One year later

How do we look back at an event like the terrorist attacks that occurred last Sept. 11? Our first impulse was to answer: Don’t look back at all — ignore this tragic anniversary completely. After all, we knew with utter certainty that there would be an orgy of retrospection. Television. Newspapers. Radio. At every turn the nightmarish images and sounds of jets crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, an empty field in Pennsylvania, would emerge again and again like ghosts to haunt us anew, the stories of loss and heroism reverberating through the media’s echo chamber until the din made us all deaf with sorrow and angst. Why add to the glut? Because, we finally decided, it would be a shirking of our responsibility not to recognize an event of such magnitude. And so we set about trying to address the anniversary in a way that would be meaningful and, we hope, not redundant. The course we set upon was to seek out the opinions of a wide variety of people — writers, artists, activists and thinkers — and obtain their answers to a few straightforward questions. Has this country changed since last September’s attacks? What do they make of the subsequent “war on terrorism”? Did the attacks engender any great fear for this country — or hope? And how well has the media been performing? For the most part, we looked for people outside the mainstream — on both the left and right, seeking responses from people who wouldn’t be appearing in the daily paper or Time magazine. The answers took many shapes — most responded to each query point by point, others used the questions as a springboard to riff in ways totally unexpected. What follows are excerpts from those replies. Whether we’ve simply added to the din or helped bring a year of turmoil and change into sharper perspective we’ll leave to you to decide.


Ishmael Reed

Poet, novelist and critic, publisher of KONCH, an online journal at

There’s been a history of terrorism against African-Americans, so when I hear commentators say that this is the first terrorist attack on American soil, it just shows you that something’s happening with the educational system in this country, especially schools of journalism, because that’s not true. Blacks have been through this before. I have a new book due out Dec. 1 from Perseus called Another Day at the Front, which is essays from the beginning of the ’90s to the present day. One of the essays is a review of a novel by Anthony Grooms called Bombingham — Birmingham, Ala., was bombed so much they called it “Bombingham.” African-Americans have been subjected to terrorism, along with Native Americans and Chicanos, for hundreds of years. In 1921, the African-American section of Tulsa, Okla., called the “black Wall Street,” was bombed from the air. The whites considered the blacks to be too uppity there. There was a charge of rape by a white woman (it was false) and 300 people were killed. A similar thing happened to the members of MOVE in Philadelphia in the ’80s.

Anne Waldman

Poet and faculty member at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo.

As I see it, we in America are now dwelling in the perpetual Warring God Realm, fighting an “eternal war” with ourselves and everyone else on the planet. Sept. 11 has given carte blanche with its handy “war on terrorism” moniker, a phrase highly questionable and lethal. This phrase is a “killer virus,” as William Burroughs might say. Certainly the American psyche was profoundly altered by the events of Sept. 11, having never been subject to such shocking aggression and seemingly unwarranted attack. New York citizens bonded and rebounded in penetrating, beautiful, shape-shifting ways. You could say the tragedy brought out the boddhicitta (tender-heart — a Buddhist term) in a range of folk as well as a commonality of pain and rage. The loss was huge. And yet this attack played perfectly into the hands of an administration that had already been using its high and illegal office to wreak havoc and negative change since January of 2001, pursuing an agenda of environmental degradation, an oil grab, the abdication of civil rights.

You have to see the interconnectedness of all this troubling and suicidal reality. We need to wake up to our role in all this, work toward some kind of sane, compassionate view of how things occur. We’re “in” Afghanistan now, we want to “take” Iraq, establish some kind of hegemony in those parts to counter our biggest threat — isn’t it China? It’s a huge power game played by some very sick players. And they are shameless. Haliburton is building more cages in Guantanamo? The rallying of spirit was impressive but the cynicism of our administration’s response is sickening. It’s incredibly complex, but how are we really making things better in Afghanistan you have to ask, in spite of routing the Taliban? It’s not over. And we are more hated in Muslim parts of the world than ever before.

Elmore Leonard

Novelist whose books include Get Shorty and Pronto.

Was life in America fundamentally altered as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? Well, from my vantage point, trying to get through an airport — that has changed enormously. I had to take my shoes off twice in Washington, D.C. If you don’t have a return ticket, you can expect extra scrutiny. I was on a book tour and was carrying all kinds of stuff, which they went through. No other changes that I noticed.

Regarding the war on terrorism, I’m disappointed that it is not an international effort. The nations all around, at least in Western Europe, are aware and are looking for suspects. But when we face this problem of Iraq and nuclear weapons, we don’t seem to get much support with the idea of going in there. I’m not sure what good the United Nations is. It seems this should be a banding together to stand up to an outlaw nation that may be manufacturing nuclear weapons. I often wonder what good the United Nations is. I don’t think they accomplish as much as they should.

I don’t have any great fears. We are the most powerful nation on earth. What’s going to happen to us? You can’t beat 9/11 as a horror. Could there be anything bigger than that? Nuclear weapons on a major city. I can’t imagine anything like that. But I couldn’t imagine 9/11.

Mohamad Jaber

Publisher and executive editor of Assabeel, a Lebanese-American magazine. A U.S. resident for 12 years, he was previously a journalist and government communications chief in Lebanon.

After Sept. 11 there is more security. But everything is normal, especially in politics. I believe America is the mother of all the world. And it should take care of its kids in a fair way. There is not peace in the world. Arab countries, they love America, they try to imitate America. There should be a country for Palestinians, and that is it. It will be more comfortable for the USA. There is a historical friendship between the Arab countries and the USA. The first country to support American independence was Morocco.

Peace in the Middle East is good for Arabs, the Israelis and America. Good for economics, social, political and security.

There are a lot of people like me, they believe in moderation. They believe Israel should have a secure nation. And Palestinians, they should have the same. People who believe in peace, now, they can do nothing. There are no choices. America should separate between people in Middle East who are extreme and people who believe in moderation, and push for the moderation.

America is strong, more than Iraq, more than terrorism, more than any country. What happened on Sept. 11 does not mean America is weak. America will see more prosperity; it can crush all terrorism and all dictatorial regimes, when it becomes more fair, especially in the Middle East.

Phyllis Schlafly

Columnist, radio commentator, novelist and director of the Eagle Forum, a conservative activist group she founded.

Overnight, the American people became aware of the problem of border security and the fact that our government has betrayed us by letting terrorists into the country. All 19 hijackers came into the U.S. legally with government-issued visas, and nobody has been fired for letting them in or for not deporting those whose visas had expired. At grassroots America, border security/immigration is the No. 1 issue, not taxes, corporate crime, pensions, Social Security, prescription drugs, etc.

As for the war on terrorism, we’ve been doing a good job in Afghanistan. But I object to all the activities to monitor law-abiding citizens. The problem is the aliens who shouldn’t be here.

My fears for this country are 1) that the government will take us into an unconstitutional, unnecessary war; 2) that terrorism will be used as an excuse to put us into a police state; and 3) that illegal and unassimilable aliens will continue to invade American in great numbers.

What gives me hope is that the U.S. Constitution still governs and the conservative movement is alive.

Noam Chomsky

Professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of numerous books on politics and the media including Manufacturing Consent.

The Bush administration has sought to increase very substantially the power of the state to coerce and control the domestic population. Discussing Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “hellish vision,” Jonathan Turley — a prominent professor of constitutional law — warns that the administration is seeking to maintain “a level of panic and fear that would induce a free people to surrender the rights so dearly won by their ancestors.” That will not be easily achieved, I think, apart from unconscionable assaults on the rights of the most vulnerable people, such as immigrants. At the same time, 9/11 was a “wake-up call” for many people, who recognized that they had better pay more attention to what the U.S. government does in the world and how it is perceived. That is a healthy reaction — and it is also the merest sanity for those who hope to reduce the likelihood of similar crimes in the future. That sane reaction is bitterly condemned by many elite intellectuals, including those considered on the left. But among the general public, as distinct from educated elites, there is considerably more openness, concern, skepticism and engagement. Issues are on the public agenda that were barely discussed before. Though the picture is mixed, there are many opportunities for constructive debate, organization and activism — a matter of enormous significance for the world generally, for obvious reasons.

Rana Abbas

Spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn.

I don’t think anyone can say their life wasn’t changed by Sept. 11. The sense of security we all had isn’t as strong as it used to be. The fact that we were attacked on our own soil, that was unfathomable before Sept. 11. That was one thing that changed. Ethnic minorities were vulnerable to attacks, and two, they were faced with backlash from the basic lay person.

My greatest fear is for us to lose what we shed blood to obtain: our freedom. We’ve gone to war to win the rights we have today. We can’t put those rights to the side. Freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: Those are the fundamentals our country is based on. In light of what’s happened, we need to preserve our civil liberties more than ever. There is slow erosion. It seems that what’s scary is that this erosion is being accepted by more people than you would expect. That’s even more frightening. The number of people detained since Sept. 11, these people are being held with no indication of when they can be set free or even deported, if that’s the case. The government is pushing for secret hearings. The profiling that’s become almost accepted in airports of people who look a certain way. Let’s be fair about it, and search everyone.

The road ahead is definitely long, but we will definitely get to where we need to be. If Sept. 11 did anything, it triggered people to want to know more about Arab-Americans and Islam. With increased awareness and increased knowledge, you have people who want to make a difference. That gives me an element of hope.

In terms of the war on terror, I think the media has definitely stepped up to get the other side of the story. The media that came to our doors after Sept. 11, there’s an interest there in how the Arab-American community has been affected. They want to get the story out and put a human face on the story.

As for coverage of the Middle East, that continues to be a problem for us. I think more objectivity needs to be afforded that area, and it’s not. I continue to see a huge lack of objectivity. A lack of telling both sides of the story. The bias is there.

Andrei Codrescu

Poet, editor of the online journal, frequent commentator for National Public Radio.

I think that life in America was fundamentally altered as a result of 9/11 in that, primarily, we became suddenly aware of our vulnerabilities as a country, as a community. And we’re able to forget for a few minutes our usual petty consumer concerns. We haven’t quite woken up from the dream of the ’90s. We certainly are halfway there. I think 9/11 was a jolt. We came out of a dream into another world. I think in many ways people go on as if we were still inside a booming economy or still invulnerable. If we stayed in bed long enough things will go back to the way they were and that isn’t the case.

I keep having different ideas about the war on terrorism. At first, in the aftermath of 9/11, I thought that we were in for a prolonged period of paranoia, panic and rethinking of the global situation. About two months after it, I thought maybe the government is overreacting to the terrorist threats. Instead of treating it as a global threat it would have been better if we treated as it as a police action, which is catch bad guys and punish them. I was heartened by the swift attack on Afghanistan because it did remove the Taliban, which I could not help but be happy about. I tended to ignore the fact that our bombs missed sometimes. But I think it was a successful campaign and done swiftly and was beneficial to the Afghan people. I still see it that way. It was quick, swift action and done in a timely way, and we should have done the same thing in the Balkans instead of waiting.

My greatest fear is we are going to lose our civil liberties because of paranoia of terrorists. Terrorism is a funny thing because in large measure a few people go and blow themselves up and mainly terrorists talk theory. So there is a theory war going on. In some way it would be great, along with our Special Forces, if we could parachute about 2,000 of our post-modernist professors into the fundamentalist enclave and have them fight it out theoretically.

As to the media, it has nearly buried 9/11 under a mountain of hype. It has been excessive. There has been a lot of emotional extortion of 9/11, and I think advertisers and manufacturers have profited from 9/11 in ways that are embarrassing. In so doing we lost the gravity of the actual event.

Sheldon Rampton

Co-author of several books including Toxic Sludge is Good For You (Tarcher/Putnam) and editor of PR Watch, which publishes investigative articles about the public relations industry.

Life in America certainly has changed since Sept. 11, and I don’t think it has changed for the better. I think we’ve seen a greater sense of fear on the part of the public. That, in turn, has contributed to rollbacks to various civil liberties that would have been unthinkable prior to Sept 11. There’s been a willingness to tolerate greater government secrecy, greater government intrusion.

As for bringing us together as a nation, I don’t think that has really happened. If you want to compare Sept. 11 to Pearl Harbor, when the United States entered World War II, there was a sense of public willingness to sacrifice, and to accept things like rationing. But you don’t get any sense that’s being considered today, or that the government thinks that might be appropriate or necessary. We have this deeper issue of dependency on oil from the Middle East, but you don’t hear talk from any quarter about the need to reduce that dependency, to sacrifice and moderate consumption. That isn’t happening.

The thing that concerns me a lot about the war on terrorism is that it’s being used as a pretext for a lot of things that don’t have to do with terrorism. All the lobbyists and politicos in Washington, after a brief period of digression, took the same mixture of perks, privileges and bad ideas, and retooled their arguments, saying this will help the war on terrorism. They used it as an excuse to support everything from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to reinstituting tax breaks for the two-martini business lunch as a way of stimulating the economy.

I specialize in looking at propaganda, and the worst mistake propagandists make is believing their own propaganda. And what we’ve seen is this notion that the United States is a poor suffering hero and a savior of the world, and that we can do whatever we want — all that has gotten worse, largely because of a tendency to believe our own propaganda.

Mildred Gaddis

Radio talk show host, WCHB 1200-AM Detroit.

I believe that without question America has changed forever. Prior to Sept. 11 we were, for the most part, I think, a free-spirited people. We went and came as we pleased. We had some luxuries that we did not realize at the time were luxuries. Went to the airport, got in line, and got on a plane for the most part without hassle and without fear. Now we think about personal matters: Do we have our wills in order, have things been lined up to provide for the care of our children if something happens? After Sept. 11, my daughter, who is 12, didn’t want to leave America, she didn’t want to fly. We had a trip planned for Rome, and she didn’t want to go. That’s perhaps the greatest damage, as far as I’m concerned — our children no longer see the world as they once saw it. They are forced to question everything and everybody. Their lives have been damaged.

With the war on terrorism, I find it inconceivable that we are the most powerful country in the world and we have not isolated Osama bin Laden and his gang. And I’m concerned that, because we have been unable to do that, our leadership in Washington keeps attempting to shift our focus from one place to another. But I don’t think you can have closure without getting the group responsible, and we just haven’t done that.

My greatest hope is that, at some point, Americans will cease from existing in a crisis-oriented society. Right after the attack, we loved each other. We were one and the same. We were all Americans. Now, here we are, a year later, and we have returned to being ourselves. We’re not as respectful of one another as we ought to be, not as caring and generous with each other as we ought to be. My wish is Americans will stop taking our existence for granted. We really do live in the best country in the world. Despite racism, classism, poverty, we have never been forced to live at the low level of existence many people in the world must live in, and we ought to be grateful that we are Americans.

In relation to Sept. 11, I think the media has done a better than good job covering events. I think it perhaps could have been more informative as far as showing the families, to put faces on the pain and damage and destruction the attacks did to American families. Other than that, I think the media has done better than good.

Lawrence W. Reed

President of Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative, free-market think tank.

Memories of Sept. 11 are as sharp as if those tragic events happened just a month ago. While all people of goodwill remember those who lost their lives and hope justice will ultimately prevail, Americans should also be concerned that we don’t lose precious liberties too. Now is a time for everyone to think long and hard about every measure proposed that curtails [our] freedoms to fight terrorism. It’s too easy in this climate for government to go overboard. We should be mindful of this paraphrase of Ben Franklin’s cogent warning: “Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary security may end up with neither liberty nor security.”

Jeff Cohen

Commentator for MSNBC, columnist, and founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a progressive watchdog group.

Altered was our sense of vulnerability after we experienced political violence on our soil in the form of an external attack — extremely rare in our country’s history. For some of us, 9/11 deepened our feelings of empathy and solidarity with civilians in war-ravaged places. For others of us, including many in and around the White House, the main reaction has been not solidarity but unfocused hostility toward foreigners, even Europeans, combined with a barely hidden sense that lives (and deaths) in our country matter more than those elsewhere.

The “war on terrorism” is a catchall phrase used by the Bush administration to justify war against ever-expanding enemies abroad and against cherished freedoms at home. As for the fight against the fanatic murderers of al Qaeda, that goes poorly in part because of our failure to build a truly international coalition in which our partners (who we desperately need for success) trust us. I gain hope from the young activists in the new internationalist movement for justice and peace (the “Seattle generation”), wrongly labeled “anti-globalization” by mass media.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Professor of history and Africana studies at New York University. His books include Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! and, most recently, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press).

For most people, I don’t think America was fundamentally changed. On the contrary, anyone paying attention to the events of the last half-century could have seen this coming. These acts of terrorism are in large part a result of Cold War foreign policy, the U.S. and Israel’s role in the Middle East, and the struggle over oil. We can point to many U.S. policy decisions that indirectly facilitated the attacks, from the CIA backing of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in its war with Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, to President Ronald Reagan’s destruction of the air traffic-controllers union. Let us also not forget President Clinton’s bombing of the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998. In other words, 9/11 hasn’t changed U.S. foreign policy.

The way it has been conceived and implemented, the war on terrorism criminalizes entire populations (Arabs); it completely ignores terrorist acts committed by states friendly to the United States (i.e., Israel); it perpetuates a cycle of violence that may result in more terrorist acts directed at the United States. I think the bombing of the WTC and all such acts are horrific and tragic and I’m the last to excuse them. However, rather than fight a war on terrorism, we need to wage a struggle for peace.

I do have more hope than fear. Despite the horrible, uncritical media coverage from the mainstream press, many people came together across race and ethnicity and age to either grieve for lost souls and/or struggle for peace. The peace movement can inject new life into the ongoing struggle to transform America into a more livable, loving place, as long as peace is defined in the broadest possible terms. If terrorism includes other forms of “domestic” violence (home and in the streets; family, criminal, and state-sponsored), then the peace movement must make these issues part of their agenda.

Glenda Price

President of Marygrove College, Detroit.

Was life in America fundamentally altered as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? Unfortunately not. It is true that many people thought more deeply about those things that were truly important in their lives immediately after the attacks, but most are now back to business. As a society we continue to think of ourselves as being the most important people on earth. We do not care for the environment (we live in a community that does not take recycling seriously). We have neighbors who do not have enough to eat, who live in homes that are not up to code, are poorly educated, etc., and have a tendency to blame the victims for the circumstances that they are in. Fundamental change would create a society that was truly concerned for social justice and equity.

The war on terrorism is a war we can never win as it is being waged! To stop terrorism we need to find ways to address the problems that the terrorists are attempting to solve with their destructive tactics. We need to put our energies and our intellect as well as our money in more productive activities.

What gives me cause for hope are those young people who are being well educated, and are being taught how to live in a multicultural society. They are traveling abroad to learn about the rest of the world. They are learning about the joys that come from listening to good music, seeing the beauty in nature, having close friends, etc., and understanding that money is not the most important thing in life. These young people will be the decision-makers who will bring a different perspective to how we live together on this planet.

Betsy Kellman

Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group.

I’m a peace-loving person, and am not in favor of any kind of war. But I think at this point we are fighting a real evil. America is justified in this war on terrorism. I’m old enough to have lived through Vietnam. I saw what it did to this country. But this is a different kind of thing. The country is solidly behind what needs to be done.

What’s really scary to me — and I see this because of my job — is that since Sept. 11, a lot of fanatics have come out of the closet on all sides, and all of a sudden fringe groups are getting a voice. The response is that it’s OK to hate. Fanatics are getting a chance to talk, and people are listening. Hatred is acceptable right now, and that scares me.

Ironically, almost the same thing gives me reason to hope. People are talking to each other about important things. There is a commonality of purpose: 9/11 has given us communality, an ability to talk to each other.

Before Sept. 11, I spent 22 years as a cable TV marketer. But I think we have a serious problem with too many stations with too many hours to fill going after nonstories. Everybody is overloaded, and things are taken way out of proportion. For me, Sept. 11 was really life-altering. It’s why I left the cable business and decided to come to the Anti-Defamation League to fight hate and discrimination.

Tom Hayden

A leading peace activist during the Vietnam era, Hayden went on to become a California legislator and author.

What’s happening now resembles the beginning of the Cold War, when America established the permanent military and embarked on the nuclear arms race, built a coalition including many vicious dictators as long as they were anti-communist, and chilled dissent at home through McCarthyism. Yet, at the same time, there are significant numbers of Americans who believe in democracy, civil liberties, the defense of human rights abroad, the environment and the need to address global poverty.

Whatever one may think about military force against whoever attacked our country — and I believe it’s legitimate — the war on terrorism is quite another story. It involves an unending war against undefined enemies at unknown expense in the billions of dollars, and it once again places the United States on the side of dictators, human-rights violators, oil and gas companies around the world. It will not make our country safer because it provokes more confrontations. It threatens democracy here at home. We need more people and candidates to raise questions about the framework of the war on terrorism before it weakens our democracy.

Because of our military power and wealth, we are in danger of public blindness to the state of our inner cities, the global poor and the environmental crisis. It sometimes is like a cocktail party on the Titanic around here.

What gives me cause for hope is that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. I believe from experience that oppression and manipulation breed resistance, and that the independent populist streak of American culture is the antidote we need against concentrated power.

Herb Boyd

A Metro Times contributing editor, who was at ground zero both times the World Trade Center was attacked. His latest book is Race and Resistance — African Americans in the 21st Century (South End Press).

Given the nature of the 9/11 catastrophe, the horrendous attack and the number of people killed, the nation was certainly temporarily shocked, but the only fundamental change I’ve noticed has been a diminished arrogance and a heightened fear. And this fear is the source of a reactionary tendency, much of which is manifested in the so-called war against terrorism. Suddenly, there’s a chink in the armor; America’s lauded military might and invincibility are vulnerable to terrorism, and this has spurred a domestic campaign that potentially jeopardizes our civil liberties. This places many of us, particularly activists, at the tail end of a cycle of fear that begins with the U.S.’s inability to understand how its might and power are often the cause of global suffering. Thus, as the nation fears terrorism, many of its citizens fear an overzealous attorney general and homeland security adviser.

Perhaps the only way out of this quagmire is for our nation to stem its desire to intervene in world affairs, especially where that involvement only serves to fuel the turmoil and place us on the wrong side of history. To show its willingness to alter a heritage of plunder and atrocity, the government can start right here at home.

As a vital institution within the cog of things, the media’s role is mainly to support the status quo, and to paraphrase that great rhythm and blues prophet, George Clinton, when the government frees its mind, the media’s ass will follow.

Dennis Archer

Former mayor of Detroit, newly elected president of the American Bar Association.

In most of our respective adult lifetimes, there has never been a terrorist attack of this proportion on American soil perpetrated by those who were from other countries. Therefore, it created for the moment a sense of vulnerability. On the other hand, what the attack did confirm is the strength of the American people and the strength of our national leadership in being able to pull our country together and walk in locked step. … It created a number of heroes and heroines to the extent of knowingly giving their lives to preclude any further death and destruction to Americans or American institutions. I’m referring to the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Out of the vulnerability came strength.

With the war on terrorism, we’re all experiencing something brand-new. For many it is something that is hard to put your arms around. When America went to war against terrorism, it was against individuals, and not a country. When we went to war in Afghanistan, it wasn’t against the country. It was against individuals in Afghanistan.

My fear for America? None. We have the ability, thanks to our democratic government and democracy under which we all have rights available to us — that is to say the U.S. Constitution, laws and the like … we have the ability to defend our democracy. If what makes our country great is democracy, than it is democracy that needs to be defended even in the worst of times.

I think the media’s been rather fair, given the public’s right to know and desire to know nearly every thing that’s there.

Elizabeth Murray

Artist and lower Manhattan resident.

Obviously and fundamentally things are different in a political consciousness way, both negative and positive — also from people who were in and around the WTC, in a very personal way. Our neighborhood [five blocks north of ground zero] was completely altered. It was like a war zone. Basically, you felt for the first time (and we were lucky, this happened and then it went away), you realized what Palestinians and Bosnians and Africans deal with every day of their lives. It really hit home how protected and lucky our lives are, and how rich we are.

I think the big way it’s altered our lives is just what’s going to happen militarily, what’s happening politically, our awareness of the fact that we are basically this vulnerable to a very tiny group of people. I don’t think it’s hit home yet — I don’t think people get it. But a few people can kill 3,000 people. And if they had done it at a different time of day, they would have killed many more.

I felt the same way probably the majority of Americans felt — like I hated those people. I won’t deny it. If I had been in an airplane where an Arab-American or anybody looking like an Arab had gotten on, I would have freaked out. It was terrifying … just a gut reaction. And the Bush administration did what any administration would have to do, which is to go into Afghanistan and hunt out the terrorists, al Qaeda. I think they were totally right in doing that, though I know they made some mistakes. Their big mistake was that they weren’t willing to take a real chance (which was totally political) and send individual soldiers in there to get bin Laden, that they relied on the Afghans. And they killed civilians, but they’ve saved a lot of lives ultimately — by getting rid of the Taliban they’ve given that country a whole new lease on life. Unfortunately, what they’re not willing to do is stay there and really put American resources into it, and take the chance on what the Bush administration calls “nation-building” — which of course they said they would never do. But now they’re doing it half-heartedly.

The rest of the war on terrorism is ridiculous, but it’s nothing new. The oil people run this country, and the American government isn’t willing to face down the Saudis (of the hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia) and force them to create a situation in their country where their people have some freedom, and in Egypt too. So I’m in complete disagreement with the way the war is being run right now, except that it has to be conducted; we still have to protect ourselves. The way to go about it is not just militarily — it has to be done through winning hearts and minds.

Do I have hope? Yes, the hope is us. I’m not religious at all, and I don’t believe in religious evil, Bush’s “evildoer,” all of that nonsense. I think that people just have the capacity to do really awful things to each other, and that’s just in us as part of our humanity. So I don’t think that “wiping out evil” is ever going to happen. But the other side of that is we have the capacity to really care for each other. I was reading about what people said to each other and did for each other at the World Trade Center, and it really flipped me around. People gave their lives for other people for no apparent reason … people love each other.

Sista Otis


As far as I can tell nothing fundamentally changed. The characters were and are all present. The play well into the second half. The plot thickened on 9/11 and the common man paid the price. Now were getting ready for war again. It’s an old, old story but the names and the places just change. Now the old wound between flag-waver and skeptic is reinjured. The collective conscience of the country from the 1960s to present-day is damaged well beyond repair with the way it views politicians, politics and the government. People have become greatly disinterested in the system because the system rarely affects the average person but in negative ways — i.e., taxes, tickets, court. Most people are tired, confused and have given up that all-too-elusive American dream after they’ve worked a 40-60 hour work week. Dropped their kids off at school. Did laundry, made dinner and have given unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s with hopes of being left alone.

The war on terror is a propaganda tool to hype a nation into an “us and them” mentality. It’s a trick every magician knows and is as old as the dirt. He says look at my hands while the trick is going on in his pants. This game of smoke and mirrors takes our eyes off the millions we donated to the Taliban. Takes your eyes from the fact the only reason we have problems with Arab countries is because they have the oil we need. (If they had no oil there would be no problem.) It takes your eyes from the fact that we are getting taxed 36 percent of your wages for military and a failed drug war policy. So to the television I scream, “I supported terrorism this year, I paid my taxes!”

As the great American writer Mark Twain said, “Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”

Bernard Dobranski

Founding dean and president, Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor.

The core of the change is that our sense of security as a country was violently shattered.

Unfortunately, we too long ignored the threat of foreign terrorism. In many ways we did not want to imagine that anyone could reach into the heart of this country and destroy innocent lives to the extent that happened last September. It was an urgent wake-up call. Fortunately, our government reacted quickly and with great determination to not let this attack go unanswered. We no longer have the luxury of merely standing by and planning a defensive or reactive strategy. The threat of even more horrific attacks are very real and must be dealt with here and abroad.

My greatest fear for this country: The same as most people, the fear of continued and even more damaging attacks on our country either through biological or nuclear means.

The greatest cause for hope was evident immediately after the attacks on Sept. 11. Within minutes of the attacks, we were no longer a country of divided interests. We were no longer Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, people of different faiths and interests — we were all Americans. We came together through our outrage and resolve to fight back. I also say minutes, because it was only minutes for the people aboard Flight 93 to react proactively. Once they knew what was happening, they banded together and took matters into their own hands — and gave up their lives that many others might live.

On the whole, I thought the coverage and ongoing editorial analysis was pretty good. The media did their job of asking the tough questions, criticized when they needed to, but were cognizant of the very tough situation on which they were reporting. Most of the coverage was fair and accurate, with a few exceptions. I believe that the New York Times recently has allowed its editorial positions to creep into the news coverage. Their inaccurate categorizing of positions by some experts such as Henry Kissinger is a particularly acute example of this.

Donald Calloway

Detroit painter, sculptor and visual artist.

The freedoms we took for granted, we don’t take for granted anymore. People are very cautious now. We’re almost anticipating something else to happen. There’s an underlying sense of fear that permeates everything we do.

I think arrogance is what got us here in the first place. Because of our arrogance that we are the superpower of the world, I fear that we will fall and crumble, because we are out of touch. I think the United States believes it is the solution. And so much that happens in the world, if it’s not the United States’ way, then we stick our nose in too many peoples’ business. Everyone should have their own way of self-rule. I think our arrogance could be our downfall.

Source of hope? I haven’t found any yet. I don’t feel all that confident.

In some ways, I think the media loves to glorify tragedy. They love it and they beat it to the ground. Not to dismiss that it’s a tragic thing that happened, but it’s time to move past that. I think the media could be a source of healing, and I haven’t seen it. I think it’s often one-sided, toward the gore and the negative.

Out of the tragedy, there were positive things. Some people did survive. Some things that happened could be to our benefit, like not taking our freedoms for granted, which we did for so very long. But the media doesn’t concentrate on that.

Howard Zinn

Professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, author of numerous books including A People’s History of the United States.

In short, since Sept. 11, the very idea of a free marketplace of ideas has given way to a kind of police state. Leaders of the government have suggested that dissent amounts to treason. The press, as has happened too often in times of war, has followed suit, rushing to declare its support for the war, and thus playing its part in marshaling public opinion behind the president, leaving few openings for dissent. The other change that has taken place is that our domestic problems were pushed to the background: the maldistribution of wealth, the lack of health care for 40 million people, the deteriorating environment, the insecurity of the middle class (especially since the drastic stock market decline). We have become a nation at war, but without a visible enemy, and without following the constitutional requirement for a declaration of war, and with the Democratic Party afraid to become a true opposition party.

It is not a “war on terrorism,” no matter what Bush says. It is a sham. You can’t make “war” on terrorism, any more than you can declare a “war on crime” or a “war on drugs.” None of those phenomena — terrorism, crime, drugs — can be solved by war. There is no identifiable enemy you can conquer. They are the result of fundamental problems that must be solved or they will continue to plague us.

Paul Auster

Brooklyn novelist and screenwriter whose most rcecent book is The Book of Illusions (Holt).

I was hoping America would be (fundamentally changed). I though it was a rare moment when we as a people had a chance to reassess ourselves; who we are, where we stand and where we want to be. But the Bush administration didn’t understand that, and the moment passed.

I don’t think anyone is sorry that the Taliban regime has been ousted from power. Everything else the Bush administration is doing and is planning to do frightens the living daylights out of me. …

My fear is that we will go to war against Iraq. The situation could rapidly go out of control with unforeseen consequences, such as an Iraqi attack on Israel, the death of thousands by biological or chemical weapons or even, horror of horrors, the use of nuclear weapons, not to mention alienating most of our allies in the world and destabilizing the Middle East even further.

For me, this is the most perilous moment I’ve ever lived through. Much more, even, than the days of the Vietnam War. At least the Vietnam War had a certain rationality to it. One country decided to fight another country. Each thought it had a good reason to go to war.

Here, we have global destabilization and absolute irrationality ruling. Things could get very scary very quickly.

There’s no open debate in the country. And this is just the moment where we should be airing all the questions as fully as we can.

Hope? Despite the fact that we in America have been breaking the laws right and left, we are a nation of laws. That will save us, if we live up to our own ideals. We have a flexible and humane system. We have to be very vigilant about respecting our own legal system and the Constitution. That gives us some hope. It’s going to take rational men to follow that system.

Robert Ficano

Wayne County Sheriff and Democratic nominee for Wayne County Executive.

Probably one of the most significant changes is a new sense of vulnerability to subsequent attacks that may occur. Our sense of security in one of the most advanced and powerful militaries in the world was initially shaken. We now understand that national security is a daily concern and responsibility to be vigilant falls on each and every one of us. Security, vulnerability, had never really been that much of a collective concern. After those attacks we realized we were vulnerable. And we realized how some of those forces out there wanted to destroy our values and our institutions

Initially, the U.S. response was precise and direct on operations in Afghanistan that appeared to be cells or terrorist camps. Now, I think we’re trying to catch up to make sure we always have that balance between security and freedom. You’re seeing a constant tension. It’s important we realize that some of the constitutional values we have as a democracy withstand all of the circumstances. I think they will. There’s always a tension to make sure we don’t violate the basic constitutional provisions for civil liberties.

Lynne Tillman

New York City novelist.

I still want to be saved from the pious and the vengeful. The thinking of the right that America is right and everyone else is wrong, and the thinking of the left that America is wrong and everyone else is right, these ideological positions have to be reconsidered, have to be rethought. You can’t fall back on old oppositions, on old nice positions. We have to think much more complexly now. I think we are in a very different world from the one we were in.

I think there are new political and ideological and cultural and political configurations, and we have to rethink them and not map onto the old canards. If 9/11 has a lesson, and I’m not a moralist, it’s that we cannot rest on what we believe is true.

Continue reflecting with Over the border by Charles Bowden and When darkness swallows the sun by Barry Graham.

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