On Tuesday, Sept. 11, as I watched the second plane crash into the towering Manhattan office building, my reactions were mixed. After the shock of recognition of the impending massive loss of life that would follow, my stomach tightened and wrenched in horror and sorrow; yet I heard myself saying that the Bush administration now would find no objections to increasing the military-industrial complex budgets.
My next thought was how those TV pictures reflected the cover of Frank Robinson's 1974 novel, The Glass Inferno. Frank was a gay man who wrote sci-fi and edited Playboy's "Advisor" column here in Chicago when the magazine was located in the old Palmolive building, once topped with the blue Lindbergh Light. Frank speculated on what would happen to a fictional 66-story building when a massive fire broke out in its upper floors.
Robinson's novel was an indictment of shoddy construction practices and poor fire prevention and did not involve a disaster growing out of a hate crime. And that, to my mind, is what the aerial suicides were...hate crimes. Only the numbers made it any more heinous than torturing a gay boy tied to a rural fence. Misguided religious zealots from the time of the Spanish Inquisition to the Moral Majority have spawned hated acts by their followers. Such acts call out for retribution. But I found the presidential and subsequent press conferences stuck in my craw, with their assignment of good, and evil and their not so subtle suggestion that the hands of the United States are clean and lily-white.
We have been involved in these same kinds of sick games for years. U.S. supplied weapons, personnel, and covert actions have resulted in the deaths of thousands in Central America. Then, there is the whole history of the Nixon administration's involvement in the eventual overthrow of the legitimately elected Allende government in Chile resulting in more massacres. The Kennedy administration's ill-advised and ill-fated fiasco at the Bay of Pigs was a not-so-covert attempt to overthrow another legitimate government. Even Truman's well-intentioned carnage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ( especially the latter ) has been a black mark on the escutcheon of mankind. Further back in our history, homosexual Chicago writer Henry Blake Fuller ( 1857-1929 ) joined Mark Twain, Jane Addams and a host of others condemning the U.S. colonial policies of another century that led to our involvement in the internal politics of the Philippines and Cuba.
I was a day short of my second birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed; and old enough to know my father was going to war when he left to serve aboard an aircraft carrier a year later. Some of the characterizations of similarity between Pearl Harbor and the tragedy at the World Trade Center are valid. "Profiteering" began rather quickly with the jacking up of prices, especially for fuel. Reported acts of violence towards "them" by "us" almost instantly followed each proffered media suspicion. I still have a savings stamp book from my childhood in WW II...we saved our dimes and bought stamps that we glued into booklets which, when full, could be traded for savings bonds. The booklets were illustrated with Uncle Sam's big feet one each on a stereotyped German and a Japanese with the slogans "Stamp out Jerry" and "Lick the Jap." I didn't learn about Manzinar and the other camps then. Later when Japan and Germany were our partners in the world economy, I marveled at this hatred being relegated in history to the topic of Entangling Alliances.
So now our political leadership cries out for War on an ( as yet unknown ) enemy or enemies. War is a specific term hung with legislative realities. It's not the turf war of inner city gangs. It has fiscal and accountability waivers, none of the day-to-day checks and balances of our government in "non-War" environments. Economics seems to be at the basis of it all. Bush wants a "blank check." There is talk of "blockades" of our enemies and those who shelter them. Calls for the restoration of normalcy...go back to work; buy, buy, buy with "consumer confidence." The elder Bush temporarily unified and misdirected the attention of the country with Desert Storm; young W. has been given a like opportunity. The jargon from the top is scary: "we have the power to take them out"; "we don't want to risk a strategic aftermath" ( what the hell is that? ) ; "they're ( read: you're ) with us or with the terrorists...no neutrals." Some worry that school children will no longer see the USA as a safe place. Wait a minute...I was raised in a generation that hid under school desks from impending nuclear attack, built well-stocked bomb shelters, and had regular Civil Defense drills. The reality is, this is not a safe world. As long as we are sick with hatred and revenge in Ireland, Israel, Palestine, and yes, the good old USA we are not safe, as humans or as gays.
This morning I saw a monarch butterfly as big as my hand on my huge bush of lavender colored asters.
Copyright 2001 by Marie J. Kuda e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gays represented at memorial service
The GLBT community was represented as part of the nation's memorial service for those who died in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11. The ecumenical service was held Sept. 14 at the Washington's National Cathedral, with the current and former Presidents and their families heading a list of honored guests. Muslim, Jewish and Christian clergy participated in the service. A children's choir added an air of innocence to this gathering summoned to lament an evil act.
The dark, rich voice of regal mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves accompanied by a lone guitarist eclipsed those who preceded her from the pulpit. Graves would also later sing the prayer, "Our Father"; but I was struck by her intonation of "America the Beautiful." The words of this anthem, originally written over 100 years ago, are a poem by Katharine Lee Bates. Bates wrote her paean to her beloved America after she traveled across the country with Katharine Coman, who would be her partner for 20 years until her death. Both women were professors at Wellesley and were three years into their relationship when they came to visit Coman's family in Oak Park and visit the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. From here they journeyed by train across the plains to Bates' summer teaching job in Colorado Springs. The "White City" of the Chicago fair gave rise to the phrase in her poem "thine alabaster cities gleam." The "amber waves of grain" were glimpsed from her railroad car as it crossed Kansas, and "the purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain" was inspired by her view from Pikes Peak at sunset. Unfortunately, we are still striving to realize the vision Bates had of a country crowned with brotherhood "from sea to shining sea."
... Marie Kuda
Copyright 2001 by Marie J. Kuda. e-mail: email@example.com