« false idols | Main | in and out »

spitting fire

spitting fire

Nope. I'm not done yet. Not by a long shot.

We have come full circle, folks. Remember the days after September 11, 2001? Hundreds of news stories of how the nation - even the world - had come together as a whole. Unity. Brotherhood. Love your neighbor. Kindness among strangers. Wasn't it heartwarming? Remember those pictures of people in other countries mourning for the 3,000 dead, lighting candles and holding vigils. Remember all the speeches about coming together as one and holding hands and getting through this together?

One year later and the chasm between this side and that side has grown ever wider. Who is on this side, and who is on that side depends on your view of things. Sometimes it's a U.S.A. vs. The Rest of the World thing, sometimes it's American v. American or liberal v. conservative. No matter how you look at it, divisiveness rules the day, one year later.

One need to look no further than the comments on this very site to see the fault line in action. But let's look further, anyhow.

You can find a nice line in the sand over at Metafilter, courtesy of someone linking to this article (which uses a spitting camel analogy that is almost laughable).

See, it's not even the fault line between America and the rest of the world that bothers me as much as the sides being drawn right here (I am speaking as an American here, so put down the keyboard and don't bother sending me that email about being isolationist). I stand somewhere in the middle of this war between Americans. As much as I am appalled at Bush's decision to make September 11 Patriot Day (do we really need to slap a label on this event, or make it a Hallmark occasion?), I am equally appalled at the behavior of UC Berkley's brass who decided that the colors red, white and blue are offensive and the Star Spangled Banner is divisive, and that neither should play a part in any September 11 tributes on campus.

I have said my piece about the above already; I do not think that September 11 should be acknowledged as a patriotic day or a day to pledge your allegiance to your country. But to say that wearing a red white and blue ribbon on that day is offensive is just ridiculous. Then there's this:

Also, to prevent the exclusion of those who don't believe in the American Flag, there will be no tribute to the flag. "The flag has become a symbol of U.S. aggression towards other countries. It seems hostile," Quindel said.

Have we lost our freaking minds? Yea, so I am not the greatest cheerleader of Bush or this country or our foreign policies. But come on people, where do you draw the line on this? This is why I sit firmly in the middle and will not align myself with either conservatives or liberal. Freedom? What's that? On either side you are either having the flag and it's symbolism shoved down your throat or you are made out to be evil if you do wave the flag.

What about other countries? 55% of Europeans think that America is partly to blame for the WTC attacks. Hey, isn't that Tony Blair I see crawling up George Bush's ass? May I quote Jane Galt here? Thank you.

In related news, 100% of Americans think that Europe was "entirely to blame" for World Wars I, II, the Holocaust, and Communist atrocities in the former Soviet Union and associated territories. 99.8% of Americans think that "The next time Europeans get themselves in any kind of trouble that requires US intervention, they can k*** my a**". And 89% of Americans think that "If those same Europeans are against invading Iraq, then it's time to put Sadaam in a whole world of hurt."

One year later and the rest of the world hates America even more. Hell, Americans hate Americans even more. We've pitted ourselves against one another, lining up on the side of bomb them or don't bomb them, flags or no flags, love or hate.

We have yet to find some common ground where we can sit and talk and say "yes, I see your point of view, now here is mine and where can we make the two meet," because no one wants to listen, they just want to rant and talk and dare you to step over the line.

How about we stop for just one minute bickering about the cause(s) of the attacks? How about we stop giving the day a name and a slogan and a label and a t-shirt? Stop making really sappy country songs about it, stop plastering your foreign car with Go America! bumper stickers, stop berating your own country and other countries, stop the name calling and face making and calls for war and calls for peace and for one goddamn moment think of the 3,000 innocent people who died. Died. Died. No longer exist. Wiped out. Taken from the families and friends and loved ones. Just shut up and think.

What are you going to accomplish by being divisive and petty? What are you going to prove by laying the blame for this whole thing on Americans themselves, who purchase oil for their cars and work for corporations? Unless you live on a communal farm and run around naked all day, eating daisies and grass, don't come to me with the bullshit that I am part of the problem.

And conversely, if you want to talk about people fighting so we can be free, then don't bitch at me for using that freedom to argue our president's policies.

I am stuck in the middle. Yea..clowns to the left of me, clowns to the right. Oh I know, I'm the whole damn circus because I can't make up my mind whether I want to bomb the hell out of the whole world or hug it.

I'm ending this rant before my head explodes. But I am not done, not by a long shot.


Berkley is always full of shit. I'm as liberal as you can get, yet I'm not ashamed to say I'm proud of the flag, of the national anthem, and the pledge (sans "Under God").

It's only going to get worse, too.

"I Am A Patriot"
by Little Steven Van Zandt

I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what was on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
It ain't what I see with my eyes
And we can't turn our backs this time

I am a patriot and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
With people who understand me
I got nowhere else to go
I am a patriot

And I ain't no communist, and I ain't no capitalist
And I ain't no socialist
and I sure ain't no imperialist
And I ain't no democrat
And I ain't no republican either
And I only know one party
and its name is freedom
I am a patriot

Regarding the American flag; something similar has happened here in Sweden. Racists have sort of "claimed" the flag as theirs, as the national anthem, as the celebration of King Karl XII.

Racists wearing, waving and celebrating the flag and hollering the national anthem has tainted them to the point where they've become associated with racism.

However, we've managed to wash and rinse the flag and the anthem clean of the taint by raising public awareness and opinion against racism.

I hope America will be able to do so, too.

i find myself, more and more, pulling into a tight cocoon of complacency. it's a defense mechanism. i know i should care, i should fight, stand up, speak out, but i feel like i'm going to explode. the world at large is ripping me to pieces. yes, we have all lost our minds. every fucking one of us.

Happy 'Holy Fucking Shit Day', Michele.

You're tilting at windmills, because the whole world is nuts. Always has been. Always will be. It's almost comforting how consistent we are.

Flag wavers will call you unpatriotic, if you doubt their righteousness. Their opponents will find nothing redeemable in the thought that God and country are worth fighting for or that the government isn't always evil. "Places, everyone! The dance is starting. You can't see both sides of an issue! That's wishy-washy."

As to "Patriot Day":
"Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive." - Henry Steele Commager

And, being from Maine, I take offense that the Shrub has stolen Patriot's Day...we already have one--at least Mass and Maine do, since we were once part of Mass (shhh! don't tell anyone!).

I could do nothing but nod my head in agreement with this entire post. Guess I'm firmly planted in the middle, too, but you say it so much more eloquently. Thanks.

As a European blogger I'm going to start actively boycotting your site. I have already removed all links on my homepage to you and henceforth I will be checking three times a day to make sure you know that you're suffering from my lack of linkage.

Also, I'm going to stop watching television shows produced in the United States. I will know which ones to not watch by watching them and checking the copyright small print at the end.

Boo-hiss! Michele the isolationist! Boo-hiss! Michele the isolationist!

I am a patriot. pure and simple. I love my country but don't trust my government. I do not hate other countries but I do hate some of those other countries individuals. It takes an open mind to understand the difference. I'm with you Michelle - I have had a flag in front of my house since before I can remember, have always had a flag on my car (way before 9-11) and wear my USMC title proudly, but I think we should just all shut up and think to ourselves on sept 11. I am not a general lover of humanity - I tend to drift to the Ayn Rand side of life - but I do understand and mourn the loss of innocents. Marines do die... that's what we do, but we do that so those who choose not to wear uniforms should not have to die. To wage war or terrorism on those who walk in regular shoes is beyond any sense of honor and we should not glorify that lack of honor with an overabundance of red white and blue. Honor the memory of the innocents by being just a bit kinder to those in your small circle of people. Don't slap around your kids, don't snap at your spouse, don't sneer at your co-workers, learn the name of the janitor at your workplace, buy the doorman a donut, open the door for the next person in line... it's simple. just do it.

I'm with Solonor -- as a full-fledged MassholeMaineiac, my "Patriot's Day" is in April when all those folks come to town and run a lot.

wow, where'd the year go? it's already September?

Pa·tri·ots' Day (ptr-ts, -ts)
The third Monday in April, a holiday in Maine and Massachusetts commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, which began the American Revolution.

So now we'll have a Patriot Day and a PATRIOTS day? Now I'm really confused. I don't think Bush should be allowed to name new holidays when he has no grasp of the holidays we already have.

I totally agree with Michele. I know I'll never forget the look on my manager's face when she ran in the door at work, white as a sheet and screaming for a radio. I don't need to see Hallmark specials or hear karaoke versions of the Star Spangled Banner to remember that.
I don't need the reminder that lots of innocent people died that day. I already know that. I'm not so sure it would make the victim's families feel all that better about it either. I'm not sure if celebrating that day would really be so different from the people who celebrated the day it happened. I could understand a memorial being placed with the names of the victims, but a parade or other extravaganza? Not so much.

Kay, done ranting now.

I must've been watching different news than you right after the attacks. Apart from the New Yorkers who came together to help each other out, I didn't see this unity and brotherhood. I mainly saw Americans who wanted to destroy Arabs, both at home and abroad.

As for the flag, it's a symbol, which means that anyone can interpret it any way they want. I tend to find that some people see the flag for the values it's supposed to represent, freedom, justice, etc. And other folks tend to read American history into their interpretation, and see the flag as a symbol of hypocrisy, of the betrayal of those same values by the government. And then you've probably got some crazy people who interpret the flag to mean something about wombats.

But of course, most folks who hold to one interpretation don't realize that any other interpretations exist. Which tends to make for a lot of misunderstanding and ill-will.

Hrm, what can I say, when I start a fire it stays lit.

No tags for your convenience.

I think a little 8 year old boy here in Seattle had it nailed: to honor those who died in the attacks do something kind. Read to a child, give to the needy, volunteer. This kid held a garage sale and made enough money to buy 33 blankets to hand out to the homeless. Michele, I'm with you. I hate the idea of that day turning into another stupid, meaningless hallmark occassion. Makes me sick to ponder the possibility. I hope that kid's parents are proud of him, I know I would be.

"I love my country but don't trust my government"
Amen, Val.

And, Michelle, that was an awesomely beautiful rant.

thanks, great rant, right on target.

Thanks for this post. I haven't felt like writing anything about the subject because I'm kind of stuck in the middle like you. It makes me feel better to know I'm not alone.

I've been seeing ads on the telly here in Singapore, deluging us with programmes re-living and 'commemmorating' that date. Sorry, but I think I'll be avoiding the telly next Wednesday. I don't need to see the pictures again.

I think I'll content myself with 1) being grateful my sister in New York is alive and well, and 2) wishing the families of those innocents who died some measure of peace.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
If we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless. -Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi
Peace begins with a smile. -Mother Teresa
Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice. -Baruch Spinoza
Whoever can reconcile this, ‘Resist not evil’, with ‘Resist violence by force’, again, ‘Give also thy other cheek’, with ‘Strike again’; also, ‘Love thine enemies’, with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword’, or, ‘Pray for those that persecute you, and those that calumniate you’, with ‘Persecute them by fines, imprisonments and death itself’, whoever, I say, can find a means to reconcile these things may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, Light with Darkness, and good with evil. But if this be impossible, as indeed it is impossible, so will also the other be impossible, and men do but deceive both themselves and others, while they boldly adventure to establish such absurd and impossible things. -Robert Barclay

i'd intended to post a comment here, but jhames said it better, thanks, jhames.

I hadn't heard that about Cal. How frickin' Berkeley can you be? I wonder if that'll lead to another boycott of Berkeley merchants, resulting in another extended period of free parking downtown?

Using quotes instead of your own words to make an argument is easy:

"I do believe that where there is a choice only between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence."
Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi

"It is open to a war resister to judge between the combatants and wish success to the one who has justice on his side. By so judging he is more likely to bring peace between the two than by remaining a mere spectator."
Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi

But Gandhi isn't around today to speak in his own words about this issue, he's just left some behind that can be used to further most any argument you wish. Maybe we should try to articulate ourselves, in some other way other than "Peace is good."

Of freakin' course it is! Now, tell me how to effectively get it.

Simply smiling, or quoting a saint is not the answer.

PhotoDude is right, quotes don’t make peace. You make peace, and it starts by making peace with yourself.

Smile. Keep your heart open. Stop judging people. Don’t feel that you need to retaliate against words when the only thing that is hurt is your pride and ego. Vote. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Be a part of your children’s lives. Accept difference and change. Celebrate diversity. Question everything (including this).

Or you don’t have to do anything. In fact, it is much easier to judge than affect.

But wouldn’t it be great if violence solved everything? If you and I disagreed, I could just pull you out of your bed, bludgeon you with the end of a weapon, rape you and your loved ones, torture you, destroy everything you own, and kill your - slowly, painfully - loved ones and leave you with nothing but the smallest breath in your lungs.

What shocked me most when I lived in New York was watching men & women on 9/11 scoop ashes into styrofoam cups for souvenirs, people screaming for the death and destruction of my neighbors because they are from the Middle East, and the mob mentality held by so many that our solution lied in trusting an incompetent president to declare war on an already desolate country where the indigenous peoples were already being killed and tortured by a fundamentalist regime.

The fact that America was dependent upon foreign oil because our greed prohibits us from selling American barrels for less which makes us slaves to OPEC; the fact that America trained and funded Osama bin Laden during Afghanistan’s war with the Soviet Union and then left the Afghans virtually alone during their civil war; the fact that America has not once intervened on behalf of the innocent people of Afghanistan under Taliban rule until our country lost so many but still so few compared to every other country and war ever fought, and even then we decimate them in the process of finding a man we cannot prove is dead or alive, and by the way have you even thought of what happened to the people in Afghanistan since America bombed the fuck out of them?; the fact that Americans have been asked to spy and report on one another for the safety and security of our nation’s borders, which does nothing more than re-invent McCarthyism; the fact that we have a president whose entire platform crests on the possibility of terrorist attack happening at any time, which gives him trust through fear; and the idea of going to war with another country that will do nothing more than kill more people and solve nothing than George Bush’s fear of being inadequate are exactly the reasons why we need to seek out peaceful solutions before we continue to find justice through mass destruction and violence.

So I quote poets, philosophers & saints, to remember what tools I have in my arsenal for making and affecting peace & love in this world. Sometimes it is better to listen to what has been said than scream down the world.

Here are some illuminating quotes:

On war:
He who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. (Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi)

On the attacks:

Let those who say that we must understand the reasons for terrorism, come with me to the thousands of funerals we're having in New York City--thousands--and explain those insane maniacal reasons to the children who will grow up without fathers and mothers and to the parents who have had their children ripped from them for no reason at all. (Rudy Giuliani, addressing the United Nations, October 2001)

The Americans thought they could not be defeated… They preferred the apes (i.e. the Jews) to human beings, treating human beings from outside the US cheaply, supporting homosexuals and usury. They have forgotten that in this universe there is a God whose punishment no one escapes… Allah came because they did not expect him, bombing their hearts with horror…"
(Arab columnist Ammar Shammakh on 9/11)

jhames –

Blaming the attacks on American consumption of oil and George Bush’s feelings of inadequacy will do nothing to stop the violence that’s being done by Islamic fundamentalists around the world – nor will it stop them from wanting to inflict harm on us. You say you support peace, then you complain that Bush did nothing to stop the Taliban before 9/11. Did you what intervention or not?

I find it hard to believe that peace is somehow the solution to this rising tide of intolerance. This is a group that despises us because we support ‘usury’, because we prefer ‘the apes’. But if you believe that peace is the answer, you won’t sell your point by blaming Americans for the attacks.

If you’d like many more quotes from Islamist sources repeating Mr. Shammakh’s opinions, please ask. I’ve got plenty.

I'm with you, Michele. I can't elaborate more right now, but keep it up.