excerpted from caro's journal: topic: war

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2001_09_15:01: Adam

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This evening I called an old boyfriend with whom I lost contact after moving to California in 1996. While I spent all day Thursday in tears, on Friday I didn't cry until I heard that Pakistan had cleared us to use their country as a military base. Two thoughts struck me simultaneously: we're really doing it; and, those poor people, who've been through so much already, and now here we come.

And then next thought was of Adam, my boyfriend from 1989 to 1991. He's one of the sweetest men I've ever known. He'd spent 5 years in the Marines after high school, and we met at Indiana University while I was a grad student and he was there to get his college education. He was in Army ROTC at the time, and destined for the Reserves. His company was one of the first to prepare to ship out to Kuwait due to their particular specialty which I won't mention; but due to shortage of equipment, he reappeared after a short stay at Fort Knox. He'd seen combat before. I was terrified, and he was raring to go do his job.

So on the news when they said they were shipping out, Adam's careful reminder to me resurfaced in my brain: "If you ever need to find me, call your state senator. He'll know where I am."

I didn't even have to go that far, as it turned out. I tried one old number, but got a fax machine. The other number I had didn't look related, and I remembered having called some number once but hearing that it was disconnected or something like that, which was how I'd lost touch in the first place. I tried it anyway, and when a woman answered I asked hopelessly for Adam, and was stunned to hear her say "Hang on... Adam!"

It made me feel so much better to hear his voice. He was just as he always was: happy, excited, and quite matter-of-fact about what he was about to do. I asked him about Pakistan, said that I had felt sure they were going to tell us 'no', expressed my sympathy for them. But he responded to the first point by saying that when the US makes a request like that, the country really needs to say 'yes'; and to the second point, by saying that it's in their interest too, to have us there.

I said that as soon as I heard the news, I started worrying about him. He said that he is very good at what he does. I said I know, and he thanked me.

I'm glad I got the chance to talk to him and tell him that I love him. Knowing someone in the armed forces makes it painfully clear that, for any given person, this could be your last conversation with him. Just one of the awful things we witnessed in the last few days: those last cell phone calls from the planes and the World Trade Center. But Adam will be back, because he's good at what he does.

Adam is ready to go, ready to fight, and ready to die if necessary. But he isn't hateful, vengeful, or even violent, and he certainly doesn't intend to die. When I crumpled at the news of his leaving for Kuwait, he said in a mock serious tone, "I'm going to die. But not in Kuwait." I often marveled that someone like Adam could ever have ended up in the Marines; aside from the square jaw and buzz haircut, there were no other signs of the warrior. His overt attitude is one of protection. That's how he sees his job, and it is his kind that rises, as he always has and always will, to the top to command others. He knows why we fight, and it is people like him who act as a buffer against people who enter the forces because they'd like to kill something or get revenge.

Unexpected Effects

I don't believe that the perpetrators expected the World Trade Center to collapse. I think they got lucky, and they were just as surprised as we were, that it fell. I think they only expected to take out a couple of floors and a few hundred people.

I've been overcome by the show of support; I mentioned Britain's support yesterday. Today, more expressions of support were coming in from Europe. As an American, I find this a little surprising. We're always the bigger, stronger sibling, supplying but never getting foreign aid, but reaping lots and lots of scorn. I don't think I've ever had the experience of foreign sympathy for my country. My surprise makes it all the more moving.

But today, it really started to hit me what a completely moronic thing this was for the perpetrators to do. I guess the words World Trade Center didn't really mean anything to them. They thought they were taking a little stab at the United States, by taking out a couple hundred people and a bit of a building. What they did instead was take out thousands of people from all over the world. They may as well have sent the planes into Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. If they'd destroyed something that was only of concern to Americans, they'd have been much better off. As it is, they've ruined everything for themselves. I don't think Bin Laden is doing a victory dance. I think he's having his lower officials tortured for their stupidity and kicking himself as he looks down the barrel of every loaded gun in the world.

And realizing this, it was all the more moving and meaningful that sympathetic people in other countries were waving our flags, not their own; singing our anthem, not their own. Some lost hundreds of people, but they're crying for us. I just want to say thanks for thinking of us and recognizing our loss while you suffer your own.
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2001_10_12:19: War Explained

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Secular Muslims quote the Qur'an as they consider the violence in Islamic fundamentalism in "A Call to the Muslims of the World", and explain why the bombings of September 11th happened in "Statement by Ibn Warraq on the World Trade Center Atrocity"
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2001_09_13:22: Should We Laugh

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The current state of my mind defies the capabilities of my nifty software. I don't even know where to begin with organizing it, so I am doing the best I can to organize it but I realize my best isn't very good right now. I'm so sick of news but I can't stop listening to it. At first I was waiting to hear news of the next attack. Then I was waiting for news of recovered victims. Then I found that my mind was literally waffling between belief and disbelief, and the only thing that kept it real was the television. I have my own personal experience with allowing memories to thin and become distant, and it is a recipe for misery. So as painful as it is to look at it now, I have to do so, or suffer the consequences in the indefinitely prolonged future. The tv is still on, as I write this, to prevent unreality from setting in. These are the scattered thoughts I've been thinking.

Gun Control

It is important at a moment like this to be sober, rational, and ruthlessly realistic. Calls for gun control arise out of every crisis.

I too believe that gun control is indicated. Every citizen should be in control of at least one working gun and should be well-trained and certified in its careful, controlled use. The terms of play have changed. Our own technology of peaceful productivity has been used as weaponry of mass destruction. It is wrong to disarm the citizens at a time like this. It would be wrong to not do everything possible to arm and train them. The hope of gun control is that unarmed criminals won't be as tempted or as able to harm people. The hope is that they won't have the nerve, or if they do, they won't be able to get as many people as they could with a small knife.

This is no longer the case. The precedent has been set. The hidden terrorists made these attacks all in the same hour because they knew it would tip their hand to us. We can never be so naive again. No hijacking now can be classified as transportation, political statement, or hostage kidnapping. A hijacking is now a bomb. We now have to assume that a knife or a gun held to one passenger's head is a threat to take out enormous numbers of citizens on the ground as well as the passengers on the plane. As such, our attitude has to change. We can't just sit there and hope that we don't get shot or stabbed if only we cooperate.

The good news is that the intended bomb has to be flown to its target or into the ground in order to explode. That means that the other passengers and flight attendants and pilots on the plane have time to shoot criminals while the hijacking is in progress. It doesn't matter if the hijacker also has a small bomb with which he can take out the plane if his plan fails. Shoot him and explode his bomb, and the plane goes down. Don't shoot him, and the plane goes down but hits a populated target. Take your pick.

When policymakers respond to shootings by disarming citizens, they simply make them sitting ducks to be picked off at will. We're hearing from every official and every expert that there's no way to stop every terrorist from getting on a plane. I absolutely believe that this is the case. That's why every single person who gets on a plane should be armed. It's going to be a lot harder for terrorist organizations to fill up the entire passenger manifesto, the support crew, and the cockpit, than to simply put 4 or 5 criminals on a plane. There's going to be somebody on that plane who doesn't want it to go down on her fellow citizens and who will at least put up a fight. By disarming our citizens, we make sure that there isn't a single person who could fight back.

And I don't think we should relax at this point, assuming that the airlines or the federal government's takeover of airlines will save us. Guerilla warfare is nothing if not creative and hard to predict, and we need to be ready for anything now. I'd be willing to bet that they only had a limited number of trained pilots and, knowing that using some would make us very wary, used all of them (except the ones who missed their cancelled flights on Tuesday and tried to get on planes today). Now, I think we can expect to encounter them everywhere. The planes may just have been a show. They may not even realize, given the way their minds work, how peaceful and naive we can be; they may not realize that we'll just sit around, thinking of ways to further disarm our citizens rather than thinking of ways to empower them. To buy a gun is to take your head out of the sand. Don't be stupid. Get training and practice. Take your kids to the shooting range and let them feel the horrible power of a gun so that they won't think it's a toy. But don't just sit there and imagine that they're done with us and all you have to do is pretend the threat isn't real.

People with guns are more dangerous than people without guns. That's the whole point. We need guns. Lots and lots of guns.

My Mind

I'm watching my own mind in wonder. When Farsam called me at 8:30PST Tuesday morning, after 10 seconds of disbelief, I knew that what he was saying was true. I cried in front of the television all day, knowing that it was true. Yesterday there were a few hours of relief when I went out on a job and thought almost nothing about it. And today suddenly, as I thought about the kinds of things that had been lost, I no longer believed it. And I watched my own mind and tried to understand what it was doing.

This is the most horrible thing I have ever personally experienced. It is too much to believe, because it is too much to grasp. I can't stand seeing all that grief and then feeling it myself, but I have to do it. I can't help it. Every face I see makes me cry. I've got a cold today, and I tried to lie down and rest with the tv on, and it didn't work, because I had to look and listen and cry. The reason that I am watching tv all day is that I need to experience every bit of what they are showing me and telling me, in order to integrate it all, in order to know that it really, really, really happened. The World Trade Center is gone, downtown New York is utterly different, the entire world is different. I finally had to turn off the television when the final straw was laid: the crying crowd of Brits waving American flags in front of Buckingham Palace as the Star Spangled Banner ended sending up a loud cheer It was just too much context. I couldn't take any more context.

Washing dishes to do something normal, I remembered the events in the way that I remember fiction. Standing there at the sink the reality of it dwindled more and more until I was pretty sure it hadn't happened. I think my mind was literally trying to make it unreal.

The News

Still fighting my little piece of the war in my own ways. I naturally assess and critique, so onward I press with that. I get my television broadcasts out of the air, not through a cable, and I live in a canyon by the ocean, an airport, and several military installations, so I only receive cbs and abc. I've had the television on almost as many hours as I've been awake since the World Trade Center went down.

I've been watching Peter Jennings all day today. I watched him all day yesterday. He is amazing. You can see his face getting paler. He is so tired, he has so much to coordinate, and he just keeps talking and doing it so well. He trips over himself occasionally, and gropes for words as the day wears on. He cries repeatedly as he reports on footage he hasn't seen yet. He's in New York City. He's obviously nervous about all the planes being in the sky tonight, as you can tell by the kinds of questions he's asking and how he's reacting to the answers.

I'm amazed at how real he is. He feels like a part of my family. It forces a comparison to the new breed of news reporters who have all adopted this bizarre, inauthentic, annoying, sing-songy, lilting inflection. They are slaves to The Pregnant Pause. It's as though they don't understand what they are saying, but they have come to believe that as long as they pause pregnantly and emPHAsize WORDS....inaverY STRANGE WAY, the STOry.... Will be.... SENsational. Compare Peter Jennings, who I don't usually get to see because I never watch the early evening news. Notice how, just as he's done for as long as I can remember, he talks like a real human being, permitting the story to speak for itself, no need for manufactured sensationalistic inflection, pausing only accidentally because his voice has given out either from exhaustion or from unexpected welling up of emotion. This is the difference between a great anchor person, and a Whatever anchor person.

I am also very happy with the way he is conducting interviews, for the most part. I think it is his own genuine nervousness that makes him persist with dead-end questions that his interlocutor is obviously not at liberty to answers; but he does this only rarely. Again, compare the new breed of news reporters, who seem to think that "hard-hitting" reporting consists of badgering the interlocutor with questions that any idiot can see would compromise national security. The comparison is quite striking when the camera turns from Jennings's face for a few minutes and trains on a press conference. The press confrerences today have apparently been populated by the country's most inexperienced reporters. I'm not a secretive person by nature nor by principle, I'm not trained in espionage, and I'm not exactly news-savvy. But even I can tell that the questions they are asking cannot be answered. I'm confident that the interlocutors won't answer questions that compromise my security, but I'm frustrated and annoyed because the reporters could be asking questions that the interlocutors are at liberty to answer. Instead, they are wasting everyone's precious time and patience with idiotic questions like "Where exactly are you planning to look for Bin Laden?" As though Bin Laden doesn't have a television.

Because of his style and his well-constructed questions, Jennings tends to elicit fewer of the canned, often irrelevant, this-is-what-they-taught-me-in-training, FAQ answers. I think Conny Chung's interview with Gary Condit was largely a waste because she kept repeating questions that Condit was clearly not going to answer, either to avoid incriminating himself or to avoid jeopardizing the investigation. What they don't seem to notice is that the harder they badger, the more tightly the interlocutors clam up, flipping through their mental FAQ to find likely, though increasingly irrelevant, answers.

God

I'd like to make this public statement that I am personally offended by all the prayers and calls to prayer. What I would like to know is what the lord has to say about those buildings full of people exploding upon the people who were trying to save them. The lord was not watching on Tuesday; if she was, she was a terrorist that day. Wake up. Or at least, keep your fairytales to yourselves. I'm watching films of people throwing themselves out of 80-storey windows over and over through blinding tears, and I have to listen to you going on rational national television and praying to the god that let it happen? Please. Pray to those firemen and construction workers and volunteers and blood donors. They are the ones that are helping you. At least you're not calling the perpetrators godless people, like you usually do. I'm just horrified that you don't see the simliarity. That's just my opinion, I could be damned, and will be, if the god you are praying to has anything to say about it.

Other people's minds.

I went to work with a middle eastern client yesterday, and the first thing she talked about was the horror of this week. The next thing she talked about was the horror of the accusations. Last night I talked to a Pakistani friend in New Jersey, who I don't feel comfortable naming because there are so many complete idiots out there. His immigrant parents, both doctors, had already put in 48 hours straight at the crime scene. The fact that people are still being beaten up and threatened on account of their race is unfathomable to me. It makes me feel as though I would have been better off if I'd been raised in some ignorant rural town with no education and no television, because then I might not ever have learned to use my mind. That would mercifully spare me the pain of having to look out at my fellow human beings and see them behaving in a way that I consider impossible.

Let's just stop and think about the magnitude of this stupidity for a moment. It's 2001. There are idiots using contemporary scientific technology to try to rally other idiots to target people on the basis of how they look. Here! In a country full of thorough-breds of every ancestry, and mutts of every imaginable mix.

It's insane. It's primitive. It's so animal. And it is terrorism. The problem with terrorism is that it targets innocent people of a hated group. If the 20 people who were having a dispute all got together for a chain fight, no one would call it terrorism; it would be their private little fight, their business.

I think the human mind, on the whole, is no where near ready for what the few human minds have created and sustain. Most people are not in any sense using their free will. They allow themselves to remain at the mercy of their animal chemistry in every way, from sheer laziness to sex to terrorist attacks on people who happen to be brown.

Should We Laugh?

Yesterday I went to Gayle's house to see how she was doing. She's from NYC, and worked at the hospital near the World Trade Center. Her son is a paramedic, safe, and working. We talked about the events for a while. Then, we talked about some apartment-related trivia, and started making jokes. We laughed, and I felt strange. Was that OK, to laugh?

That self-questioning was only a momentary lapse. It's good to laugh. For one thing, it's a little bit of relief from the relentless sorrow, and our brains need that to stay healthy. But I think it does something else, too. If we pause in this frame of mind, not doing anything or even just doing things in this depressed state, we can't really integrate the events in to the rest of our lives. I was especially aware of this integrating factor today, when I looked out at the garden. The sunlight, callously oblivious to all the suffering, was bright and glorious in the blue sky. My garden, packed with flowers of every shape and color and leaves of every shade of green, was lit up so beautifully that it seemed almost like an affront to all that is decent. But my usual habit, when I look at my garden, must be that I smile and laugh a little, because today that is exactly what I did, even though there were still tears in my eyes from the latest glance at the television. I don't know how we learn that it isn't right to be glad when things are so bad. Maybe in my case it's not so mysterious, since my mother very pointedly taught us that we should suffer as much as humanly possible especially if she was pissed about something. But many of us learn it, and so I felt a little guilty, to smile and laugh at the sudden sight of the frilly light pink fuchsia flowers sproinging around in the sun. It's one of the things that the terrorists are counting on, that I will not be able to raise my own spirits, if not out of direct grief then out of guilt. But I'm smarter than that, and smarter than my mother and not nearly as insane. And I said NO to that particular little conspiracy against me. It is right for me to laugh whenever I can, to find joy wherever I can. I think that's what everyone should do, now more than ever. There was a woman on the news this morning, appalled that just a few blocks from ground zero people were shopping and driving around. I can understand why the sight is incongruent. I find it incongruent, and I don't even live where she lives. But she's wrong to think that we shouldn't go about our normal lives. If we didn't, then the tragedy would never be fully real to us. It would be just This Thing that was on the news while we were taking a break from our lives, dissipating to nothing when we finally did resume normal life. That would be the worst possible thing for all of us.
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2001_09_19:21: American Flag

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Dan Rather with David Letterman

On Monday night, David Letterman was back on the job, not ready to be funny but ready to work. It was a good interview. Dan Rather, normally the detached interviewer, was prompted for his opinion. Two things struck me especially.

First, it is spectacular to see so much emotion written on the faces of the male celebrties. Six days after the attacks, just when it seemed that the anchor men were settling down to normal repressed male life, Rather comes on Letterman and just weeps. I've been a fan of Rather's since I was a small girl, and I like him better now. I find it easier to admire real people than their rigid, emotionless portrayals of themselves, and there have been so many real people on the television this week that I didn't know existed.

Second, he made the kinds of philosophical claims that one would swear were coming from an objectivist. While other people are talking about third world "envy" of U.S. wealth, Rather pointed out that they don't want what we have. They don't want wealth, or territory, or any of the other values that warring peoples often fight for. Said Rather, "They want us gone." Said he, they don't like our freedom of speech, our liberation of women, our pursuit of personal gain. He said that this is a conflict of tribalism against civilization. I'm not making this up.

I realize that this can all be chalked up to my rabid objectivism, but that would be unfounded. Although I said all these things the day after, Rather is speaking his own mind. Given what my own Middle Eastern friends have been saying to me for years and what they are saying to me now, I believe that we are going to confirm that this is exactly the case. Time will tell.
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2001_09_11:18: Eat My Shit

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I feel helpless. There's no place for me to give blood today, and I don't know what else to do to help. I want to do something now, while I wait for the lines at the blood banks to go down.

How can I contribute?

My greatest weapon is my freedom of speech. Now I'm going to use it much more consciously, because I have a war to fight.

I believe that one of the fondest hopes of murderers is the silence of the victims. They would like the people of the United States shut up, at least just a little. They hate that we walk around saying whatever we want to say. They feel free to put out death warrants on people who say what they think, and when they can't find a specific free speaker, they just destroy what they hope is the only source of all that freedom.

The internet must be one of the most horrific pieces of blasphemy.

I had made the decision a few weeks ago to openly engage in the publication and distribution of erotica via Enlightenment. I already engage in the publication of all sorts of anti-religious, pro-rationality writings. This is precisely the sort of thing that pisses these filthy pigs off. That's why I'm even more glad to do it. Six million words, free of censureship.

At the moment I don't care who particularly is responsible for the mass murders. As far as I'm concerned, all members of terrorist organizations are the same person, whether they've already killed someone or not. I'll probably never meet, to name one example, Bin Laden. Since I can't tell him to his face and then shoot him, I offer him, and any other voluntary terrorist, my open, written, blasphemous disrespect. Please, substitute your own name for his.

Eat my shit, Bin Laden. If your mythical god existed, he would skin you alive and hang you in the sun to dry. What you long for most is to shove your tongue deep inside a scrumptious, sexy woman and not feel guilty about it. You put yourself to sleep at night sucking your own dick, and then you pray to your false god for forgiveness. If the United States didn't exist, I couldn't say this in public. But it does exist, and until you kill every last rational person who was born anywhere in the world, it will continue to exist. And if your fake god actually existed, She'd be cheering us on.

Your name is the definition of dirt and feces. Your followers despise you and wish you were dead. Your pathetic little strike against the most virtuous people in the world only makes you look more pathetic. Religious people all over the world feel sorry for you, because you are a disgrace to your own god. You will not be remembered. We will change your name. You will go down in history as The-Three-Toed-Sloth-Who-Sucks-His-Own-Tiny-Prick. School children will not have the slightest clue who you are. And as the good people of this country go about the business that made you a billionaire during your extremely short and forgotten life, they will comprehend your smallness and understand how pitiful you are. We will amuse ourselves dissecting your brain. We will figure out your deepest thoughts, you most wicked desires and lusts. We will find out all the blasphemes you have committed, the women you have licked, the men you have sucked, and the dogs you have attempted to fuck but who have rejected you. We will study you ad nauseum, the way we study everything in this country that thirsts for knowledge and amuses itself with puzzles. You will be scrutinized, understood, laughed at, and then forgotten. Then we will adopt all your children and raise them as rational beings without any memory of your hateful presence. Praise be to Allah.

I'd like to point out to you, while you are still breathing, that the evening news tonight showed a home video of your pathetic display of impotence. During the video, one of the bystanders screamed, "Holy fucking Christ!" The evening news didn't bleep it or edit it. They replayed it several times. This is as it should be. Christians do not yet understand this, but the few rational voices will eventually uplift them out of the darkness of religion. Only in America. Eat our shit.