Líshanah tovah and Happy 5762!

Ok, I feel that I owe you a reasoned response to your polemic.  So here goes...

The events of last week have left me with a maze of thoughts, not all of which are totally connected, many of which are simply fragments.  But isnít that what this type of tragedy is supposed to do - make one ponder and tease out those ideas and concepts?  Perhaps much brighter minds than mine can make sense of them (or slam them into the ground for being the worthless crap that they probably are).

One thing that immediately came to mind following the totality of the coverage (you know itís BIG when the Cartoon Network is running a newsfeed) - no more ďAll Chandra, All the TimeĒ.  The poor Levys  have lost their spotlight, although Iím sure Condit is not upset. 

The other big story that should have gotten our attention but was overwhelmed was the UN Conference in Durban.  There were elements of the conference that grabbed my attention, conflicts that arose that could have led to reasoned discussion/debate but for the terrorist attack.  One point that I noticed was that the walkouts by the US and Israeli delegations drew much comment, but that the Canadian threat didnít.  Now, partly thatís due to our ignoring of Canada since our invasion in 1812, but partly itís due to the fact that it didnít happen.  One commentator in the Globe & Mail mentioned that this was due to pressure brought by some Canadian groups, who apparently have more power than similar groups in the US.  Which groups?  The black and native populations.

The concept of racism was mentioned as a primary focus of the conference.  Now, I have no problem branding Israel racist (hell - call it anti-Semetic, because Jews and Arabs are both Semetic people).  But donít just talk about the racism practised against the Israeli Arabs.  Talk about the racism of the Ashkenazim against the Sephardim... or those svartzes, the Ethopian Jews.  The former have the Shas party to help, the latter suffer.  Its not like the leaders are even ďpure bloodĒ (oooh - thereís a nasty term) - who heard of a Semite with Arikís blue eyes?  But itís not the only country - letís also brand China, for itís actions against the Han and Tibetans; the Japanese (Ainu); the Brazillians (for preferring the more clearly Spanish rather than the native features) - ditto most Hispanic countries (especially the Mexicans and Chiapas).  Racism exists everywhere - itís not an isolated thing in Israel and the Arab nations attempting to use this as an excuse to vilify Israel is, well, silly.  Particularly since they also dragged Zionism into the equation, when Zionism is simply the yearning for a Jewish homeland.  Granted, this topic should have additional resonance today given that the attacks on the the WTC and the Pentagon were committed by Arabs but is it even mentioned?  No.  Not even as a possible reason for any of their actions.

Reparations and the big Apology for Slavery were the other two main issues.  Letís deal with the latter first.  Liberia has declared that it doesnít feel that an Apology is necessary, mainly because when it was founded it continued to practise slavery itself.  Also, who issues the Apology?  America, Brittan and France are the three most likely to... but what about the current chiefs of those tribes that sold slaves?  What about Sudan and the other African nations currently practising slavery?  Should they apologise? 

Reparations are an even bigger issue.  First of all, who receives reparations?  Do we hand over a sum of money to the descendants of those from slave families?  How do we deal with people that clearly have Caucasian blood - do they get less?  And those that are from slave/Native American, or slave/African stock?  What about Canadians descended from escapees?  Do we deal differently with those that were freed before the end of the Civil War?  How about the Caribbean slaves? Or are we simply going to deal with nations in Africa?

Second, what form do these reparations take?  A lump sum of money to individuals?  If so, how do we guarantee they spend it on what ďweĒ think is best (education, housing, etc.) rather than what they want (electronic equipment, drugs, etc.) - I know that if I were receiving a lump sum I mightnít be inclined to bank it or do the sensible thing - World Cruise, here I come.  And then, when the money is spent, what happens?  If we pay it to the African nations in the form of debt relief, how does that benefit the blacks in the Americas? 

Another problem - my motherís family fled the Czarist pogroms.  Can we expect Putin to open the Russian treasury to compensate us?  What about Irish Catholics escaping the famine?  Will the Hmong want money for their suffering?  Itís a never-ending spiral of ďyou owe me for _________Ē that we just shouldnít begin to navigate.

On the other hand, debt relief could help.  If we could guarantee that it wouldnít go into the dictatorís pockets and bank accounts.  More appropriate might be a sort-of global Marshall Plan, helping Third World nations begin to improve their quality and standard of life.  Oh wait - couldnít that smack of American hegemony all over again... leading us right back to bin Laden and his complaints.

I remember back at (school) having a conversation with a bunch of classmates from both (school) and (school).  It was shortly after the hostages had been taken, and Ab mentioned that his father now had even more to deal with: first there were the Palestinians, trying to create a homeland out of Jordan; now there were these extremists who wanted to export the Islamic Revolution.  Things havenít changed much for him, have they?  Iím sure that part of his support of US efforts against the Taliban and bin Laden is based on his desire not just to stay in power but to prevent a radical group from imposing their narrow views on the rest of his country.  Of course, heís not alone - Egypt, Algeria, Saudi and almost all other nations are worried about that aspect of the bin Laden movement. 

In a strange way, itís amusing to watch bin Laden biting the hand that trained him - our efforts to oust the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has led us to this point.  Itís not just American morals and values they are against, itís our insistence that they have our political ideals as well.  One thing that many of the people Iíve been hearing and talking to about all of this fail to understand is that American Capitalist Democracy is not necessarily the best, or the most desired, or the most effective way to rule and run a nation.  Yes, itís served us well, but that doesnít mean that itís appropriate for everyone.  Letís let countries evolve at their own pace, given their own culture and ethos. 

Reading the various opinions and suggestions about what Americaís response should be has been an interesting exercise in talking back to an unresponsive television or newspaper or magazine.  Your polemic raised interesting points, few of which are being discussed.  Our overriding interest in that area of the world (unspoken, of course) is oil - how much and how cheap.  IMHO, we should tell the American public that if we really want to keep gas under $2/gallon, Alaska is now open for business.  The hubris that we have about our need for cheap gas is amazing; why shouldnít we bear the burden for our own consumption.  Perhaps an oil rig in every backyard is what it will take to get us out of our car-based culture. 

Backing Israel is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  Failure to use our leverage to communicate displeasure with Arikís little trek on the Temple Mount is.  Giving in to political pressure to elect your wife by pardoning a bunch of Jewish crooks is.  Considering pardoning Pollard is.  And failing to realise that these can lead to displeasure on the part of Arabs already feeling marginalised by their beliefs is simply stupid.

I doubt the American public, those people in the so-called ďredĒ states, will ever think seriously about much of this.  Have you noticed that Bush is being called a Leader?  Whether or not this is truly public opinion or whether it is being pushed upon us by the media, he has become the President.  Not a bad thing, given that we are in a time of crisis.  But there are a notable number of people (some of whom are knee-jerk Democrats who vote party line, not issues and people) for whom Bush will never fill that role appropriately.  One could say that their position is a bit like a fundamentalistís - if youíre not one of ours, weíll never accept you.  People like this donít understand how Bush won any votes, any state.  Yet those that did support him also, to some extent, support the ďAmerica FirstĒ position.  Not totally isolationist, but very wary of engagement overseas.  Very wary of allowing international interests to take over American ones (particularly in terms of industry, jobs, defense). 

These are the people that want the immediate Revenge, an eye-for-an-eye (which reminds one of the old saying, ďan eye-for-an-eye leads to a world of blind peopleĒ).  Should we do that?  If Vietnam and the mujahadeen have taught us anything, itís that a ground war against pissed off natives gets us nowhere.  And we canít literally bomb every mountain there. 

So, where does all this leave us? 

Iím worried.  Worried about my kids - many of whom are doing the resilient child thing and trying to get on with their lives (many of whom are also finding comfort in that old adage that art is a good way to combat anger and grief) and are running into overly protective adults insisting that they talk about it.  The number of websites and counselors available with advice on how to cope is amazing, but I somehow feel that it is to some extent more detrimental to them. 

Worried about people that think that the timing of this was more than coincidental Ė that bin Laden did it to hurt Jews during the Holy Days.  And yes, there are a number of Jews who really feel this way.

Worried about my aunt and uncle, who are returning to Jerusalem next week (they have an apartment here but donít want to stay, despite the pleas of their children and grandchildren).

Worried about people like myself, who have had other things to worry about but havenít been able to really express them because itís inappropriate to do so under these circumstances.  (personal details edited)   Seniors are scared that they wonít get into the right college or conservatory, but somehow thatís trivial compared to the death and destruction a few blocks away.

Thatís all for now.  Edit, post or delete, as you will.