Our readers talk back.
Tragedy Brings Out the Worst in 'Chron'
I have begun to see the Chronicle in a new light since the events of September 11. While most of the country has been shocked back into some semblance of a community by the attack, it seems that most of your staff has been immune to any such reaction. Many people who have much to criticize about daily life and its shortcomings in America, such as myself, have taken at least a moment to reflect on the positive aspects of life here. You, however, spend your time and newsprint belittling our fellow citizens who would dare to purchase and display flags. You make jokes about Aggies and their technically flawed symbolism at a football game without a hint of respect of the sentiment or effort behind the act, much less of an appreciation of how difficult it would be to coordinate the reproduction of an actual U.S. flag on such a large scale ["Naked City," Sept. 28]. Terms like "knee jerk nationalism" seem to be in no shortage in this last issue either, as if feeling some pride or gratitude for this country are somehow despicable. You are so ready to jump on the back of our administration at the moment that you can't even appreciate the fact that they have acted with restraint in their reactions and appear to be using their heads in a very difficult situation, for the most part, regardless of the posturing of Bush and the daily headlines to appease the masses. It is sad that this tragedy doesn't bring out anything better in you than typical post-Vietnam adolescent America-bashing in which you view us as forever the bad guy and the rest of the world as the victim. I used to view your paper as one of the better things about life here in Austin, but that is changing now. You just had a noteworthy anniversary, and I congratulate you on that. I just wish that some wisdom and depth of vision had come with those years.
LBJ: 'Great Political Leadership'
It saddens me to learn that Mike Clark-Madison cannot imagine "any president not taking the same steps as Bush" ["Austin @ Large," Sept. 21]. Since September 11, I have been remembering Lyndon Johnson after the assassination and, for the first time, appreciating the strength of character that allowed him to resist the political reflex to rally the country around him in a patriotic orgy of anticommunism (or some other suitably remote enemy). Instead, he insisted that our government was intact and that we were not being threatened by any foreign government, and he allowed us to mourn our loss secure in the knowledge that the nation was safe. Looking back, I can trace a direct path from Johnson's first sure steps in that crisis to the civil rights legislation and other domestic policies that focused on the generosity of the American spirit. For your readers (and writers) who are too young to remember great political leadership, it's time for a visit to the LBJ Library.
Faulkner Will Be Forgotten
Regarding UT president what's-his-name calling Robert Jensen a fool ["War of Words," Sept. 28], I submit this (slightly modified) letter sociologist Paul Bryant sent to Physics Today when they fired Jeff Schmidt for writing the book Disciplined Minds:
Despite the university's successful manipulation of contemporary minds regarding the purpose and integrity of academia, repressive actions such as yours have historically assured that the greatest minds among us receive the legacy of praise they deserve, while those who devote their limited time on earth to hindering progressive thinking receive the scornful obscurity they have so rightfully earned. No one remembers the names of those who sentenced Socrates to death, Galileo to excommunication or Thoreau to jail. But everyone remembers the names Socrates, Galileo, and Thoreau.
A Fool's Beliefs?
Dr. Jensen wonders why the UT president called him a fool. I have a few ideas.
Mr. Jensen published an article in the Houston Chronicle the week of the bombings stating that American foreign policy inspired this act of mass murder. Whatever the merits of his argument, this was extraordinarily poor timing. He should have waited at least until we had an accurate death toll. Insulting the victims and the injured nation does not, however, make Dr. Jensen a fool, it makes him callous.
Mr. Jensen's published works imply that since the U.S. has been guilty of war atrocities in the past, that somehow we shouldn't condemn or punish those who now do so. He mentioned several instances in which U.S. policies injured civilians, without mentioning or discussing the context in which those events occurred. He also failed to balance our baleful influence against those cases where we've been a force for good. Still, simply ignoring the context of American activities to make a propaganda point does not make Dr. Jensen a fool. It makes him dishonest.
Dr. Jensen is a vocal supporter of a number of progressive causes, including labor rights and the vaguely named "anti-globalization." Progressives have a historic opportunity to portray their pet causes from women's rights to mass transit as necessary to fight terrorism. The only requirement is that no taint of anti-Americanism attach to the supporters. Any suggestion of sympathy for the hijackers will doom any cause so associated for 50 years. Dr. Jensen allowed hatred for his own nation to overpower practical concerns about how his actions would reflect on causes he holds dear. His emotions overwhelmed his brain. That makes him a fool.
The More Things Change --
Congratulations on your new format. The Statesman is changing, too. My message still being that of support for the Austin people and everyone in my barrio for the sad events of Sept. 11. But my fear is that of a new focus on police tactics here in Austin, as a result of the two-week-long psychological campaign against everybody for the acts of revenge on the few in New York. R.I.P. all the thousands who died there in little pedacitos, not just the public servants.
'The Evil Is Ours'
In light of the recent attacks, I thumbed through the many "Letters at 3AM" columns I have carefully put away. One in particular titled "Collateral Damage" [March 6, 1998] brought home the point that so many, especially our national mainstream media, have missed.
"The evil is ours."
In that column Michael Ventura forcefully makes an argument for the fact that our beloved nation has, either directly or through our support of various regimes, "... spread devastation among often defenseless civilian populations, and all were illegal by our own laws." In addition, he reminds of our national media's acquiescence to "... unprecedented censorship and control of what Americans were allowed to learn about our wars."
The most telling point Michael makes is that the U.S. facilitated Iraq's capacity to manufacture biological weapons, tracing it to a policy decision made during the Reagan administration. "Sit with that awhile. Take it in. Contemplate the nature of your government, first to produce abomination; then to sell it to Iraq; then threatening to bomb Iraq for keeping what it purchased from us. The evil is ours."
Those who have suffered as a result of our nation's shortsighted and morally bankrupt foreign policy, and they are legion (for a list, read Michael's column), have applied our own professed standards of justice against our government's actions and come up with the empty lie of hopelessness and despair. Our nation's evil begat the conditions which allowed yet another evil named bin Laden to fester and grow unchecked. That the streets of New York have run with the blood of our families is unbearably cruel, but it is a sanguine testament to what a people without hope and liberty are capable of. We must impel our government to offer the promise of justice and liberty -- and back it up.
Muslim Musicians an Inspiraton
I've finished reading this week's letters praising and condemning the Chronicle for the coverage (or lack thereof) of the events of September 11, 2001 ["Postmarks," Sept. 21]. We had a rare opportunity in Austin on the night of September 18. The Master Musicians of Jajouka (www.jajouka.com) came through our town and played with Critters Buggin' at the Mercury to a crowd of 300. Despite anti-Arab sentiment, a growing sense of fear among American Muslims, and cancellations in three cities (including NYC) due to the attack, these Moroccan Muslims continued their tour through the United States. The music played by Bachir and Mustapha Attar has been passed down through their family for 4,000 years. According to tradition in Morocco, they possess baraka, or the blessing of Allah, which gives them the power to heal and the endurance required to play some of the most intense and complex music around. Those of us who attended were treated to a rare and magical blend of East and West. While the Chronicle recommended the show [Sept. 14], the tour was not put into context. As far as I know, they are the only touring Muslims in our country at the moment. They deserve our thanks for bringing us a musical message of peace during a time of violence and fear. I wish them peace and safety on their journey home.
Take the Good, Leave the Bad
First of all I would like to compliment Louis Black on an extremely well written "Page Two" [Sept. 21]. I found it to be very insightful and well thought-out. I hope that article is able to subdue some of the bloodlust that is going around town.
The reason I am writing is because of a short blurb I read in the "Naked City" section. "Jerry Falwell blamed last week's terrorism on liberals ..." Wow! That was really news to me. For some reason I thought it was a terrorist group headed up by Osama bin Laden. What was I thinking? He goes on to talk about pagans, abortionists, feminists, and the gay community. Frankly I was shocked that he left out the name of the head of this seemingly motley crew, Tinky-Winky the purple (gay) Teletubby. All joking aside, I am concerned about the people who take this guy seriously, and judging by the Web sites I looked at regarding him, there are a lot of people who do.
Is that the "Christian way," to blame this reprehensible act on people who obviously have no part in this tragic event? It is true that they (the Taliban and I'd say most terrorist groups) hate our progressive society as well as our freedom. Perhaps the real reason they hate us so much is because of our wishy-washy foreign policy.
Is this a time to be pointing fingers and promoting hate? I hardly think so, and although Falwell has said he apologizes, I don't believe that he means it. I hope everyone, Christians, pagans, Republicans, Democrats, dogs, and cats, etc., can forget all the pettiness for the time being and try to remember the good in people. Right now, that is all we have.
God Bless Us, Every One!
I've allowed a few days to digest the injustice that has occurred in America. We're living in difficult times as foreseen; and as written; in the Bible.
I ask myself; What kind of person could intentionally harm an innocent Being? My prayers aren't for the dead. It's already too late; if they failed to accept Jesus Christ; their journey; I never want to conquer!
My prayers are for the offenders and those offended. I used to believe humans were the most intelligent on this earth?!
God bless America and all the inhabitants of this world!
Robert Eugene Blake
Blinded by Arrogance
Tuesday, September 11, we Americans were shocked to realize that we are as vulnerable to terrorist attack as anyone on the globe. Our own presumptuousness and arrogance have blinded us from a world of violence, hate, racism, and lack of respect for humanity. I am not justifying the tragic events in New York and Washington and not blaming anyone for the tragic outcome, but we as a nation must start looking inwardly to understand the reasons why certain people direct such hatred toward our country and toward Americans. Western governments and international corporations for many years have refused to recognize the impending dangers that their actions around the world would eventually produce. Western government's reaction to international maladies has been measured by the amount of tangible profits that the outcome will create, with no consideration to humanity. The situation in the war-stricken Middle East, where no policy has been enacted since Clinton left office, the disallowing of the production of AZT in Africa because the drug companies could not foresee a large profit, the walking out of International Racism Conference in South Africa because the western world was not comfortable with wording of the charter, and this prosperous country, the inability of our government to create a medical plan for seniors and the poor because the HMOs foresee the dwindling of their large profit margin. Where is humanity? Where are the good people of America? Where is the outcry?
"Render on to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's."
Don't Forget About the Animals
The tragic loss of life and wanton destruction caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11 has raised my consciousness of other global tragedies.
Every day, 24,000 people worldwide die of hunger for lack of grains and legumes fed to animals raised for food. Another 18,000 die of chronic diseases linked conclusively with the consumption of these animals.
Every day, 125 million innocent, sentient animals are butchered, frequently still conscious, after a lifetime of caging, crowding, and deprivation in the world's factory farms. For every human being who dies of warfare, crime, or terrorism, 10,000 sentient animals die a violent death.
This is why, on October 2 (Ghandi's birthday), I will be observing World Farm Animals Day, launched 18 years ago to expose and memorialize the daily human and animal suffering wrought by the relentless international network of animal agriculture. I will be asking my friends and neighbors to help alleviate this suffering by reducing their consumption of animal products.
The Reasons Behind the Attack
In regards to the tragic events of September 11, very little has been offered to provide context for the attack. Both in the media and in daily conversations, I have not heard a realistic discussion of the larger picture in which these events took place.
Of course a valid question to ask is why the United States was targeted for this type of attack. Why did the terrorists not target Canada or Norway? What causes so much anger and frustration that people would be willing to undertake suicide attacks against the world's only superpower? The typical answers I have heard include; religious fanaticism, evil, forces opposed to freedom and democracy, and a desire to undermine our way the of life. All of these answers are simplistic and do not provide a plausible explanation.
The real answer becomes obvious once one is aware of the nature of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. is the largest arms dealer in the world. The United States has been involved in the overthrow of democratically elected governments around the world, with Guatemala and Chile coming immediately to mind. The U.S. has supported dictatorial and oppressive regimes and continues to do so. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are among current examples. Also, let us not forget that Saddam Hussein was a U.S. client prior to the Gulf War. The U.S. is the only country that opposed an international ban on landmines. The list could go on, but the point is that there are countless people in the world who are victims of U.S. foreign policy.
The best defense against this type of terrorism is not large shows of force and military posturing. Rather, the best defense is for Americans to begin to ask why our nation is singled out for such an attack. We should question our foreign policy and the actions of our military around the world. We should hold our leaders accountable for supporting dictators and undermining democracy abroad. Until we honestly ask these questions and take action, we will continue to face the senseless attacks of angry and desperate people.
Bush, Take Your Time With Response
I'm sure you are receiving hundreds of letters these days, but I thought I'd send you one anyway with this angle on things.
What is America? Who is America? The most "global" of all nations. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. A democracy -- government for, of, and by the people. Well, sort of. But that's another letter.
There are more nationalities and religions represented in the Untied States than anywhere else on the planet. The recent attacks were on people from all over the world. People with different viewpoints and opinions. But they all shared their belief of freedom and opportunity. This is the greatest opportunity fir the people of the world to show that they can put aside their differences and work together for the greater good. In recent days I have seen people being neighborly to each other. Not only on the huge scale of donations from all over the world to help the people in New York, Washington, and all their loved ones, but in the grocery stores and in traffic and in the work place and in places of worship. There has been a tremendous "movement" of goodwill, patriotism, and spirituality.
Because of the attacks people are in shock. People are grieving together. They are dazed and wanting things to feel normal again. The president asks and psychologists recommend that we try to return to some kind of normalcy. Going back to normal helps us to get over the grief but doesn't have to mean being isolated or self-centered. This has been a wake up call. This is the opportunity for people to evolve to the next level of human relations.
The president also asked that we be patient in regards to "our response." I say, " Take your time." Let's think this through carefully and get lots of input from other countries, since it is a global problem. And let's all pray that our country's elected officials will represent our country's people -- now in this difficult time and later when our domestic issues that used to be so important are once again. Since, after all, that is what America is all about. And hopefully, someday, the world.
'Pacifist Professor' Revisited
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the professor that you labeled "Pacifist Professor" [UT journalism professor Robert Jensen, "Media Clips," Feb. 5, 1999, austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue23/pols.media.html] is actually writing for an Islamic propaganda site. See his article: www.iviews.com/scripts/articles/stories/default.cfm?id=13189&category_id=39.
Nowhere in the article does he regret what happened on Manhattan, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania recently.
This man's CV has "Islam" written all over it.
Why did you interview him and not state his ideological background? It is quite relevant for the reader to know the real agenda of someone whose objective it is to change the current world order.
Frankly, I find that another interview with this person would be appropriate now.
Thanks in advance.
[Ed. note: You're welcome -- see this week's "Naked City."]
MLK Said it Best
Of all the words of inspiration that have been brought to mind by the recent catastrophic event in NYC, the following have brought me the most comfort and helped me most in clarifying a sense of purpose and commitment as I continue relentlessly to distill some fragment of hope from the swirling furor of human pathos that surrounds us.
"Where do we go from here?
"Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that ...
"Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this Universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." -- Martin Luther King Jr. 1967
Follow the Blood Money
Bombing Afghanistan makes no sense at all. What makes bin Laden go 'round is his money. And his money is surely not in Kabul. It is, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey (La Republica, Sept. 18, p.15), mostly in Cyprus, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. If these three rogue states don't freeze and seize bin Laden's money right now, let's bomb them until they cough up the last terrorist penny. Bin Laden would be finished on the spot. No distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them -- or their money. Cyprus, Panama, and the Caymans are fattening off Twin Tower blood.
Rethink Foreign Policy
The recent terrorist attack on American soil has left a lot us wondering how vulnerable we are as a nation. Unfortunately, we have been targets for some time but never suspected it would manifest itself to the extent that it did. On one hand, we have to contemplate whether this transgression against our nation is nothing more than a reminder of our inept foreign policy in the Middle East. Ever since the overthrow of Afghanistan's fragile autocratic government and expulsion of Iran's Shah in the mid-Seventies, as well as the CIA's financial support of Afghan rebels during the war against Russia in the early Reagan years, the United States has both directly and indirectly caused the destabilization of a volatile region. Additionally, we failed to oust Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War 11 years ago. Consequently, our continued interference in the sovereignty of numerous Islamic nations has come full circle and initiated immense resentment against the United States. Islamic fundamentalists are no different than any other extremist religious organization in the world. They are blinded by their hatred, insecurities, and intolerance and thus incapable of rational behavior. Further, any time a religious group is portrayed as fanatical and zealous, they resort to violence as justification for their diffidence. This kind of violence not only fails to resolve anything but rather perpetuates the assumptions and myths regarding the group. The United States may thus want to re-evaluate its foreign policies in the Middle East before resorting to war, as it is inevitable that retaliation today will lead to further terrorism, a break-down in diplomatic ties, instability, and years of distrust to come. It is also obvious and evident that both the INS and intelligence communities failed to protect America's interest. It is therefore time to coordinate efforts with Interpol and other international intelligence agencies, in order to prevent the harboring of illegal fugitives. For once, let's learn from this tragic event. The current administration needs to be careful, pragmatic, yet resolute in its approach. We should refrain from the errors of the Eighties. There are no winners in this, only innocent victims and thousands of generous, grieving individuals. Let's not be patriotic for the sake of it. We tend to forget the past too easily.
'P.2': 'Gratuitous, Shallow Carping'
I'm pretty sure that you are going to have something negative to say about President Bush no matter what he says or does. Nevertheless, I need to point out that your characterization of his recent comments as "bullshit Rambo posturing," or whatever, misses the point ["Page Two," Sept. 21]. Government rhetoric since Sept. 11 hasn't always done a lot for me either. But I also understand that statements from our government have had specific, nonliteral purposes. Louis: Attend to the subtext. When the president talks about "acts of war," "barbarians," or "justice" and "retaliation," he is attempting to do a number of things. Obviously, he is offering comfort to the angry literal-minded. He is warning us of sacrifice to come, soliciting our support for the effort. He is also feeling out world political leaders and popular opinion, indicating that a substantial response is likely and justified. He is soliciting world consensus for a fundamentally changed approach to international terrorism -- augmenting its traditional treatment as the criminal activity of individual actors with treatment as acts of war the activities of countries that aid in its execution. (Only in this way can such countries be sufficiently isolated and threatened as to raise the cost for supporting terrorism to an unacceptable level. The previous administration's response to Osama's terror bombing of American embassies -- symbolically dropping some half billion dollars in space age ordnance somewhere out on the Afghan desert -- quite clearly did very little other than to increase the Taliban and Osama's sense of impunity.)
By publishing these editorials you hold yourself out as a political commentator with something useful to add to the public colloquy. Gratuitous, shallow carping ain't it.
Bush the Punk
George Bush is a punk. First he fled for Nebraska like a frightened puppy, then popped up in Washington 12 hours later, and so clueless that all he could do is sputter trash talk. Osama bin Laden, "we're going dig you out of your hole, we're going to run you down ... dead or alive."
Suppose instead, he had immediately returned to Washington while establishing contact with fire [departments], police, Congress, others, reassuring them that the nation's president was on his way? No second thought, no confusing his personal safety with the fate of the nation.
Instead of painting bin Laden as an icon of evil and setting his capture as an icon of victory, the president should be warning us of the special interests lining up to loot the treasury. $40 billion for "National Security," another $15-20 billion to the airline industry, a capital gains tax cut ... but not a word or dollar for the 100,000 or so who are expected to lose their jobs.
Instead of ignorant threats and arrogant boasts, Bush should announce that for the next few weeks he and all administration members would fly on scheduled airlines. Of course there would be added security on those flights; but there would also be a president with his shirt sleeves rolled up, demonstrating by example what he expected of us.
Everybody knows who the real heroes are ... the firemen, of course, the cops, for a change, and all the ordinary people who are getting things working again. George Bush ain't one of them.
Waiting to Inhale
A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Todd McCormick, telling him how disgusted I was with my government, and offered him an apology on behalf of my country. That was before the terrorist incident. I just thought I was pissed before. This was act of defecation on freedom, and as a concerned American, I will not tolerate it. Whatever part my government may have played in all of this (CIA-trained bin Laden sure knows his way around scare tactics), is for now uncertain. See if you can catch the smile on FEMA's face as they fuck us and take our money.
This is another bullshit religious war, staged by fanatics with machine guns and nuclear bombs. I'm not even willing to die for my own God, let alone someone else's. Not that I profess any religious affiliation. God is a superstition. The Bible is a manual for politicians and other professional bullshitters to exonerate themselves while we suffer to deliver ourselves from evil. Just keep your mouth shut and pass the hat, brother. It seems the ultimate brainwashing to me; millions of people who pledge their souls and hard-earned money to an invisible man in the sky. Wake up and smell the calitas. Hell, I'm just waiting to inhale.
Freedom is a concept, not a reality, still I believe in America. Not the Corporate American matrix that we're all drowning in, but the potential that has yet to be unleashed. They say the terrorists are afraid of our democracy, our opulence, our sexually permissive nature. Well so am I. What they're all really afraid of is our voice, and no one speaks louder than Americans. Careful though, we don't want to end up like Adam and Eve.
So for all you weak-minded, pansy candy-ass sheep, please accept this raised middle finger as a salute from us flawed sinners. We heathens just don't know no better. But jump back, Jesus, there's hope for us yet -- I hear God works in mysterious ways.
Two Wrongs --
Like so many others, I have spent the week in shock, anger, and grief over the tragic events of Sept. 11. And now, added to the grief and anger, comes a sickening dread. I wonder, "Will our country stoop to the morality of the terrorists by inflicting similar pain on innocent people of other countries? Will women, men, and children who are unfortunate enough to live under regimes defined as U.S. enemies be subjected to American bombs and missiles? How can this be justice?"
I believe that the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks must be apprehended and brought to justice in full compliance with international law. But in pursuing that justice we must not allow innocent civilians to be harmed or killed. America is a nation founded on many of the highest principles, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as protecting the innocent until proven guilty.
My greatest fear is that our values, not only as Americans, but also as human beings, are now on the line. We must find the courage to stand up for those values, which are reflected in all spiritual traditions, as well as in the foundation of our country. As a citizen of this country, I am speaking out to both my government representatives and the media. I value human life. I do not support the same kind of vengeance-driven actions that killed thousands of innocent Americans to now inflict injury and death to thousands more innocent people of other nations. I want justice, not indiscriminate vengeance.
Today, our country and our humanity are being tested in profound ways. How we respond will define the America, and the world, that our children will inherit. I implore each of us to have the courage to speak out for justice and the preservation of life, so that the world we create may be a world of peace.
'Chron' Not Showing NY Respect
Your decision to go on with "business as usual" ["Page Two," Sept. 14] this week grated horribly on this transplanted New Yorker. I am a retired university professor who moved to Austin two years ago, and have been a fervent booster of the city. But this past two weeks of Chronicle have soured me considerably. What an example of sheer immaturity and bad taste, not to say chutzpah! Just the usual ads, the usual announcements, the editor's explanation of how everyone else is doing the job well so the Chronicle doesn't need to, the article protesting development in Dripping Springs, for God's sake, stuff about the latest city council budgets, etc, etc, and oh yes, the usual threadbare hippie-lib posturings by one damn fool named Belinda Acosta about terrorist America ["TV Eye," Sept. 21], and how a lot of what happened is our fault anyway for being so oppressive, echoed by some mea culpas from your Ventura lad ["Letters at 3AM," Sept. 21]. That was your response to the destruction in NY and Washington, destruction that could only be matched if all downtown Austin had been leveled.
I was born and bred in New York, lived there all my life till now, and am a card-carrying liberal Democrat, so you can't pin this down as a letter from a right-wing jingoist. I say again, after mourning for my hometown for 10 days and reading an adult newspaper, The New York Times, all week, that you guys with all your posturings and protestatings of virtue, soi-disant liberalism, and high-mindedness don't come a patch on us, or on the rest of America. Talk about inappropriate affect. Talk about bad taste. What a sophomoric crew you all must be! Grow up, Chronicle!
Dr. Zelda Austen,
Long Island University
Ventura: 'Eloquent, Insightful'
Thank you and especially Michael Ventura for one of the most eloquent and insightful pieces that I've read on current events in the last 10 days ["Letters at 3AM," Sept. 21]. (I didn't see an e-mail address for Ventura so please forward my comments.) I live in L.A. and have been reading anything I can get my hands on about our current situation, from mainstream stuff to the best of the L.A. alternative press, so to say that this piece stands out is saying a lot. I lived in Austin from 1980 to '84 and still miss Austin and the Chronicle. I'm really glad that an Austin friend brought this to my attention and that I was able to access it on your Web site.
West Los Angeles
The American Spirit!
The American Spirit is indomitable. Born of a just cause; fathered by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison, and Monroe, the American Spirit springs forth from our collective historical consciousness like the geyser Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.
In eras of calm and stability, such as the 1920s, Fifties, and Eighties, Americans can appear to outsiders as indolent, self-consumed, even disinterested.
In times of national crises, however, such as the flooding of the Mississippi, Hurricane Andrew, the L.A. earthquake, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, of MLK, the Challenger disaster, the Iranian hostages, and now, the terrorist attack on New York's twin World Towers and Washington's Pentagon building; in each of these national crises the American Spirit is re-awakened and arises, lifting the wonderfully diverse people of this blessed land together as one.
In these moments, when our nation is united, great things can come. Evil can be put down. Cities can be built up. The American Spirit is a miracle in the making. An untouchable, invisible, uncontainable force enabling persons from opposite ends of every political, social, economic, geographic, and spiritual spectrum to set aside their differences, just long enough, in defense of the one thing each true American shares in common; a love of liberty, and of country.
That is the American Spirit!
Justice, Not Revenge
I would like to write concerning the recent tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C. In the war against terrorism, we should be careful to act with careful thought and wisdom. One thing we should not do is act on our emotions. It is perfectly natural to be sorrowful, bitter, and even angry at the terrorists, but actions rooted in these emotions will only lead to regret. We can do justice and show the world that we will not tolerate terrorist acts, but we should do it in a civilized way. That is why I believe we should arrest charged terrorists and put them on trial in the appropriate court, perhaps a world court if there is one. If, and only if, we have enough evidence to convict an individual we should execute them. This is a much better way to handle the situation than to just storm into foreign countries and get rid of the terrorists. Just marching in and killing these terrorists, even if they do deserve it, will only make us look like the bad guys to the citizens in those countries. That will cause them to be bitter toward us, especially in countries where they already hate us. And it is this kind of bitterness, anger, and hatred that causes people to commit terrorist acts in the first place. Let us not be partakers of this vicious cycle, but instead serve justice in the correct way.
Many people may feel like me, want to do something more than flying the flag and sending contributions to support the rescue and recovery efforts in NYC, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Can the media help us all act positively in a humanitarian way to combat terrorism? My hope and wish is that each individual or family in freedom-loving nations will make a connection with at least one individual or family in a nation that is condoning, harboring, or supporting terrorists to build a bridge of human understanding, compassion, and goodwill that may change the course of world events. Another thought is for the media to publicize how people everywhere can write to leaders of governments condoning, harboring, or supporting terrorists. Millions of letters of compassion, concern, goodwill, offers of assistance might sway those leaders to cooperate and join in the worldwide effort to diffuse and eliminate terrorism. To do this will require a huge amount of effort, creating communications initiatives through the media in all countries, developing a means of connecting people to people, families to families.
Ours and many other governments are embarked on political, economic, military initiatives to root out and eliminate terrorism. Perhaps we the people of the world can embark on a humanitarian initiative. I urge you to form a coalition of all media enterprises worldwide to get this humanitarian initiative moving, get a process defined and organized, get the message out, and then report on progress.
Does Not Compute
In the Sept. 21 "Naked City" column, political writer Michael King blasts American-Statesman editor Richard Oppel's poorly written column of Sept. 16, yet, in [Louis Black's] latest editorial column ["Page Two"] you claim that: 1) Terrorism can't be stamped out, but that the long-term failure and fate of these terrorists is in our hands; 2) No matter what government policy/corporate policy changes are made the terrorist will continue to attack us, but we need to make these changes anyway; 3) If we make any changes in the way we conduct ourselves the terrorists have won (so, we can't make any changes?); 4) The Americanization of the world by American corporations will continue at an ever faster pace (was this supposed to be good or bad?); 5) Anything we do, or try to do with these people will result in more bloodshed (because these people are "tar-babies"! Personally, I like "rag-heads" better). On top of all of that nonsense you have to throw in some retro-Vietnam-era insults at those good people who might have a flag waving on their car antenna or on the front porch (I have both). Do you think you could be a little more contradictory and fatalistic, please? I am not depressed enough right now.
Perhaps Mr. King should review your work as well, before it goes to press.
Kind Words in a Cruel World
Hello, I'm a dedicated front-to-back reader of the Chronicle. I read the article several weeks ago about the Golf Cart Incident ["The Golf Cart Story," Sept. 7]. Thanks for the story, it cheered me up a lot as I had been involved in an awful bike/car accident and needed a good laugh! I also commend your re-organization of the Chronicle. Some folks I know (musicians) are mildly annoyed because they can't find things in the same spot as they used to, but they didn't know about the re-organization; they'll figure it out though. Also, you can count me as supporter No. 3 for the Toni Price cover last week ["Postmarks," Sept. 21]. I admit I was surprised that the cover wasn't related to the New York attack, however I quickly surmised that the editors were being kind to us by diverting our attention. In any case, Toni Price put on a nice show in regard to the tragedy that same Tuesday, so she was quite fitting for the cover.
Focus on Middle Eastern Culture
Thank you for your most eloquent "Page Two" in the Sept. 14 Chronicle. I sincerely wish our president had expressed himself in the manner you did.
I'd like to offer one suggestion for the next Chronicle (or maybe the one after that): an issue focusing on Middle Eastern and Muslim culture in Austin. In effect, an issue whose very purpose is to prevent the backlash against Muslim Americans by showing that we, the civilized folks, will not tolerate our local, all-American brand of terrorism directed against our compatriots whose only crime is to call the same God by a different name.
I realize, of course, that the Chronicle's raison d'être is not to preach but rather showcase the Austin community and inform people of events. But within the confines of this mission, I believe that it is quite possible to increase understanding of those subcultures; and understanding is the foundation of peace and civility. Maybe an article on Middle Eastern restaurants. Maybe a couple of recipes. Maybe a review of Middle Eastern films. Maybe a review of books and articles about the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Maybe all of the above. You know best how much would be too little or too much.
Just a thought -- as you, I feel that keeping our community together is paramount at these times of tension; and I believe the Chronicle can further that goal.
With best regards -- and a lot of admiration,
Apostolos "Toli" Lerios
The Unusual Suspects
Jerry Falwell, et al., has found me out. As a liberal and a pro-choice supporter, I must obviously be responsible for the carnage of Sept. 11. However, unlike conservatives, we liberals always feel contrite after acting naughty. I therefore have decided to do my part for the war effort and will give up a fellow traveler. As George W. wants to eliminate those who harbor and support terrorists, I will reveal one of the culprits. It won't be much of a victory, as he's quite old and has Alzheimer's, but in his prime he aided terrorists who killed and maimed men, women, and children indiscriminately. The terrorists of Central America owe a debt to Ronald Reagan, who currently lives in California. I suggest the FBI go in with guns blazing as if they were attacking some environmental group.
I also want to do my part for the War on Drugs, so I'd like to report on a nebulous group that supported drug lords in order to arm the aforementioned terrorists. The group hangs out in Virginia, and again I suggest the FBI go in with guns blazing when they take out those CIA fundamentalists.
This may also be a good time to give the redneck Bubbas a pat on the back for their American sense of fair play. I mean, have you noticed that they are treating American Muslims the same as they treated right-wing conservative Christians after the Oklahoma bombing? Oops, my mistake.
Austin Filmmakers: Take on Racism
As a December 2000 graduate of UT-Austin, and a six-year resident of Austin, I am writing to implore sanity of Americans and Austinites.
Not only am I strongly opposed to actions of war undertaken by the U.S. government against innocent peoples, but I am also strongly opposed to the discrimination, racism, and pure hatred being imposed upon those Americans of Arab or South Asian descent.
Thus, I am begging Austin's four most well-known directors (I make no judgments here; I am going purely on what I know and by the markings of fame which are most self-evident), Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, and Terence Malick, to create a film which will support those Americans who find themselves fighting to maintain dignity and a semblance of normal life in lieu of the recent events (I'm speaking here of Arab-Americans, Islamic Americans, or Americans of South Asian descent).
Ajay Naidu has appeared in both Office Space and SubUrbia, and Tony Shalhoub, a Lebanese-American, appeared in Spy Kids, all Austin films. Both are great American actors, who I respect immensely, and would fit easily into positive roles in American movies.
As Robert Rodriguez, as well as many other artists in Austin, has shown, America is diverse and varied in the many peoples who call this land theirs.
Please do not let this tragedy against our people continue. I respect all Americans -- Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, German, Chinese, Palestinian, Peruvian -- everyone! By excluding those who make our country so diverse, we destroy that which makes us so unique.
In this time of great tragedy and need, I call on our cultural elite -- Robert, Richard, Mike, and Terrence, and all others who hear this call -- to respond, care, create, help, and change -- this sometimes sickening world we live in.
Thank you. Austin lives always in my heart.
Alexander "Xander" Rapstine
East Lansing, Michigan
UT Austin Graduate and Former Austin Resident
You Wanted More Coverage?
In your issue of Sept. 14, graced on the cover by a smiling Toni Price, how could you so flippantly ignore the monumental tragedy that had so recently taken place? Nothing against Toni, but you folks missed the boat. The issue is an insult to your readers, who mourn for the victims of the terrorist attacks and who mourn for our beautiful and vibrant city of New York. I say "our" New York because it is the most open city on the planet, an emblem of our society, for all its faults the most free and open in the world. Over 5,000 people, of 40 different nationalities, have perished in the terrorist bombings. This tragedy affects Austin profoundly as it does every community in this country, and all you could muster in the entire issue were a few passing references to the week's events. Your editor Louis Black argues in his introduction, apparently in part to explain the paper's business-as-usual appearance, that the most decent and courageous response is to carry on with our daily activities. Maybe so, but to ignore these events is to risk trivializing them. Our collective horror and grief and anger require that we pause, together, to recognize the magnitude of the events we have witnessed, to honor those who have perished, to acknowledge each other's suffering and incomprehension, and to seek wise courses of action. Does the Chronicle's obsession with the minutiae of local politics and music, and devotion to being ironic and hipper-than-thou, leave no room for empathy? It is a shame that you did not do more. The Chronicle is a paper that seems to pride itself on seeking truth, promoting a sense of community, and advocating social responsibility. In this time of darkness and fear, we look to our news media to help shed the light of truth. This time, the Chronicle has failed.
The Price Was Right
In the British newspaper The Guardian on September 15, Mark Lawson said, "Music doesn't seek to explain tragedy but simply to express and absorb it." So when I picked up that week's issue of The Austin Chronicle and saw Toni Price's beautiful, beaming face on the cover, I knew what Lawson said was true. We'd all be better off in the coming weeks if we made a point to go out and listen to live music instead of pumping fists in the air and preparing for war.
Thanks for Staying Open
Amid talk of war, just an expression of thanks to Steve Wertheimer, owner of the Continental Club, for keeping shop on Tuesday; it is important to stay open, not closed.
When all the analysis about the tactics, strategies, and complete effectiveness of this terrorist acts is finished remember that in the end these people know our art.
Now, we need to talk. About how we do business in foreign relations; about how we disenfranchise them. Then, we should act accordingly. Here and abroad. Otherwise, who can say something like this won't happen again, perpetrated by those of whom we know nothing?
Stephen W. McGuire
Keep Communicating, America
Thank you very much for your thoughtful "Page Two" editorial today [Sept. 14]. The broader view you suggest is so important, and we must continue to urge it on our leaders, our neighbors and families, and ourselves. The extremes of emotion, sometimes violent, that all or most of us feel in the face of this horror are real, and must be listened to with understanding and compassion. Then we can base our actions on deliberation, rational thinking, and care for all humanity -- including especially those people who may be of different race, religion, or culture -- and also those people who have difficulty responding in kind. These are necessary, core foundations of the good qualities and good potential of our society. Let's keep learning, communicating, and making the effort.
Bush Will Do the Right Thing
Almost everyone in this country, except you, seems confident that the attack on the U.S. will bring out the best in us, and not the worst ["Page Two," Sept. 14]; and that seems to be exactly what is happening. Is your faith in this country and its citizens so small that your greatest fear that our reaction will be institutionalized racism? Thousands of Americans, of all races and creeds, have been killed and you're expecting the KKK to rise up from its ashes. Happily, except for a miniscule number of vengeful dirtbags, everyone is pulling together as Americans, not "African-Americans" or "Mexican-Americans" or "Native Americans."
And don't worry, our civil liberties will remain intact. That's the value of our solid Constitution. It's not a "living" and "flexible" constitution, as some would say. Especially when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. I too, have concerns about liberty. It concerns me that polls [say] that so many Americans would be willing to sacrifice a little liberty and a few rights in exchange for perceived security. We seem to have gotten so soft that we've forgotten about Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death." However, say what you will about the Bush administration, I'm confident that this administration will not try to further abridge our rights.
U.S. Must Accept Blame
The thousands of families worldwide mourning loved ones from the Sept. 11 bombings want justice and peace of mind for their loss, and I have empathy and sympathy for them. That said, I believe the chickens have come home to roost in the Pentagon and World Trade Center; viz., if the Palestinian Holocaust had been stopped and Israel and Palestine had come to a solution that emptied the refugee camps, suicide bombers would be rebels without a cause. For Americans to deny their responsibility for the Palestinian dilemma is simply bad faith.
The U.S. conditions its aid for other regimes. Worse yet, the bombings could be blowback from U.S. intelligence operations in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. The plane crashes and destruction and deaths are a tragedy, but as long as there are breeding grounds and even a primary and middle school for children suicide bombers, we all remain in a danger that no military or assassination campaign can ever rub out completely. Pray for us all in this future worldwide terrorism campaign that, at present, has an invisible enemy, no clear objective, no exit strategy; and whose biggest victim may be American civil liberties, as Louis Black eloquently expressed in his Sept. 14 column ["Page Two"].
We Must Attack Them
Well, it has happened! A massive blow has been struck against the United States, apparently in the name of Islam. In the past, we have experienced isolated acts of terrorism, but this is a strike at least as significant in its magnitude as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. That was, at least, an attack on military targets; this was a cowardly, blind attack on civilians. The world nation of Islam must stand up and be counted. If they do not condemn and act against their criminal brethren, then they share the guilt.
How do you respond to an act of war by a hidden enemy? No midnight vigil or expression of support for families has any effect on such attackers. They claim to be engaged in a holy war. If so, it is the obligation of all Muslims to stand for or against these actions. If they offer support or even neutrality, they are our enemies. If they are opposed, then they must take care of their own. I believe that the majority of Muslims are peaceful and law abiding. That is not enough. If they fail to take action because of fear or expediency, then they must bear the consequences.
We have, in the past, identified the bases and support structure of those who commit such terrorist acts. As a nation at war, we must attack them. We cannot afford to counter punch only when we have absolute certainty. When we uncover terrorist preparation, in the future, we must make a preemptive strike regardless of the political or economic consequences. If that strike is in another country, they should be informed that they must clean up their own house within a time frame of days, not years, then we will retaliate as an act of war. Although such strikes will be against military targets, there will be collateral damage. That is their responsibility, not ours.
If they don't wish to be at war with the United States, then they will root out the offenders.
As commander-in-chief, the president is charged with the protection of the citizens of the U.S. When Bush took office, one of the first briefings he received was on the results of the most comprehensive study to date on the threat of terrorism to this country, the bipartisan Hart-Rudman report, 21é2 years in the making. This report was very blunt in its conclusions, that a large-scale terrorist attack on the U.S. was a matter of when, not if, and that more money had to be spent on intelligence and border security. It was also known from numerous governmental studies that airport security in this country was weak to nonexistent. Bush completely ignored these studies, presumably preferring to spend our defense dollars on his tax cut and missile-defense obsession. With his inaction he thus gambled away the lives of more than 5,000 innocent Americans and much of lower Manhattan. I'm sorry, but count me in the minority. After having demonstrated that he was unable to comprehend, let alone prevent, the major threat to our national security, I have no confidence whatsoever that Bush will have the ability to lead us out of this crisis. In my opinion Bush should accept responsibility, admit his gross negligence, apologize, and resign.
OK, there's grief and then there's hokey. Am I the only one who sees the hokiness in all of this tragedy? Suddenly everyone is bleeding red, white, and blue. When the media is in charge 24 hours a day, it's bound to happen sooner or later. It's not that I'm not proud to be an American, I just don't want to sing about it. And I don't want my leaders holding hands like the Whos in Whoville, when they should be out kicking some ass. And, if George W. says, "Make no mistake about it," one more time ...
All I'm saying is that maybe we should try to win this New War with a little class and humor. I think the last thing those terrorist bastards hear should be "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by the Gap Band. You know, if bin Laden really wanted to make a statement, he would have been on one of those planes.
We've all seen the images of thousands of devoted Americans donating their time and blood to the cause. We need to rejuvenate those exhausted workers. I say we help those brave firefighters and rescue teams by sending a relief unit of fluffers. Hey, Hollywood shut down in the wake of the assault, those actresses need work, let them help out with the cause. I mean really, for the sake of your country, let's show 'em what American spirit is all about. Love us or hate us, at least we take care of our own.
Arm 'Em Then Bomb 'Em?
Since the attack, the media has sounded the drums of war. Many of us in Austin have listened. But there is a consequence of this war few may have realized. A large portion of the Afghani population does not support the Taliban. They are brutally oppressed by this group which spawned Osama bin Laden, and many have given their lives to oppose the Taliban.
The unjust leaders of the Afghanistan rule only because the U.S. gave them money and guns. Killing those who oppose and fight against the ones who directed or allowed the attack would be a terrible way to compound the tragedy. The war that it seems we are about to wage could easily slaughter tens or even many hundreds of times the number of innocents who died in New York and Washington.
When you hear the drum beat, think of them. Please Austin, oppose war.
We Live in the World We Create
I feel moved to respond to the anguish of Tuesday's tragedies with the following heartfelt words. May we all take this opportunity to go deeply inside our own hearts and feel our connection to one another. We are all in this circle of life together, and we are all deeply wounded by this violence. Further, if as a nation we choose to retaliate with yet more violence and murder, we will all only be wounded further and more deeply. Can we not take this horrendous experience and learn that it is time we turn the tide and halt the continuation of the cycle of fear and violence that has gripped this planet for centuries? Is it possible that our leaders might actually resolve to end global fear and violence rather than retaliate with more of the same? Could we not choose to resolve our commitment to world peace and an end to all the senseless violence, oppression, greed, and fear that led up to this tragedy? We could resolve to be a beacon of light for humanity by choosing not to retaliate with more violence and fear, but rather resolve to commit to whatever means is necessary to end the reign of fear and violence that has been the modus operandi of our world leaders for centuries. Everything we do to each other, we do to ourselves. We are all connected in an intricate web that is inescapable regardless of our military might! We must realize that the old way is not working. Our world leaders could actually come together from a place of deep heart and deep wisdom with a new resolve to work to disarm and commit to a world free of violence, greed, and oppression, that all those lives have not been lost in vain. As we stand on this delicate threshold, my prayers are for life and the possibility of peace for all of humanity and all our relations, not more carnage born of fear. The world we create by our response to this morning's events is in our hands.
Think Before Reacting, America
Our nation has been undermined and humiliated by actions too godless to fully comprehend. The watchword is "revenge." The war drum is beating.
Perhaps we cannot yet fathom the full significance of the events of September 11, but we can perceive that it is time for people to open their hearts and learn to respect, understand, and, yes, even love one another. If we do not, and the floodgates are opened to unleash the tide of war, there is enough hatred in the world to propel us quickly to World War III, a conflict that would have no winners and that few would survive. Shouldn't we, then, be more afraid of ourselves than of our enemies?
If most people want war, then it may be inevitable, but we should consider the magnitude of destruction that could actually result. If most people do not want war, but envision nations working cooperatively across the world to overthrow terrorists specifically, then we must speak up. It would be a mistake, for instance, to wage war against all of Afghanistan, or to undertake any action that guarantees the massive loss of innocent civilian lives. We all have the intelligence to recognize that individuals, not nations, are responsible for terrorism; that not religions, but extremists who twist religion for their own loathsome ends, are driving terrorism.
It is easy to remain silent and let the war machine start rolling. It is hard to ask for any peace, mercy, and understanding in light of the devastation in New York and Washington, D.C. But sometimes the hard thing is the necessary thing. We must open our voices and speak.
Lawmakers, you hold in your hands the lives of so many people. Listen to your hearts, and use your minds to find a humane solution.
Signed, an ordinary citizen,
A Poem for America
In the hours of deep dark despair
When our world is torn apart
It is now that we must give care
And show to all our strong brave heart
For in the days and nights to pass
We shall our victory work to secure
And woe to those who broke our fast
For America -- Our America shall endure.