Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001

In some ways it seems like only yesterday; in others, it seems a lifetime ago.

On September 10th, 2001 I was looking forward to the imminent release of DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories. I had just completed the foreword (the last part of the book, oddly enough) and sent the complete manuscript to the publisher for finalization and printing.

Terry Lee Rioux was staying with me while she traveled across L.A. interviewing people for her then-in-process bio of De, FROM SAWDUST TO STARDUST. The view out the window was bright, warm and beautiful.

We awoke September 11th to a ringing telephone. One of Terry's contacts (her agent, I believe) was calling to ask if she had the TV set on.  No, Terry said.  "Turn it on" she was told.

We did.

And from that moment on, my world stopped. I saw two airliners crashing repeatedly into the North and South towers, saw one of the towers going down and, not long after, live, the other. It seemed a scene out of a disaster movie, but it was real. People were dead and dying, some of them jumping out of the Trade Center upper floors to escape the heat of the burning buildings. I saw one praying as he fell. This was real. I was flabbergasted, completely undone, aghast... mouth open, tears streaming down my face.

I watched, hour after hour. Warner Bros. shut down for days and then re-opened with new, Israel-like security meaures in place. The next time I went in to work there, getting inside the gates took a lot longer because studio guards were placing mirrors beneath each vehicle to be sure none carried explosives and looking into trunks and interiors, too.

I organized a candlelight vigil at the condo where I lived. That evening, many veterans and immigrants, including a Muslim woman with her head covered, came to share in solidarity for the gaping wound we were all experiencing.  Another Arab world immigrant was in tears. She told me, "We came to America to find peace and rest from all this. It has followed us here."

Suddenly I realized how lucky we were that this kind of thing hadn't happened in our daily lives before. Too many other countries deal with the aftermath of terrorism every single day.

I am grateful that we have not had another attack like this one -- that those responsible for masterminding 9/11have been backed into caves and are hobbled by the vast outpouring of international military and intelligence support that America has received. Something we're doing is working... at least for now.

I know we won't be out of the woods until non-prejudicial (e.g. beyond nationalism and tribalism) education and tolerance becomes universal, until people realize we share a planet with a diverse population which is largely in much greater need than we are.

Uncivilized (uneducated) people do uncivilized things. Desperate people do desperate things. Hateful people do hateful things.

But there are more of us than there are of them. If that weren't the case, the cause would have been lost generations ago.

It's our job to help, love and encourage the ignorant, desperate and hateful and let them know that their methods of communicating displeasure are counter-productive and will only create more pain for them. And we have to truly listen and respond appropriately to their needs as well as to their methods.. the way we do with our still-under-construction youngest children (as yet uncivilized).

I don't know all the answers. I just know that we need to be willing to listen twice as much as we talk. If we'll just do that much, we're bound to learn a lot about how to proceed.

Right now, it seems few are listening. Most are shaking fists. On both sides.

As Dr Phil would say: "How's that workin'?"

It's time to grow up. We still don't have a civilization. What we have is a poorly-contained brawl.

We can do better.

1 comment:

JD Moores said...

This is what the isolationists of the early 20th century feared, albeit in the abstract, as I doubt they could have imagined such devastation. It's a nice thought, the idea of living in a world that takes its cues from Star Trek, where everyone gets along and it's "one planet" instead of "one nation." For better or worse, that's not reality, and pretending like it is or could be is not "workin," either.

The Middle East has lived roughly the same way for a millenia or more, and that's not something that anyone is going to change, overnight, if ever. Even as a Republican, I know that's one of the biggest, fundamental mistakes that Bush made in his approach to the "war on terror" and his foreign policy, in general. Whether they wanted or needed trade with the Western world, they definitely didn't want any other type of "relationship" beyond the kind required to get what they want from us from time to time (i.e., immigration privileges and shared wealth), and to have forced it upon them is perhaps the only way in which we, as Westerners, brought this on ourselves. Still, what makes people mad - what makes me mad - is the condemnation of how women are treated, for example, in Islamic nations, while in the same breath, I'm told to "tolerate," "understand" and "appreciate" their people and their culture. My half-sister is a converted Muslim, 20+ years and counting with 3 kids, one grandchild and 2 marriages to Iraqi and / or Muslim men already - and she will tell you - Saddam Hussein's approach was the ONLY kind of leadership that maintained peace and relative stability in that region, regardless of the moral implications of his tactics. To ignore what that says about the region AND its culture - about Islam in general, its leaders if not a majority of its followers - is only going to allow them to play us for fools, to take advantage of our naivete and open ourselves and the rest of the world up to more devastation because whatever smoke screens they throw at us about our "racist" foreign policy, our killing of "innocent civilians," or our disrespect of their culture, the bottom line is that these "terrorists" do what they do because THEY ARE MUSLIM and WE ARE NOT. And the reason we have such a hard time avoiding "civilian" casualties over there is because, due to the poverty and desperation in that region, were we to wipe out Al Quaeda in its entirety today, it would be up and running again within a matter of months, its leadership made up of the "innocent civilians" we tried so desperately to save, because that's all they have, and because it gives them a reason for living and even money in their pockets when they do things like sell their daughters to groups that strap bombs on their backs in the ongoing effort to erradicate Israel and all "infidels."

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and I honestly don't know if the kind of utopian change described here is possible for the world in the future, but for now, the best policy for Westerners is to cut as many ties with the Islamic, Middle-Eastern world as possible (which is what they say they want anyway) and focus solely on defending our own borders, which should include stricter immigration guidelines - AND what people call "racial profiling," because it's the most logical use of demographics for security purposes and because the FBI has been doing it successfully for years as it applies to what serial killers were usually thought to be (i.e., WHITE, MALE, 18-35, lo-to-middle income - yes, Caucasion IS a race). After all, I don't think it's any coincidence that the seemingly xenophobic countries like China, with their strict policies regarding foreigners, are not currently suffering the same kind of turmoil as Europe and most of the Western world.