In the space of an hour, thousands of Americans had their lives snuffed
out by acts so cold-blooded that we cannot wrap our imaginations around
what has happened. I have three grandchildren who, until Tuesday morning,
worked near the World Trade Center. We held our breath until they found
their ways to telephones and finally, on foot, to bridges and home. Many
of their dear friends must be among the less fortunate.
It is a nightmare from which we cannot wake.
As we emerge from our pain, as we begin to accept the dimensions of this loss, we will of course resolve as a nation to make our world safer.
Whenever we suffer a tragedy, we ask ourselves, "how can we prevent this in the future?"
In answering this question, all Americans must participate and add what they can to the discussion and the plan. It is an opportunity for the political left and the political right to respect each other's point of view and their differing interpretations of history.
Those who see the attack as a military act of war are like the cancer surgeon who must find the tumor and kill it. Some minds indeed have become cancerous in this world and they threaten our survival. They are just as emotionally capable of exploding a home-made nuclear weapon in our cities, or of poisoning our air and water with biological, chemical, or nuclear toxins. What we saw Tuesday morning, horrific as it was, was essentially the loss of several large buildings and thousands of their inhabitants. We risk the loss of whole cities -- millions of people -- in today's charged international environment.
While the surgeons will cut, others will look to a deeper question: how can such cold-bloodedness arise in the hearts of our fellow men? As the nutritionist examines the lifestyle that may lead to disease, we begin to ask: What can we do in the future so that love and respect are nurtured in the place of hatred? Surely we cannot kill our way to love and respect, where our only true security resides.
The surgeon's will undoubtedly have their way for a time. The news shows -- that incidentally are never interested in covering the reasons why so many people are angry at American policies -- are now full of swaggering militarists who are looking, please, for someone to kill for peace. They will have their way, for the emotions of our nation are running to red.
But those who seek true security must not stand aside in silence. Those who know that international justice is the only road to international peace must continue to speak their minds. It is not un-American to do so. It is, on the contrary, un-American to fall into a state of fascism, where our civil liberties are forsaken and the human needs of Americans and of people around the globe are forgotten.
The secretaries and file clerks and young executives in the stricken office buildings, and the children and mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers aboard those four airplanes would not have been the targets of hatred, had we Americans better expressed our highest values throughout the world --had our government expressed in all its actions the fairness and generosity that characterize our people. That disconnection between our people and our government does not excuse the cold mass-murders committed by terrorists, but it helps explain it, and we cannot stop it if we do not understand it.
There is much we can and must do to regain control of our own government and to stop its participation in cruelties around the world. That is our best road to long-term security for our own people. There will always be breast-beating generals to lead us into further horrors. Let us pray that some of our leaders are wiser than that, and can see that the real road to security does not lead us to places like Kabul with our mops and brooms, but to places like Langly, and to the mammoth political fundraising events where our representatives are bought away from us and from our values.
Many media pundits glibly say today that America will be less free from this point onward. If they mean that we will have to have our luggage examined more closely, we can all agree to that. If they mean that we will all have our telephones tapped and be rounded up for criticizing the government --that we must be fascist to be free-- then they are talking illogically and immaturely.
In my long walk across the US, and in my everyday experiences, I know that Americans are kindhearted and do not wish to colonize and exploit any other people on earth. Our central question -- the question that will determine the security of our cities in the future -- is this: can those American values be expressed by the American government? Can we be more a government of our people? Can we get the greedy, short-sighted interests out from between us and our elected representatives?
Our struggle for campaign finance reform and other democratic reforms will now take a back seat as a season of blood has its day. But until we clean up our government, we will all be the targets of rising international rage, and our children and grandchildren are not safe.
Doris "Granny D" Haddock
The writer walked 3,200 miles across America in 1999-2000 for campaign finance reform. She is the author of "Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year"