet your friends wouldn’t have either. Most decently-adjusted people wouldn’t.

Sound a little naïve? Perhaps.

But beyond such lofty, American-history-class thoughts as “our representative government has failed us”, and “if we can only muster 30 percent turnout in an election, then we get the government we deserve”, and such … I can’t think of a single person that I know personally, in any of my spheres of life – family, personal, professional – who would consider any of the torture techniques of the Bush years as remotely okay, never mind actually participate in them.

I’m willing to bet that even some of the people who jump on the Internet and post genuinely awful comments in the comment sections … even some of the people who make chest-thumping noises about taking people they don’t agree with and doing horrible things to them just because they believe something different … even some of the Ted Nugents of the world … … if push came to shove, I’d still bet that the vast, vast, VAST majority of those people would still physically buckle if given the instruction to actually commit the acts that the Senate report detailed, themselves, with their own hands.

(I know, I know, there are all those intriguing science experiments wherein people were instructed to administer electric shocks to other people who gave wrong quiz answers and those shock-administering people’s behavior seemed to suggest that the veneer of civilization can be thin indeed. My delicate mind would prefer that those didn’t exist, this moment. And the book Lord of the Flies, as well.)

I’ve written previously in this space about empathy, or the lack thereof. There are those, assuredly, who do lack. But I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of American citizens still possess some … enough, at least, to recoil from orders like those that the CIA agents were given. I’d be willing to hope so, at least. Again, this probably brands me as naïve.

The people in the higher echelons of the Bush Administration – knowing that they wouldn’t ever have to be the ones to use their own hands in this effort – didn’t flinch. They figuratively pulled the trigger. According to a lot of articles and books that I’ve read in the past few years, they did so enthusiastically.

Which brings me to yesterday’s New York Times editorial page.

In it, there’s an op-ed piece (found at nytimes.com/2014/12/09/opinion/pardon-bush-and-those-who-tortured.html?_r=0) by Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; an essay which makes a remarkable suggestion (for an ACLU leader; and for anyone who has been supportive of any effort to prosecute the bastards):

Before President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. Along with eight other human rights groups, we sent a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that granting pardons would undermine the rule of law and prevent Americans from learning what had been done in their names.

But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.”

The way to establish this, Mr. Romero said, is indeed to pardon these people for authorizing and ordering the torture. After all, the only way anyone can merit a pardon … is if they’ve committed a crime, yes?

Clever, these natives.

I am hugely conflicted about this idea.

At first, I recoiled as much as Mr. Romero did. A pardon, to some, might imply exoneration … might suppose a lifting of guilt … and, in extreme interpretations, might even suggest forgiveness.

No. No, damn it.

The current President, whom I admire, and who upon his inauguration immediately instructed the CIA to knock off the torture … nonetheless feared political fallout too greatly to put into action the means of holding the proper people accountable for the policies they justified and the orders they gave. And now, for many (although not all) of these people, the statute of limitations has run out. That’s one of the things that I can not appreciate Mr. Obama for. Maybe there were backroom Beltway highest-levels-of-government so-secret-even-the-Prez-knows-little-of-them reasons why it was a fool’s errand to even think that such holding-accountable would ever happen. I’m not a conspiracy theorist; but my God, there are days …

He hasn’t – or, all right, we haven’t – even been able to properly try and convict the Addingtons and Yoos and Rumsfelds and Rices yet. A pardon could give them the idea that they’ve dodged the biggest bullet of their lives. Unless they don’t require that idea. Unless, as former Vice President Dick Cheney takes every possible televised opportunity to insist, they feel that if they had it to do all over again they’d not change a thing because it was justified and correct and right and so am I.

This interpretation of a pardon strikes me, at least, as unfair: because those who might be pardoned don’t deserve this peace of mind – not after what they put other people through. Not just the other people who were on the receiving end of the torture, but the other people who went to fight wars (utilizing intelligence, gathered from tortured prisoners, which has been shown to be inaccurate and useless and therefore actively unhelpful to them), and to die, and to leave behind families to grieve and never get their loved ones back (or just return physically and psychologically damaged) and wonder what in the hell it was any good for.

Then I got thinking … maybe, just maybe the pardon really would do what President Obama has not: label these people, unequivocally, once and for all, as criminals. “An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted,” wrote Mr. Romero.

And after all, the only way anyone can merit a pardon … is if they’ve committed a crime, yes?

The jury inside my head is still out.

But what makes me certain that at the end of this particular figurative day, the label of “criminal” needs to be assigned, and made to stick, is this:

Former President George W. Bush approved these measures. Captain goes down with the ship. Fish rots from the head. Name your aphorism; it’s all there.

Nations would be terrified if they knew by what small men they are in reality ruled.”  -Charles de Gaulle

Oh! …That’s a good one, too.

In his remarkable book, “Bush on the Couch”, professor of clinical psychology Dr. Justin A. Frank created a psychoanalyst’s profile of Mr. Bush, tracing his character from childhood through presidency. He utilized a startling amount of circumstantial evidence to identify and analyze Bush’s patterns of thought, action, and communication.

Two of Frank’s cited anecdotes stand out, to me:

First, this. In May 2000, New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof quoted Bush’s childhood friend Terry Throckmorton: “’We were terrible to animals,’ recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out. ‘Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,’ Mr. Throckmorton said. ‘Or we’d put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.’”

As Baltimore Sun reporter Miriam Miedzian subsequently wrote in September 2000: “So when he was a kid, George W. enjoyed putting firecrackers into frogs, throwing them in the air, and then watching them blow up. Should this be cause for alarm? How relevant is a man’s childhood behavior to what he is like as an adult? And in this case, to what he would be like as president of the United States?” Dr. Frank lays out why he thinks it’s very relevant indeed.

And second, this. Dr. Frank references commentator Tucker Carlson’s interview with then-Texas Governor Bush about how his state’s Board of Pardons had arrived at the determination of the clemency plea of convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker. During the interview, Bush alluded to a TV interview which Tucker had given to Larry King. Carlson wrote:

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, ‘A number of protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker.’

‘Did you meet with any of them?’ I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them,” he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for [the interview]. I watched his interview with [Karla Faye] Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions like, ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?’”

What was her answer?” I wonder.

‘Please,’” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “’don’t kill me.’”

I must look shocked — ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel — because he immediately stops smirking.”

The former President was interviewed this past Sunday on CNN, as news of the Senate torture report’s impending release was spreading. He said this:

We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf. These are patriots, and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.”

Their contributions to this country, Mr. Bush, were both inhumane acts on a personal level and also disastrous acts on a foreign-policy level, on an international-relations level, and on a less-intellectually-driven, patriotic-music-laden “what this great nation stands for” level.

And since you (and your Administration colleagues) gave the orders, gave the okay, pulled the trigger … that means that those contributions are your contributions.

And if you think that this means that, via the commutative property, you are a patriot? …

I beg your pardon.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | books, civil rights, current events, Famous Persons, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Takeaway

Twelve years ago today was a very tough day.

On a couple of previous anniversaries of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, I have taken a moment (here in this blog space) to note the date, usually utilizing what I remember of where I was – what I was doing (hmph). I made a connection, without great difficulty, to the music I was making at the time with my students – and the role that music played in getting through the day, or making sense of the day later, or offering comfort to people who needed it for a long time after.

I was teaching today, as well. Since I’m relatively new to my school, I was teaching several classes’ worth of students with whom I had never shared this particular observance. The change of scenery, I think, caused me to think in perhaps wider-angle terms than I would have otherwise. Things are different … somewhat.

My seventh-grade students were weeks or months old in 2001. I was twelve years younger, too; and much closer to the beginning of my teaching career than I am now. I wasn’t as schooled in the ways of geopolitical affairs and foreign policy as I have become, since. Then, I was much more likely to worry greatly about driving under highway overpasses than I am now – or, let’s just say that now I worry more about whether the bridges are going to come down on their own, never mind with help from terrorist people.

One night about a week ago, I noticed my local television listings beginning to fill up with 9/11 documentaries and tribute-laden programs – the Discovery Channel was showing nothing but, all afternoon and all night – and I was frankly shocked for a moment after I found myself thinking, “oh… Here we go. It’s that time of year.”

For those who lost people that they dearly loved, that day, September will always be “that time of year”. I was instantly embarrassed at my thought (which I had unhelpfully delivered to myself in the voice of the “Stewie” character from “Family Guy”). The sister of a good friend of mine from high school was on the second plane that hit the World Trade Center, for heaven’s sake. If the tables were turned, I’d be more than a little put out that somebody was thinking of this particular anniversary with the same kind of jaded outlook that a lot of us carry into, say, the holiday shopping season in December. For many many people, this is and always will be – well, deadly serious.

Not long after 9/11, many people wondered if it would be this generation’s Pearl Harbor – not so much as an impetus for war specifically, but more as an event that was both unforgettable and a turning point in a lot of people’s understanding of the state of the planet Earth, for better or for worse. I doubt people were thinking, “oh… Here we go again,” on December 7, 1953.

So I did several hundred mental pushups, as a sort of penance for my offhand thought. And I thought, okay, then: is there anything that we can take away from that awful day? Anything positive? Anything that we’ve actually learned?

There is the temptation to respond to that question by commenting on political- and military-science permutations of this question. We went to war in two places in the wake of 9/11 and we’re still hanging around in one of those theaters, a dozen years later, and to what end I’m not sure (except that this must be how the Soviet Union felt in 1980 or so). More lives lost; less ground gained, I think.

I am tempted to express deep concern about our temptation – then and now – to knee-jerkily retreat into patriotic fervor, as a means of reassuring ourselves that not only was this an awful, evil act (well, it was that; and no civilian population anywhere “had it coming”), but that becoming victims of that heinous crime automatically made us, or perhaps more properly our government, blameless in all things and justified in any and all responses. Invasions of whole countries followed. Euphemisms like “extraordinary renditions” and “enhanced interrogation” followed. Unnerving titles such as “Homeland Security” were created. Chants of “USA, USA” only make me smile at the Olympics, I think.

As is almost always the case … it’s not nearly as simple as politicians and pundits make it their business to make us believe.

So, while government activities and international politics grind on, actual people still suffer, both directly because of the attacks and indirectly, for a staggering and unnerving variety of reasons. There are vast, sweeping plains of wrong that haven’t yet been made right. There were wrongs before 9/11 that haven’t yet been addressed. There are debates that haven’t even been properly begun.

So what can we possibly take away from 9/11 that can make the human race seem like a noble thing?

Finally, I came around to this:

If thinking about 9/11 causes us to wonder what would possess someone to do such a thing, and we look further afield than just the instinctive, jingoistic “they hate us for our freedoms” answers … then regardless of what we find, we’ve at least tried to imagine the world from someone else’s point of view … and that’s something.

If observing 9/11 will cause us to remember and thank and support first-responders – not just the ones that ran toward the burning Twin Towers, but the ones that run toward trouble and danger in our own communities all the time, right now – then that’s something.

If recalling 9/11 will cause us to remember or be introduced to tales of ordinary people helping other ordinary people in far-from-ordinary circumstances … then that’s something.

If remembering 9/11 will cause us to reach out to people we know who lost friends or family on that day, to offer them some help or support or comfort or connection … then that’s something.

If I can start out sitting in a classroom with students who were mere toddlers in 2001, having conversations with them about those terrible events and these difficult issues … and somehow end up with a teachable moment that boils down to “go out of your way to treat people decently, so that your individual world stands a chance of being a better place”, or “let’s work together because it sure beats working against people” … as happened this morning …

then I guess that’s something.

September 11, 2013 Posted by | blogging, current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment