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Sitting down to write this column, I checked the exact date this would appear and was immediately transported to that morning of 9/11/01. It is such an obvious choice for a topic that I am still wavering between the Coronado apartment I was living in that September in 2001 and…something, anything else.

That morning too, like this one, I had just sat down with a cup of coffee and my tape recorder. I booted up the hideous orange iBook I had inherited. On the tape recorder was a series of interviews I had done with people on the street in Hillcrest, and that neighborhood was to be the subject of my column. It was fairly well set in my mind as to how it would read when I made the mistake of turning on the television. I remember thinking this was some trailer for a new Die Hard movie and how incredibly realistic it looked. How do they do that? When it became clear what it was I was seeing — no cinematic effect but the real thing — I immediately became Sally Field as the Voice of America in Hell, “They hate us, they really hate us.” I am almost certain I said that out loud.

I was 48 years old then. When I was 10, I watched American Joint Forces dropping powdered milk and candy into East Berlin. Something, as Joseph Heller once put it, happened. But what?

Recently I was told by a friend that on that morning, or at any rate, about that morning, actor Richard Gere was quoted as saying something to the effect that, while no one is ready to hear this, eventually we are going to have to forgive the people who did this. When I heard it, I said and with a kind of snort, “He’s half right anyway.” And while I can’t imagine our country as a whole ever forgiving terrorists, I have since seen televised (a key word) evidence of American troops individually being decent to Afghan and Iraqi civilians, very much as if they were demonstrating forgiveness. That, I suppose, will have to do for now. Just as the HBO television series Generation Kill will have to do in lieu of any real national TV coverage of the current war. That profane chest-thumping, gung-ho epic of jingoism will have to mollify Americans and reassure us that we’re the man; we’re the man. Never mind Gitmo. Richard Gere is going to have quite a wait for much of anything, and he probably knows that — or I hope so — but the truth in what he says bothers my bleeding pinko heart.

Now, seven years later, I find myself in a very familiar and spooky movie. In Amsterdam in 1971, my girlfriend and I grew so tired of apologizing/defending/answering for the war in Vietnam that we changed our IDs to Canadian. The American Friends Service Committee, working out of a hostel in the red-light district of that city, provided us with fake student cards with our passport photos identifying us as students at the University of British Columbia. It was, in fact, the only way we could rent rooms in our price range. If we were Americans, we had damned well better spend like Americans or no dice. Now, that same friend who told me of the Richard Gere quote has a daughter living in Canada as a Canadian for very much the same reasons.

To all the trailer park patriots I would say, assassinating Obama is hardly the answer (by no means am I implying that this is anything like a common sentiment among any patriots; it is something I overheard — twice); you’re going to have to try something new. That would be thinking. No, you do not all live thoughtlessly in trailer parks. Sorry. Maybe I am addressing those who would send away for those silver plaques commemorating 9/11 as, presumably, an investment. My living situation is probably closer to a trailer park than your own, and while I probably think too much, most of it isn’t very helpful.

To Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and their fans and the likeminded I would say, I recently saw that movie, Déjà Vu, and while I thought it wildly unfair to charge exorbitant prices for a concert and then spring a political rally on music lovers, the film did have at least one salient point. It was Young, I think, who identified one pervasive malaise in the American zeitgeist about this war and America’s very questionable role, and that is, we all feel alone and impotent. I certainly have for years now, and after seeing this movie presenting so many mixed emotions (and the conviction that Stephen Stills got robbed for his dentures), I feel less so. That is important and may well justify the cost of making the movie. Of course, I got in free, but I did not leave the theater feeling terribly free. As I walked east on Washington after the show, I kept thinking of Ghandi’s quote — I know, I know, jeez — and that was, I believe, to “Be the change you would like to see in the world.” Or close enough. It may not seem like enough, but sine qua non or “without which, nothing.”

It’s time for my granola now, a little fiber to facilitate the bowels after that grilled tofu salmon last night. Then I’ll get my tie-dyed shirts and beads back from the cleaners, stopping to hug the odd tree here and there.

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Comments

cosmo Sept. 10, 2008 @ 11:21 p.m.

Jesus told us to forgive those who hurt us.

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cosmo Sept. 13, 2008 @ 12:13 a.m.

The Prophet teaches forgiveness.

BTW, December 7 was no accident. December 7 was the day the U.S. invaded Japan in, I think, 1871 (I could be a few years off on the year, but I know I have the correct month & day), & forced them at gunpoint to accept our ambassador, which they did not want to do, because they were an isolationist country. This detail is omitted from most U.S. History books. The more you know about U.S. History, the less we look like victims. Osama Bin Laden said he got the idea of 9/11 from watching Americans blow up buildings in Beirut. Why do we not believe him?

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MrBill Sept. 12, 2008 @ 1:16 p.m.

I spent one month working with Somalian refugees who are working and living here in America. When you dig a little bit into the way they feel about Amercans you will find that ninety nine percent of the people of Muslim faith feel just like you thought. They danced in the streets when the towers fell. There are two clases of Muslims. Those who dislike us because we promote free will and those who really hate us because we promote free will. It has nothing to do with our religion except that we are not Muslim. It took an two atomic blasts in Japan before most of America was even close to forgiving them for their attack on a military target. Can you fathom how much longer and how much more will have to transpire before the world forgives these people?

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a2zresource Sept. 13, 2008 @ 9:31 a.m.

To be the change I wanted to see in the world, I gave up driving during the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s.

Now, every single time I am in a car, I am assured that the driver has an excuse to use the car pool lane.

The more one learns about U.S. History, the more one may discover that there is and has been a long-run price for this country's security in maintaining the economics of globalization as a world-leading consumer of resources and finished goods.

Whether we realize it or not, this presidential campaign has been an open debate on that price.

For high-schoolers, forget your history book. There is a lot more information of much higher quality in your high school library, if you're brave enough to enter, take notes, and put that ipod down for a year or two. Your competition for that college scholarship letter hopes you aren't.

Personally, I am heading out the door later to find a current high school history text and see if in fact there is no mention of Admiral Perry, although that absence wouldn't surprise. Less surprising would be that the vast majority of highschool students simply don't read printed pages anymore.

Regarding #2:

There is only one long-run solution to the hatred other peoples hold regarding America. Fortunately, America has the technology, the economic productivity, and the exploratory wackiness to pull it off.

Virtually every nation that is populated by those who hate us has trade agreements with us directly or indirectly through our globalization with still other nations. When we wise up to the unlimited potential economic growth and unending prosperity of moving colonies and industries into outer space, we will no longer be bound to the strategic foreign-intervention expense of economic globalization. American manifest destiny in this millennium should be just that: American.


Jesus also said there was a time to shake the dust off our feet and walk away.

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cosmo Sept. 15, 2008 @ 11:48 p.m.

... and don't forget Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie, 1813, who said both, "Don't give up the ship," and, "We have met the enemy and he is ours."

The historian I referred to earlier also wrote that, if Pearl Harbor is the Japanese idea of retaliation for the American invasion of 1853, what then will be their revenge for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

And, yes, I was a Naval officer stationed in Japan from 1977 to 1982.

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Russ Lewis Sept. 16, 2008 @ 12:52 a.m.

If they were to contemplate revenge, they might want to hope that the Chinese just forget about Nanking.

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cosmo Sept. 14, 2008 @ 1:58 p.m.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Thank you for jogging my memory. It was my pleasure to live in Japan for four years, and it was there, while reading English-language books on the history of Japan, that I learned of the significance of December 7 to the Japanese people. But the Internet says it happened on July 8, 1853. I am confused. As many as five ships; 2,600 sailors; and 130 cannon: depending upon whose estimate you believe. The Japanese must have been very impressed at this show of American strength.

By the grace of God our technology will only advance and never go backward.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Sept. 15, 2008 @ 10:12 a.m.

I guess I don't see the equivalence between sailing into a harbor to put an ambassador in Japan and surprise attacking a harbor and killing 2500 men.

As for Islam hating us, it's all about us being non muslims. The Koran states: "Fight (with weapons) those who do not believe in Allah and the last day, and force them to convert." And other such ideas. The irony is, our oil consumerism has funded their efforts to destroy us.

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a2zresource Sept. 15, 2008 @ 2 p.m.

Regarding #6:

I have not read all of the Quran, and I am unfamiliar with the quote you mention, but it IS informative if it is among the surahs.

The Quran's main complaint with Jews and Christians is against those Jews and Christians who have turned their backs on God of Abraham, who Islam knows as Allah in Arabic. The Quran that I have read so far teaches Muslims not to associate with those non-Muslims who have turned their backs on God of Abraham for their bad influence.

The Quran as far as I have read is otherwise silent on the mandated killing of others who ARE obedient to God of Abraham, rather speaking of treating those people with tolerance, for they are people "of the Book"... and I would argue that any Muslim who kills sincere and obedient Jews, Christians, and other Muslims is in fact acting against the will of Allah.

No "40 virgins in Paradise" for any of that!

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a2zresource Sept. 15, 2008 @ 2:12 p.m.

Oops... Rear Admiral C. R. Perry Rodgers was Matthew's nephew, and the father of two other admirals?

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cosmo Sept. 16, 2008 @ 9:51 p.m.

It is Tuesday night, which means that this thread will end soon. I want you all to know that I have very much enjoyed this exchange of words and ideas.

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cosmo Sept. 16, 2008 @ 9:46 a.m.

Frank Zappa once said that if you want an education you quit going to classes and you go to the library and educate yourself.

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Russ Lewis Sept. 16, 2008 @ 12:01 p.m.

"If you want to get laid, go to college. But if you want an education, go to the library." -- F.Z.

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