Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were YOU?

Taken Dec. 1979 from the top of either the Chrysler Bldg
or Rockefeller Center.  (I can't remember!)
     It is Sunday, September 11, 2011.  Ten years ago today, radical Islamic terrorists annihilated the World Trade Center, severely damaged the Pentagon and would have hit the White House or Capitol had passengers of the plane destined for them didn't heroically stop them.  In the process, these evildoers took the lives of over 3,000 innocent Americans.     
     Where were you ten years ago?  What were you doing when you learned about the attack? What did you feel? What were you thinking?  It is important to remember all these things, but it is most important to remember who was responsible, and that they still harbor deep hatred and a desire to destroy us and all the good for which America stands.
     For me it was an ordinary Tuesday morning at work at Greenleaf Orthopaedics. Dr. Baier had a full schedule and we were doing what we always do until the receptionist's daughter called and told her mother that a plane had just flown into New York's  World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Immediately we thought "what a horrible accident" and wondered how such a thing could happen.  I got on the internet right away and there were already pictures of billowing smoke from a gaping hole in the first tower.  Within minutes images of a second plane careening into the other tower came across my screen.  It was no longer an accident.  It was deliberate.  But why?  We were all dumbfounded, but started to calm down quickly until a little while later when the news about a plane hitting the Pentagon came through.  Then it was a different story. I thought, "this is war; it's World War III." Our sense of safety  disappeared and we wondered if when we would hear that the Sears Tower had also been hit.  We were worried about how many targets there could be and where.  It threw us off kilter and also united us because at that moment, all we had was each other; doctor, staff and patients. Patients lingered to talk about it and speculate as to who perpetrated this coordinated effort and why. 
     I remember worrying about my family in NJ and especially my cousins who were often in the city doing business.  It was such a relief to learn that they were all safe.  That day and for several that followed, CNN was on constantly wherever you went.  People were devastated as all flights were grounded causing an eerie  emptiness and silence in the sky. We talked about national security and about how lucky we were that we lived in a country where terrorism was not a daily occurrence as was the case in so many parts of the world.  People gathered with their families, stayed close and held tight. Suddenly the entire country appreciated being American.  Patriotism went through the roof.  Flags started appearing everywhere.  We flew them on our homes, displayed them in our car windows, wore them on our clothing. Patriotic songs were written and rose on the charts.  The Star Spangled Banner took on greater meaning and was played on the radio daily.  This, I thought was a good outcome: American citizens united.  
     What follows is an open letter I sent out on September 13, 2001 just two days after the attacks after which is a review of where we are now and how my views have solidified or modified since. 
September 13, 2001
To my dearest family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and other readers,
It is with great angst that I find myself  compelled to write.  Two days ago terrorists waged a despicably grizzly attack on the American government and the American people by hijacking commercial airliners and deliberately flying them into important symbolic buildings killing thousands of unsuspecting innocent citizens of the United States of America, the country I love.  My heart breaks for the victims, their loved ones and friends, the entire population of New York City and all of my fellow Americans. My prayers are unceasing.
 Like everyone else stricken with grief at the sights and sounds of the horrific attack, my mind has been compelled to search for answers, for reasons, for sense in this chaos. I choose to risk sharing my thoughts here.
Watching the news coverage of the events, I was amazed and proud of the citizens of the New York City by their ability to remain orderly in such pandemonium.  People were walking calmly down the streets away from the World Trade Center Plaza and only when there was eminent danger as the great twin towers fell to the ground, one just minutes after the other, did they take to running.  The humanity on the ground was exemplary.  I urge our government and our leaders to be as orderly and stoic in the days ahead.
I have wondered why this dirty deed was carried out - what we did to deserve this wrath.  Perhaps we meddled in other countries' affairs too much.  Perhaps this is retribution for Desert Storm or the air attacks on Iraq.  It is said that many groups in the Middle East view us as the "Evil Empire."  Yet we believe evil of those very groups.  They fight to the death for what they believe in with staunch loyalty and determination just as our soldiers, and we, would do, and will do.  Who is good?  Who is evil? Who is right? Who is wrong?  Who is just?  Who is unjust? These distinctions are not always clear.
I do know that what the terrorists did on September 11, 2001 was wrong. I also know that they see the results of their acts as victory.  They won.  Did they? They have the United States of America, the greatest military and economic power on the face of the earth on its knees and frightened.  They have effectively caused panic and paranoia. Our air traffic has been halted, our financial markets stopped, our suspicions of each other raised.  
Terror has reigned and we have responded by willingly giving up our personal freedoms in a sense of false security. The FAA assures tighter security in airports. This does nothing to protect the American people from hijackers or terrorists. It does however, give the government license to treat us as perceived criminals just by virtue of our desire to use air transportation.  We will allow ourselves to be scanned with metal detectors. We will allow our personal belongings to be searched.  We will allow ourselves to be degraded and humiliated by these acts of violation in the name of protection.  The Bill of Rights protects us from unlawful search and seizure.  Why do we suspend that right at the entrance of an airport, a government building, a school or even an amusement park? If we continue to allow it in these places, how much longer before our homes are subject to such infringements on our liberty?
Unfortunately, none of these measures will protect us from random terror.  Those with intelligence, determination, patience and what they believe to be a just cause will persevere and find a way past any and all attempts at security. The hijackers of this coordinated attack used knives and box-cutters to gain control of large jets.  We are assuming that those knives were metal and were missed by security.  This is a most naive assumption.  Hard plastic can be sharpened into knife-like deadly instruments and go completely undetected.  Everyday items can be used as weapons by those hell-bent on violence.  However of the millions of people traveling daily, only a handful of unscrupulous men on one particular day rained terror on a nation.  Those facts bear the that overall, our risk is minuscule.
The reality is that commercial flights in the US and abroad are secure. When taken reasonably and logically the facts are that thousands of airplanes were in the airspace over American soil at the time of the attacks.  Five out of those were hijacked and used for gruesome purposes. Thousands were unaffected.  Those facts bear the truth that we are safe.
Retaliation is what is being called for by the masses and government alike - retaliation and revenge.  Harboring such rage and indignation gives even more power to the terrorists.  These are out-of-control, irrational responses.  I know we are incensed by what has occurred, which is understandable and expected.  I am sickened by what has happened, but I don't think mass destruction of entire countries is the answer.  Should there be consequences for those who planned, funded and carried out this act of warfare? Absolutely.  However those are the ONLY people who should feel the consequences of their actions.
We must not unleash the  might of our military indiscriminately against the countries in the Middle East from where this evil sprung.  No.  That would make us worse than those who caused us to attack, for we would be taking the lives of their innocents to such a magnitude that it could be construed as retaliatory genocide.  It would be unfair, unjust and out of proportion.  America once again would be the bully with the bigger gun.  Is this what we want for our nation's reputation?  I certainly pray we do not.  
In this day and age of sophisticated technology and intelligence, of advanced spy satellites, our leaders and protectors have the ability to track and hunt down those individuals who are directly responsible and bring them to justice in front of the world. This is the solution I hope for and will encourage the President and other leaders to seek..  I do not want to see the day that Americans dance in the streets celebrating the devastation of innocent citizens of another country brought about by their own military power. We need to set the example for diplomacy, justice and freedom for all the world.  We have been knocked down.  We are called to take the high road in response.  
Where is God in all of this? This believer is sad knowing that God's heart was the first to break in this horror  The earth and all of the universe was created and deemed GOOD.  Humans, created in God's likeness were given free will, the laws of nature and the responsibility to take good care and be good stewards of the earth. What have we done? We certainly have not made our Creator proud. On the other hand, God loves us still - ALL of us - Americans, Middle Easterners and every other nation, village, tribe, family and person.  So do not condemn God for the acts of humanity. Instead, look for the grace among the ruins and extend the love we are here to share, indeed the love we must share to survive.
And so my brothers and sisters in human frailty, I have shared my thoughts at this heartrending time in history.  Some may not like my words.  Others may agree with a portion of them.  It really doesn't matter. What matters is that we listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, that we work together to understand each others' differences, that we find nonviolent ways to disagree and hopefully in time, with the grace of God, learn enough acceptance and humility to coexist in peace.
Thank you.
     Only my views about God have changed since I wrote that letter.  I no longer believe in my former imaginary friend.  I have no interest in the concept of a creator or God.  It makes no sense and there is absolutely no evidence that there is one.  That being said, I do still have faith.  One doesn't have to believe in a deity to have faith, and faith in a God is not the only kind of faith.  I do have faith: I have faith in people, in the power of love, in the power of the open mind and honest communication, in the kindness of charitable communities, etc. 
     Reading this again was an interesting exercise and as I said, many of my views are exactly the same.  So many of my fears have also been realized.  We have given away so many rights. For what?  NOTHING!  This is what angers me the most about the last 10 years.  There have been a handful of attempts at acts of terror since that fateful day - a handful!  And each time, our response is to panic and look to the government to protect us. How do they do this?  By taking away more freedoms, exposing American citizens to humiliation, more intrusive searches, pat-downs, naked body scans and worse.   It disgusts me. 
     WE ARE SAFE, People!  Stop buying into what the government and its handmaiden, the media propagandize.  Because so many are so willing to give up freedom for a false sense of security, the terrorists really have won, just as I said 10 years ago. We are by and large a terror free country.  This also makes us BLIND.  Read some news of the world.  Check out what is going on in Mexico, El Salvador, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma), Darfur and other places where terror on the people by warlords, government or insurgents is a daily occurrence.  We are so safe we don't even realize it.  
     WAKE UP!  Be glad. Be grateful!  Take back your freedom!  Stand up and demand it.  Do not waiver in your diligence to restore the Bill of Rights to what it is meant to be. 

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."  (Preamble to the Constitution)
The Bill of Rights:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 
 Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.