mackknopf: (My Words)
[personal profile] mackknopf
True words from attorney Amber Ladner: "Times of impact: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers."

I will never forget. Except that an organization struck America, not a nation-state, I consider it like Pearl Harbor: "a day that will live in infamy." I was at the law school, just arriving for morning class, when my friend Rowena told me to come watch the televisions that morning, where a crowd had already gathered.  I called my Dad as soon as I'd taken in the news.  Soon afterwards, my Torts teacher taught her usual lesson, saying it was regrettable, but that school had to go on.  My Civil Procedure professor, however, said he couldn't teach through this, and dismissed everyone. 

My Criminal Law class was the one class I'd really wanted to go to, and the teacher threw aside the syllabus and coursebook to have a discussion section. 
My Professor, Dan Filler, said we would remember a session like this long after specific criminal law lessons had faded from our minds, and it turned out to be true for me.  We talked about the use and morality of torture in obtaining confessions, how Fox News was running any rumor it could find, and how hard it was to defend certain criminals, but that they all needed a defender for American justice to work. 

Dan, a former public defender, said he would defend Bin Laden himself if offered the job, and that is the attitude he took throughout his work -- that everyone got a proper defense.  However, he also opined that Osama would never be taken alive, a prophecy which would prove true.

I ended the day huddled around the television with friends at Celeste's apartment.  I think Celeste, Nicole, and Megan were all there with me, friends who have drifted apart now but whom I still miss.  Strange, scary times. As the anniversary has drawn closer, I've been thinking about the heroism, tragedies, and precariousness of those early times after the al-Qaeda attacks, where a small band of fanatics caused pain and terror on a mass scale.

I'd really hoped our guest preacher this Sunday, a former rector of our church, would talk about those events and how society had changed, how we mourn the dead, and how life keeps going on anyway.  He didn't address anything except obliquely, so I was disappointed.  I missed the sermon, but apparently he just talked about forgiveness, with one joking reference to Homeland Security.  We did have a special luncheon in memorial, but no one made any public remarks.  I contented myself by asking friends and fellow churchgoers where they were then they got the news, and how they felt now, especially if they were still angry like me.

Karyn counseled the need for forgiveness and to not let any further emotional wounds spread, for the good of our souls, while talking about how she'd forgiven her father for how he'd treated her.  Terry agreed with me that those who lived by the sword, tend to die by the sword, and she didn't feel sorrow for the death of Bin Laden.  "It was cause and effect, I said.  "Live a violent life, die a violent death."  Carolynn thought Bin Laden had died years ago and his recent "death" was a hoax by the United States government (some of my friends are conspiracy theorists...).  Mom and Dad shared their own memories of how she'd seen the Twin Towers crash on television, then gone to find Dad in the house and tell him.

So what do I feel now?  I still feel my government had done nothing to deserve a horrific sneak attack on people who were mainly civilians (I do not forget the Pentagon attack, or the place that was probably aimed at the White House, though).  These attackers were fanatics, madmen, who do not represent a majority of Muslims (yet).  I feel we should remember our fallen dead and try to understand the attackers and the culture of Islam better, while fighting the extremists who will not listen to anything but actions.  Should we celebrate when a terrorist is slain?  I don't think so.  Violence may be necessary sometimes to keep others alive, but it is always regrettable.  Should we drastically change our civil liberties and our American way of life in the interest of security?  I'm not so sure.  Some tradeoffs may be necessary, but the road to fascism is paved with tradeoffs.

And I think that from time to time, we should stop and reflect on those who have died on both sides.
Why do I care about people I've never met? Why did I take time this week to read and watch about people who I never knew, who were not part of my family, tribe, or even state? Why does their death touch me? John Donne said it best. "Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind...Send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."
http://www.poetry-online.org/donne_for_whom_the_bell_tolls.htm

 
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mackknopf

March 2012

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