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What is the answer? What is the question
by Marie J. Kuda
2001-09-26

This article shared 1614 times since Wed Sep 26, 2001
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When Gertrude Stein lay dying in post-WW II France Alice B. Toklas said she uttered the first query; receiving no answer, she uttered the second and died.

One of the advantages ( or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it ) of sleepless nights is watching some very intelligent people discuss our current crises on PBS talk shows re-run in the middle of the night. Charlie Rose and Bill Moyer have had some very sane observers offering their hopes and views. Maya Angelou told of her hope that we would pursue justice and not revenge. Moyers interviewed Tamin Ansary the writer whose letter, with an eloquent plea for the battered Afghani people and his comparison of the Taliban and Bin Laden to the Nazis and Hitler, most of us have now read. Or Moin Moon Kahn on "Chicago Tonite" telling Phil Ponce: "Terrorists don't have religions, they have agendas." A program from the "Frontline" series re-run several times gave the background of Osama Bin Laden and speculated that his motivations lie more in his desire to reclaim Saudi Arabia from U.S. influence ( for himself? ) and less from any concern over Israel and Palestinian Muslims. The occasional retired general or statesman bemoaned our yeilding to the NATO coalition under the first President George Bush and not pursuing Iraq's Saadam Hussein to extinction during the venture called the Gulf War. Others condemned Clinton for not doing the same to Bin Laden after the first bombing of the WTC. One after another, guests on various programs pointed to the current President Bush's consciousness raising after using "crusade" --a charged word to Muslims dating back to Christian Europe's holy wars--ten incursions against Islam in the 11th through 13th centuries.

On an ABC-TV special Peter Jennings and a few adults talked with a group of youngsters. I was struck by the child who kept asking: "What did we do wrong?" Jennings tack was to reply to the various concerns aired by the kids with "That's interesting" or "That's a very good question?" But no one answered this child. No one had an answer on another program when a youngster said of her father: "All he did was get up and go to work everyday. He didn't deserve to die."

What many of those late night talk show guests were trying to point out often included perceptions of U.S. military and economic policies from viewpoints other than our own. To illuminate the very question the child asked. From the standpoint of others, U.S. hands have not always been as clean as our citizens were led to believe. Osama Bin Laden was quoted on "Nightline" as saying he hates Americans because we are the worst thieves and terrorists in the world. He said he wages holy war against us because we support regimes and leaders who are "oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical" and inimical to Islam. The U.S. has done a lot that many of us are not proud of. But the apathy of the average citizen must be taken into account. Our taxpayer dollars finance the deeds and the folks we vote for ( or don't vote for, especially in primaries ) direct their thrust. We must accept some personal responsibility for the way our government is perceived in other parts of the world.

The U.S. spent 10 billion taxpayer dollars on counter terrorism last year, yet by our own governments' admission still missed significant warnings of the impending plot, through lack of inter- and intra-departmental communication. The amounts of money being bandied around these days are staggering. The 40 billion dollars Congress gave the go ahead on to George W. Bush for the war on terrorism is just the beginning. In the next year or two we will have spent enough to have given every human being now on earth--man, woman and child-- $1,000 U.S. currency. In many countries this is more than two years salary for a person--think what it could buy in food and medications.

Maybe as out gays and lesbians some of us have a psychological advantage over those whom the commentators tell us are suffering because nothing will be the same again--that people in the U.S. will never feel safe again. We are among those groups of outsiders in this country who have never felt safe. Yet we have survived--we have gone to work and to play, knowing that at any moment, someone who didn't like our sexuality could maim or kill us. The crazed cop, who shot gunned his ex-wife ( owner of a Ravenswood bar ) in front of her lover, the bombers who threw Molotov cocktails into bars from New Orleans to Minnesota, the Dahmers, and the rural punks, and guys in military barracks who killed "queers". In the 1970s when I got ready to speak at the first June rally we had at Daley Plaza, I remember looking around at the surrounding buildings and wondering if someone behind a window was going to take a shot at me. We learned to live with impersonal hatred as have other minorities, and yet call ourselves Americans, loving and serving our country.

When I was a child in boarding school at 45th and Drexel every time an airplane flew overhead, we looked up to see if it was one of ours--those were the years of the Second World War. My father served on an aircraft carrier, and was dead at 49. My partners father served on a destroyer that was wrecked in a hurricane in the Pacific--he never got over seeing dozens of his friends and shipmates drown. My Iowa grandmother was a Gold Star Mother--her oldest son Sgt. Harry Hart, who had fought against Poncho Villa in the border wars with Mexico, died at Chateau Theirry in France during WWI. My gay cousin Harry in San Francisco was named after him. Her youngest son was shot up in WWII. My partner's family tree is full of those who went to war--an adjutant to Gen. Washington in the Revolution, an aide to Andy Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, relatives on both sides in the Civil War, a flier in WWI. Maybe genetics has something to do with the fact that Cousin Harry, Partner and I will not create more cannon fodder. It's inconceivable to me that thinking, loving people can't find a way to stop this continuum of carnage.


This article shared 1614 times since Wed Sep 26, 2001
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