Category Archives: World News

Remembering Sept. 11

Tomorrow is September 11. As if you need a reminder. Anniversary fatigue set in a few days ago, and I’ve hardly paid attention to the articles, books, TV shows, commercials and other assorted patriotic memorials. It’s not a day I’m looking forward to, and not for the reason most people dread the anniversary. Most people dread the reminder of the horror of that day. I find horror in the event as well, but I’m just as troubled by the results of that September morning.

Since last year our country has swung into action to protect the American way of life. But what are we protecting? Our right to be completely insensitive to world affairs? Our right to profile and abuse people based on their skin color? Our right to sell 9/11 greeting cards? Our inalienable right to put out memorial cans of pop? What’s so great that we’re trying to protect?

There’s all kinds of freedoms and rights we have in this country that are worth rallying behind. But instead we’ve made a poor show to the world. We’ve sought revenge. We’ve pummeled some of our own, ripping them from taxis and beating them, firing shots in the night at any passing turban, assuming a darker skin tone is proof of terrorist tendencies. We’ve been the bully in world affairs, dropping bombs where we want to drop bombs and threatening to drop more bombs where we want to drop more bombs. A pregnant Afghan woman lost her baby and is lucky to be alive today after shrapnel from an American bomb was lodged in her throat. We wave our big, mighty stick of justice at Iraq, pointing to all their misdeeds, all the while forgetting that we were the ones who gave them the chemical weapons we accuse them of using.

Four planes were hijacked last year and obliterated because around the world the U.S. is seen as the oppressor. In the year since we’ve done nothing but bring truth to that caricature. If we’re such a Christian nation, as so many religious leaders and politicians up for reelection would have us believe, then where is the Christian love and forgiveness? Where is the grace? We seem to have plenty of it for our fellow Americans, but we can’t spare a dime for our brothers around the world. We suspect our Arab American brothers. What happened to Christ’s command to love our neighbor? What happened to the Good Samaritan? An Arab man, complete with dark skin and turban, is the modern equivalent of the Good Samaritan. The rich man passing by on the other side is you. The Levite who refused to help is me.

As all the patriotism swells tomorrow night, we’re very good at loving ourselves. We’re very good at making heroes out of everyone, whether they’re deserving or not. But we haven’t changed as a nation. We’re more defensive, more vindictive, less trusting, and less loving. We’re willing to shed a tear for our stars and stripes, say the pledge and say it loud, pin a ribbon and puff up with pride. But we’re not willing to show the world the love of God we claim this country was founded on.

The one thing I truly hate to see is those images. The events of last year replayed again and again, captured on film and regurgitated for all to see, engineered to pull at your heart and squeeze a tear from your eye. Superimposed with flags and statues of liberty and excuse me while I vomit. I watched with voyeuristic shock as a 747 disappeared inside one of the towers of the World Trade Center, only to be replaced with belching flames. I don’t want to see that image ever again. But tomorrow it will reply again and again. Four-year-olds will see it and look to the sky every time they hear a plane, tugging on their teacher’s clothes and asking if the plane is going to crash, going to come down on them.

Our media-driven culture wants to bring healing, but a montage of patriotic death will only fuel zealous actions of bitter selfishness. Hug your children tomorrow. Buy a homeless guy a burger. Be kind to an immigrant. Smile. But don’t bury your head in a memorial edition of the paper. Don’t buy the book. Screw the DVD. And whatever you do, unplug the TV.

The Realities of Terror

In the midst of letters of anthrax and soldiers with M-16s at the airport, it’s a little difficult to get you arms around the current situation in America. The land of the free and home of the brave has become the land of fearful and home of the terrorized.

And in part, we do it to ourselves. Time reported that the FBI was called in when a woman found a mysterious white powder on her keyboard. False alarm. She’d been eating a cookie. It’s rare comic relief like this that makes me feel better, but then I start worrying that all Americans could be this stupid.

One thing I have learned this past week is that now every American has a tiny taste of what it’s like to live somewhere else. We are a privileged nation. As much as I complain about my loans, my bills, my desperate poverty — I am rich. The fear and apprehension that’s sweeping across the land is a tiny inkling of what some people go though every day. They live in fear and oppression. Bombs go off in their streets all the time. Watching someone die is a common occurrence.

In many parts of the world you don’t have the option of eating in or going out. You don’t get to decide if Friday night will be a movie night or a game night. You don’t get to decide if you’ll watch the big game on Sunday afternoon or mow the lawn. You don’t have the option of taking your beloved to the park for a romantic afternoon.

Some people in the world have bigger problems. They worry about their children having enough food, and don’t have time to worry that they’re not eating. They work long hours in poor conditions for minimal earnings, and put it all towards medicines for ailing relatives. They’re oppressed and afflicted by dictators, drug dealers, over-zealous police forces, and yes, terrorist groups.

No one else in the world lives in the comfort we have in the United States, comfort that was made a little less comfortable on September 11. And as much as I hate to say it, we need to realize that God didn’t put us here to be comfortable. He didn’t tell us that we’d always be happy, always be safe, always content.

It’s time to leave our superpower uppity-ness behind us, and embrace a world of hurting people. Are you scared as you stand in line at the airport, eyeing the National Guardsmen and their rifles? Do you fear for your loved ones as they leave the house in the morning? Do you pause before opening your mailbox, wondering what diseases may be coming first class? Do you brace yourself before turning on the news or looking at the front page of the paper? Now you have a small taste of the every day existence of the common person. The Bible calls us to be in this world–and notice that the command refers to the whole world, not just the comfort of America. Life is not microwaves and fast food and instant cash. It is pain and hardship and suffering and the persevering love that someone how comes through. Ask anyone in the world.

It’s a Different World

Last Saturday I spent the day driving from St. Paul to Detroit, and then flying back to St. Paul. It was a long day, but gave me a chance to reflect on some of the events at hand.

Some observations…

The day after we began striking Afghanistan, several hundred protesters showed up outside the Federal building in Minneapolis to protest. There was a good mix of college students and older people (“long-haired hippies who protested the Vietnam War,” as someone on the bus put it, in a tone that made the Vietnam War sound like the Second Coming of Christ). They carried signs that said “An Eye for an Eye Makes a World Blind,” and “Drop Food, not Bombs”–which I found ironic considering we are dropping food.

On my way home I saw lots of American flags–patriotism like we’ve never seen, even during the Gulf War. I also saw close to a dozen billboards reading “In God We Trust. United We Stand.” I’m still not sure what to think
of that.

When I pulled up to the $2 tollbooth on I-90 just east of Chicago, I noticed that the woman taking my money was wearing rubber gloves. I’ve never seen that before.

When my dad dropped me off at the airport, there were three National Guardsmen in camouflage, talking to a police officer. When I got to the security checkpoint, there were three more standing around observing, all with pistols at their sides. I made it through the metal detector fine, but they still made me spread my arms and ran the wand over me. Anything time the wand beeped, they felt the metal to make sure that’s all it was–including the snap on my jeans. When the guy was almost done, he asked me to lift my feet, and he ran the wand over the soles of my shoes. I watched others go through the checkpoint–anyone with a belt had to remove it, and I saw a number of people have to put their shoes through the x-ray machine.

When I did finally board the plane, I had to check my backpack. Purses, laptops, and diaper bags were the only carry-ons allowed. I put a couple books and a notebook in a plastic CompUSA bag, and felt like a refugee.

When I got off the plane in Minneapolis, we weren’t greeted by anyone. Passengers only. As we rounded the corner and walked down the stairs to the baggage claim, three more National Guardsmen were standing guard–but these guys had M-16’s over their shoulders. One of them looked like he was 18.

It’s a different world.

Moving On

Today I’m beginning to notice how easy it is to forget about the terrorist attacks of September 11. We seem to have moved on. It’s no longer monopolizing the news. While it’s certainly not far from people’s minds, we are moving on. It’s amazing that something so immense can slip into the background as we move forward.

I suppose it helps that the promised U.S. retaliation hasn’t yet come. That will certainly be a reality that will sink in painfully when it finally happens. The scary thing to think about is that U.S. special forces are probably in Afghanistan as I write this, at the least doing reconnaissance missions and gathering intelligence. That idea seems so out there, yet it’s true.

The world today amazes me.

9/11

Words fail me. What are you supposed to say after something like today? I’m finding some comfort in the those who have had an appropriate reaction to this tragedy:

“In times like this we realize how weak and inadequate we are, and our greatest need is to turn in repentance and faith to the God of all mercy and the Father of all comfort. If ever there was a time for us to turn to God and to pray as a nation, it is now, that this evil will spread no further.” – Billy Graham

You’ve all seen the video and heard the reports, so there’s not a lot I can say. I will comment on two things, though:

I’m scared. Not scared of the actual attacks or afraid of my safety. I’m scared of the possible retaliation. A lot of people are very angry right now and completely unfounded accusations are being made. This country already has problems with racism, and I hate to see what happens after something like this. I’ve heard enough early reaction from people condemning other groups and calling for us to nuke certain nations. I’m just afraid of visions of violence in our own country, Americans striking out against Americans simply because of the color of their skin, their religious belief, or whatever other feature may match that of potential suspects.

I’m also scared not only of personal retaliation, but of the retaliation this country as a whole will make. It’s almost without a doubt that there will be a military response. President George W. Bush seems to have no qualms with using military force against terrorists, and “those who harbor terrorists.” Those are the words that start wars. I certainly understand that action is needed, that America must defend herself. But in our bloodthirst, we cannot sacrifice innocent lives in pursuit of justice. Any justice that claims innocent civilians is no justice at all. I pray that this country will move forward with wisdom like we’ve never had before.

The other thing I’m finding curious right now is the line of cars outside my window. They’re all lining up to fill up on gas. Apparently there’s a scare that gas prices will spike, that the supply will dwindle, who knows. They’re all rumors, and the prices haven’t gone up at all. Watching the panic take place around me brings it one step closer to home. While watching the news you see one image of Americans rushing to help one another. Outside my window I see another image as brakes squeal and two cars nearly slam into one another. The drivers begin swearing at each other, all in an attempt to top off their gas tanks. Perhaps not all of us feel that American resolve we speak so highly of.

Riots in Cincinnati

Tonight I heard about the riots in Cincinnati for the first time. I feel rather disconnected that I didn’t hear about them before–which is odd considering I check three or four different news sites on a daily basis. I watched the footage on the news tonight and it was like some movie or footage from the 1960s on one of those PBS documentaries.

People screaming, the crowds reeling, the blood flowing. The angry mobs, the powerless leaders, the armored men fighting back the crowd. An innocent man killed.

Maybe not so innocent, but the parallels are still there.

Racial incidents drive me nuts. Nobody has any good answers. You can tell the kind of people you’re with by the way they react to news reports. Which side do they come down on, what kind of comments do they make? It’s very telling of a person’s racial attitudes.

So the black man is running from the white cop, he turns and reaches for something, possibly a weapon. Pop. The white officer fires in self-defense, fearing the worst. The unarmed black man drops to the ground, shot dead. It’s not a very good situation for anyone involved.

What causes a man to run from a cop like that? What causes a cop to fear the first and start pulling the trigger? And couldn’t the cop aim for a leg or a shoulder–or is that too much to ask in the heat of the moment? And why would a hunted man make a movement that could be seen as threatening when he’s facing a cop with a gun? Why have 15 people been killed by the Cincinnati police since 1995? 15 black people? 15 black males? Apparently white guys aren’t dangerous. Are African American males really that dangerous? Are they all gun-toting thugs that deserve to be gunned down in self-defense? Or is this just a senseless stereotype that is continually perpetuated?

It’s perpetuated every time a parent tells you not to go to that part of town. It’s perpetuated every time you watch the news and someone makes a comment about those people. You wonder where racism comes from? It comes from the innocent comments that go unquestioned and serve to perpetuate the stereotypes.

Will it ever end? No, I don’t think so. We’re only human.

Tragedy at Santana High School

I’m old enough to make my own choices.

That’s what teenagers say all the time. That’s how they justify their behavior. And perhaps they’re right. Part of growing up is taking greater responsibility for your actions. Sometimes that means you make mistakes, but that’s part of life.

But what’s interesting is watching standard explanations crumble when tragedy strikes. What happened at Santana High School? Was the student who injured 13 and killed two old enough to make his own choices? On a number of teen web sites today I found a lot of kids blaming the parents. Apparently teenagers aren’t old enough to make their own choices. Apparently parents need to be more involved in the lives of their kids.

Which doesn’t exactly seem like the thing most teens want to admit. They say it now during tragedy, but I wonder what they’ll say come Friday night? Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived up to our own hype?

An Act of Cowardice

Once again America’s schools make the news as violence explode in the hallowed halls of learning and knowledge. It’s kind of depressing. You’d think we’d take the hints. You’d think we’d realize we need to stop marginalizing the outcast. You’d think we’d realize we need to spend time with our kids. You’d think we’d realize that maybe violence in TV, movies, and music needs to be reevaluated. You’d think we’d realize that handguns are a little too accessible. You’d think we’d realize a lot of things, but we don’t.

That’s a messed up little freshman running around shooting his classmates with a smile on his face. He must live in a pretty messed up American family in a pretty messed up American high school full of pretty messed up American kids. He’s probably just like a million other freshmen in high school. That’s the sad thing. Maybe one of these days we’ll realize we’re doing something wrong.

President George W. Bush called this an act of cowardice. That may be, but I would say that a country that continues to watch its children murder one another is committing a bigger act of cowardice. And I’m not just talking about the suburban schools that make the news. I’m also talking about the back alley jobs and the ones that happen all the time. People are dying all over this country, you’d think we’d realize something is dreadfully wrong.

But we’re too busy sucking back on another pop, rotting our teeth, and minding our own business. It’s great to be an American.

Elian and Jerry Springer

Sorry about the hiatus. I skipped town for Easter weekend and was a little slow in getting back in the swing of things.

Elian. Just by starting with the name I’m driving some of you away. That name and his smiling little face has been in the news since December. I’m a college student who doesn’t keep up with a lot of what’s going on in the world, but I can’t help but know what’s going on with Elian. I really don’t care to know, but you can’t get away from it. This weekend Elian was forcibly taken from his relatives in Miami and reunited with his father. What I don’t understand is why this thing has dragged on for so long. The poor kid’s mother died, so put him with his closest relative, his father. What does it matter that his father lives in communist Cuba. You’d think we’d be over that by now. And what was with that forcible raid. The media flashes so many memorable images (there’s a contradiction) and the image of an INS agent in riot gear with an assault rifle aimed at Elian and the man holding him will stick with me. Who is acting in that child’s best interest when he has to be dragged away screaming at 5 in the morning by men with body armor and rifles? Obviously the government had to deal with the protestors outside and relatives who weren’t exactly cooperative. But a pre-dawn raid with machine guns? And what about Elian’s Miami relatives. What were they thinking? We love this child so we won’t give him up, even though that means you’ll come busting through our house with guns.

This whole thing just blows my mind. It’s utterly stupid. It’s the typical plot of a daytime talk show. What I want to know is how many other children like Elian are there out there? How many other children are caught up in sticky custody battles with feuding families? But nobody seems to care. Why should I be so concerned about a boy in Miami?

Texas A&M Bonfire Tragedy

Tragedy strikes in an instant, somewhere far away. Six people are dead–Nine–Twelve. A log pile for a bonfire crashes at Texas A&M University. You have to wonder about the stupidity of it all. They were just having fun, crawling around on a forty foot high mound of timber. And now they’re dead. Life so quickly comes to an end. You have to wonder if they were ready for it. Is anybody ready for it? The families and friends ask their questions, and all you can do is pray for your fellow man.