Category Archives: United States

What I Will Always Remember on 9/11

I can’t seem to answer the most fundamental question about remembering 9/11. Exactly what are we expected to remember?

If it is the terror act and deaths, are we to always remember every act of terror in the US? Or only this one? Are we to forget Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings that killed 168 people? Or the Aurora movie theatre shooting that killed 12 and wounded 70? Or the Fort Hood massacre that left 13 dead? The Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead? Columbine High School where 15 died? And all the others.  Are these numbers too small?

Should we forget the innocent victims of madmen with guns? The families killed and torn apart? The single deaths by acts of terror? If we are to always remember the deaths of 9/11, which deaths are we to forget?

Perhaps we are asked to remember the vastness and egregiousness of the terrorism perpetuated on 9/11. But if that is so, I can’t stop at the horrific acts of 9/11. Wars, a constant on our planet, are conglomerations of acts of terror writ large. Death by starvation in a world that can feed us all is a massive form of terror that knows no end.

If we look beyond our borders, can we ignore that every day some 21,000 people – about 18,000 of whom are children – die of hunger? Even though they are not slamming into our buildings, that’s the equivalent of about 100 deadly jet plane crashes each day. *

The number of people who died in the 9/11 terror attack was shocking for our nation. Watching the Twin Towers collapse, a collectively indelible moment in our history. That NYC and Washington DC were targeted on a grand scale was the iconic moment of a generation. Still, am unable to resolve the refrain of always remember, never forgive, never forget.

When I remember 9/11, I grieve for all who died —  but no more and no less than for the senseless, tragic deaths of others I have not met and did not know. And that was only augmented by our response with acts of war and the senseless deaths we as a nation caused and incurred in a reaction that can hardly be justified by collective grief.

We know violence begets violence and terror is a constant threat. So in my memories, I choose to cross borders and grieve for all senseless deaths. I choose to remember that we as a species are diminished by every one of these deaths, but that humans are overwhelmingly good. I choose to remember and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who do not abide evil. Above all, I choose to remember that spirals of destruction are brought down by the essential qualities of our collective humanity — redemption and compassion.

*This is so disturbing. On this page you see the faces of the hundreds who die of hunger in the hour you are watching.

Share

Sound Bites for Dinner

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

Poor Americans. The vast majority of the potential voting public* are pathetic huddled masses indeed. An outsider might say this is an overweight country stuffed with folks that feel entitled to all the goodies and seem to keep grabbing them.

May be. But it is also a country on the brink of starvation. Sensationalism is Coke Cola — an addictive, zero content, high calorie, sugar-oozing carb. America, never really full, keeps coming back for more. So what looks well-fed on the outside, is just excessive bloat. Continue reading

Share

Gun Pop Quiz

The Blogosphere is burning with opinions on the Aurora movie theater slaughter of July 20th. Personally, I’m speechless. Instead of saying something I’m likely to regret, I’ll satisfy my need to write about this tragedy with a pop quiz. Let me know what grade you get. Be honest.  As for me, due to underestimates too vast to note, I flunked miserably. 

The mass shootings in 2007 at Virgina Tech. How many people were killed (excluding the shooter who killed himself)? Continue reading

Share

The Nation Without Mirrors

P.S. I know that should come at the end, but I need to start with it. Normally I just bang out a blog to clear my brain and expected this would be the same. It wasn’t. It was hard to write and I keep feeling like I want to apologize. It seems I am battling with the same assumptions and larger than life mythologies I’m about to discuss — and I didn’t even realize it. Anyway, here goes…

Just came back from a trip to Ell-ay and SF Bay. Back home to Mexico. Undisputed — the US has some amazing, wonderful aspects. People consider where we live in Puerto Vallarta paradise, and I often feel that way as well, but the U.S. has its own versions of paradise and Cali has more than her fair share.

Still, I came back confused about tons of stuff from the US. Life seems so hard right now and almost everyone appears confused, anxious or depressed. Logic notwithstanding, people desperately cling to a sense of entitlement that is peculiar to America and feels totally outdated to me. It’s a subtext that says no matter what, this is the greatest place on earth. We are so bound up looking at other places and declaring them less than, that it stops us from looking in a mirror.

Looking from the outside in, I see a  nation refusing to accept that it may be no worse but is in fact no better than other countries. I feel that deep-seated mythology even from my progressive friends who have many criticisms of the US. It’s still a subtext that gets in the way of self-examination.  From where I stand, I see a nation without mirrors.

Mention corruption to a Mexican and you’ll likely get a sympathetic response about how terrible it is here. Or poverty, problems with the school system, cronyism, etc. You get agreement without shame, confusion or defensiveness.  The national ego is not built on being the best country on earth.

Mention the cultural depths reaching back millenia, strong family ties, the comforts of life here, or the delicious food and you get enthusiastic agreement. People here have pride of place and country as much as Americans, and love their place of birth no less. By way of strong contrast with the States however, national pride is constructed without comparison to other places.

What I keep wondering is why we can’t do the same. We have mega corruption — assuming we agree that corporate power and vested interests should not have a place in government. We have more poverty now than at almost any time in the past hundred years. We are constrained by a constitution that was conceived in an agrarian nation of the 1770’s and in many respects is irrelevant to respond to today’s challenges. We have humongous problems with health care, education, traffic (OMG! Ell-ay really is off the charts!), random violence, prisons. I could go on — not because America has more problems than other places, but because it’s my country and I know it well.

In discussions, both personal and national, even gentle critiques are often defended with absurd comparisons — “At least here we can express our opinion and not end up in jail like in xxx.” “You think there’s poverty here? What about yyy.” Women, violence… it’s all the same. The absurd part is that the country is never (and I mean never) a comparable western industrialized nation where we won’t come out on top in any of those areas. It’s usually a country we’ve stereotyped anyway, but it’s always a country in an entirely different stage of socio-economic development.

Why bother? Why not wo/man up and move on. It’s all rationalizations that fuel outdated mythologies and that holds us back. We could avoid a lot of verbal exhaust fumes if we found a national mirror that could give us a relatively objective 2012 appraisal.

We would get a lot further with in-depth discussions on solutions if we dumped the stifling and ridiculous mantras that the US is the best country in the world, the greatest democracy on earth, and we’re luckier than anyone else on the planet.

Hogwash. Double think.

America doesn’t need to be defended against its own condition. Like every country, it is well-loved by its citizenry. It has blemishes like every place and it just might be a hell of a lot easier to fix problems if we owned up and focused on solutions.

 

Share