Today, September 11, 2001 - The impact of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. leaves me empty. It's unsettling. Disturbing. It hurts to comprehend what happened and what will happen. I'm not happy. I'm pissed too, but I'm far more disappointed in humanity than to be scared for myself. And I'm pissed as humans continue to demonstrate their inhumanity to each other and their desire to impose their agendas on others. Why do we have to be so smart and so stupid at the same time? Will we ever learn? Damn.
Yes, I am a citizen of the United States of America. The United States is a VERY diverse country, perhaps the single most diverse country in the world. You will find every nationality here and with it different dreams, different hopes, different agendas. In my country, which is NOT perfect, there is a very real opportunity and potential for anyone to achieve phenomenal success without regard to their age, race, sex, creed, national origin, ethnicity, sexual preference, physical ability, marital status, religion or whatever. We are not the first, and we are not unique in embracing democracy and promoting the values of a unified republic. With democracy, we achieve more by valuing life and advancing culture than killing people and destroying culture. Threatening lives does not persuade acceptance of a terrorist agenda or religious dogma but, at best, only a temporary acquiescence and a smoldering desire for revenge.
In my country, everyone has their own agenda, and their highest priority is their agenda. Their agendas often supersede their designation as an American. Why? In my country freedom came with a heavy price. In my country Native Americans have their own agenda from a history of atrocities by this country that saw their many proud races nearly fall to genocide. Nevertheless, Native Americans fought to retain their integrity and, despite broken treaties, remain sovereign over many of their lands. In my country women have their own agenda from a history of atrocities by some men in this country that categorized them as less for the simple fact of their sex, resulting in many women being killed, raped, robbed of their intellect, and fighting oppression to this very day. Nevertheless, and unlike women through much of the Middle East, women all across the United States fought for their freedom and equality and got it. In my country Black Americans have their own agenda from a history of atrocities by this country that began with slavery and continues with a legacy of discrimination and inequity that preclude our equality. Nevertheless, Black people fought much of the same kinds of terror you seek to impose upon us yet again but, we achieved our freedom. We've had bombs thrown into our homes, we've been pulled out of our homes and hung, we've been burned to death while praying in our churches, killed for just looking at a White person in a manner perceived to be "the wrong way," and we've been dragged down streets until our heads were ripped from our bodies. Black people have been free in this country for only 136 years, and groups like the Ku Klux Klan still terrorize Black people just like you - through destruction and murder of innocent Black and yes, other people of color. Frankly, I don't see a difference. Even worse, the prospect of your "religious" rule offers enslavement not freedom. We've been down that road before. No thanks.
In my country I can tangibly trace my family's history to the actual plantation where my great-great grandfather was a slave and where my great-grandfather saw his brother sold into slavery - IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO. In my country equality is my priority. My last name is the same as the company that evolved from this plantation. I'm pissed thinking that terrorists from within or outside of the United States of America might deny me the opportunity to pursue my own agenda, my own desire for success. Most importantly, as demonstrated by Rev. Martin Luther King, I honestly believe that I, and other citizens of the United States of America, can pursue our agendas non-violently. I believe our humanity requires us to pursue non-violence because as a result of World War II, we have the capacity to do more than just fly planes into skyscrapers. We can drop just one atomic bomb on the Middle East and completely eliminate the "Middle East" issue. Don't think that it can't or won't happen. It can. It surely can. Obviously, this would raise the level of play to certain finality. This is not the kind of future I want for my family, friends or even complete strangers.
However, for the immediate future it's rather obvious what's going to happen to those persons responsible for these acts of terrorism. The federal government and many very influential people outside of the federal government - including organized crime since some of their relatives were probably killed also - are going to track down the perpetrators and kill every last one, including their family members, no matter where they hide, no matter what country and no matter how long it takes. Guns, assassinations, suicides, bombs, and even bigger bombs are in store for terrorists and all countries that harbor them. And they should realize that mercy is not associated with the broad brush of vengeance.
What if a follow-up terrorist attack occurs in the next, say, three months? How would the United States react? Would the slower, more measured and surgical approach be abandoned in favor of a more direct approach? Consider the following scenario, after verifying that bin Laden is in Afghanistan, the United States establishes troops and support arsenal to entirely engulf the borders of Afghanistan to prevent anyone from leaving and then issues the following ultimatum, "Turn over bin Laden within the next 24 hours or we begin and end your so called 'Holy War' with a rain of atomic bombs to completely decimate your entire country. There will not be any survivors." Now, we're talking about a real rain of terror. And if other Middle Eastern countries object or retaliate - we dish them the same meal. Does nuclear escalation benefit humanity? No.
In my country men, women and minorities all have separate, unique and generally conflicting agendas. Nevertheless, citizens of the United States of America have consistently displayed an openness to help people in need throughout the world - even when we did not have an agenda that provided for a return in our investment. In my country our conflicting diversity causes considerable conflict but also empowers us with the strengths and accomplishments our diversity captures from men, women, and numerous minorities, nationalities, and ethnic and religious groups. We are one country but one agenda does NOT fit all.
Like many citizens of the United States of America, I have my own agenda. Although Black people have fought - ultimately AS REQUIRED - in EVERY war or armed conflict involving the United States we remain second class citizens and continue to face discrimination and inequity before, during and after each war. In my country equality is my priority. Like many citizens of the United States of America I have absolutely no interest in religion or religious extremists whether in the United States (Jim Jones, Jim Baker, Jehovah Witnesses, Catholics, Protestants, etc.) or in the Middle East. As an agnostic I don't wear any religion or any cause on my shoulder, but I have absolutely no problem with people following their non-violent religious beliefs. More importantly, while equality is my personal priority - my higher agenda is equitable treatment for all citizens of the United States of America - not just me. It's a major mistake for terrorists to categorize me with whomever they perceive is behind their generic view of "America's" commitment to the Middle East or to Israel or to whatever. Sadly, terrorists apparently use their belief in God to give them the strength to fly jets into skyscrapers, but their belief in God apparently doesn't give them enough strength to love and accept their fellow human beings.
While I personally wish no harm to citizens of Palestine, Iraq, Israel, etc., I would not be disturbed if the Middle East region completely disappeared from the face of the planet. I prefer they live in peace. Why can't people who say they love God and all that God has created value God's creations? Even before the acts of terrorism in New York and Washington, D.C., too many lives had already been lost. Surely, extremist groups who express and display love for their God by killing innocent human beings - all without contradiction or remorse - can only be perceived as blatant fanatics. Terrorist acts upon the United States by religious extremists directly conflicts with my agenda and the agendas of other citizens of the United States who have absolutely no interest in Middle East affairs.
There's an erroneous perception in certain parts of the world that citizens in the United States of America are somehow immune to crime, terrorism, violence, etc. Obviously, they either don't know - which is likely since most countries in the Middle East do not have an open society and a free press - or they ignore the fact that we are the most heavily armed citizens of any civilized country in the world. Yes, we've always had the right to bear arms and we also have more murders, rapes and other forms of violence than any other country. Arguably, our internal violence is just one of many major struggles associated with the cost of our free and open society. News footage of Palestinians cheering and celebrating the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. demonstrates their ignorance of countless, on-going indiscriminate crimes against innocent people throughout the United States, such as the massacre of students by students at Columbine High School in Colorado, or the attack of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Or, again, maybe they know but just don't care.
Fortunately and unfortunately, our open society also provides for an independent press who consistently give more value to crime than to efforts to eliminate it. Broadcast sensationalism for the sake of higher ratings. Given recent events, that may change. For sure, our media gives crime a platform to promote itself, and I'd rather see the bulk of media attention to crime and terrorism reduced to a 30-second spot. Yes, I want to be informed but my desire for information does not require the kind of media coverage that essentially promotes these atrocities. Acts of terrorism are guaranteed media coverage, which may cause some people to believe we are living in more dangerous times. I totally disagree. How can you deny progress when only thirty-four years ago it was still illegal in some states for a Black person to marry a White person in the United States. Clearly, millions of people around the world have been helped through great deeds and gifts of kindness that would never have been possible in a less civil and less technological world. Today, news travels instantaneously - in print, audio and video - around the world. In contrast, even as recent as a hundred years ago, news moved at a snails pace. Appropriately, terrorists who want to make a statement - go bomb an innocent, non-threatening country like Peru. Or, even better, go bomb China. Yeah, and get a real bang for your buck. Unlike the religious freedom that exists in the United States, all religious beliefs are taboo in China. Yet, attacking a nuclear-armed nation of nearly 1.5 billion people - who aren't bound by America's commitment to human rights - terrifies the terrorists. Obviously, terrorists are 'fraidy-cat, chicken-shit cowards by attacking a country that values individual freedoms instead of a country that prevents individual freedoms. Of course, it's completely crazy for anyone to bomb Peru, China or any nation. No one country or individual wants to be a victim. No one.
I've seen footage of how so many people throughout the Middle East live in poverty. Is this region unable to focus on anything other than religion and death? Is this region unable to advance their societies through education and industry? There are so many examples of how nations overcame phenomenal challenges to advance their societies. For example, in the wake of World War II both allies and enemies prospered including France, Germany, Italy, England, Russia and Japan! It wasn't 't easy but these nations worked hard to rebuild and advance. Why in the world would a civilized nation want to try to help make Palestine, Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations prosperous states when it requires great peril and immediate risk of death?
Now, citizens of the United States are compelled to protect themselves and their own agendas as a result of terrorism. In my country our proud diversity more appropriately defines the true agenda of citizens of the United States of America. It was and is a major mistake for terrorists to attack the United States of America. So many lives taken. So many dreams denied. Now, diverse citizens of the United States of America share an agenda that requires us to deal with the perpetrators of the atrocities in New York and Washington, D.C. before we can get back to our own individual agendas. In my country we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (LLPH). Terrorist tactics will not force citizens of the United States of America to adopt their agenda because we all ready have a better one, namely LLPH! Perhaps, terrorists think by attacking citizens of the United States of America it will persuade our federal government to abandon its involvement in Middle East affairs - whatever these activities might be. Nope, it don't work that way. Terrorism made a bad move today.
Prior to 1964, the majority of states throughout the United States of America prohibited Black people from attending schools located in predominately White neighborhoods. We were also prohibited from renting hotel rooms, purchasing homes, attending colleges, applying for certain kinds of employment and even using public toilets. In 1964 the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act that made it illegal to discriminate against Black people - or any person - because of their race. I wrote the following poem as I prepared as one of a handful of Black students to attend a previously all White elementary school. I was ten years of age.
I ASK YOU WHY?
Why in this world of today
Must men fight and kill for play?
Why in this time and place,
Must men hate and destroy grace?
Why do Black and White men fight,
Knowing that its just not right?
Man, who is said to be superior
Compared to animals he's inferior!
Animals of different colors get along,
So why can't man - who's said to be strong?
Is this world such a bad place
That men hate their own race?
Why do teenagers rebel and hate,
Take pot and put their lives at stake?
Why is there a thirst for power...
Black, White, equality shower!
What's the use of cursing names,
Nigger, pecker, they're all the same!
When did the world start this turmoil,
Replacing love with lusts of hate?
Why is sex a desire of play
Practiced by the youth of today?
When will the world get back on its feet,
And replace the hate with a righteous beat?
I ask you...why?
Thirty-eight years later I don't have to ask why because I've acquired an adult understanding to the dynamics of humanity. With this understanding I sincerely believe we have a greater potential to achieve fantastic benefits to humanity than to succumb to the atrocities of terrorists and fanatics. The World Trade Center towers are gone, but I hope our country rebuilds them through our taxes, donations and private sector investments, and makes them even taller! In my country, that's the kind of shrine I want to see to the thousands of lives lost today!
Today I lost friends I never knew I had. Our future is never guaranteed and, nevertheless, exists with uncertainty. It is ever evident that we must grab life's gusto while we can! In anticipation of such uncertainty, I wish everyone I've ever known love, peace and happiness.
September 11, 2001
© 2001 Trip Reynolds
P.S. To discover what "Being Black" really means "In My Country" click here.