I write from my small, western hometown on this national day of
mourning in the United States.
It was the first time, as far as I know, that folks here organized
a march down Main street. An astounding number of some 200 people
of all ages turned out, dressed in red, white and blue to match
the dozens of flags and balloons they carried.
Led by an armed honor guard of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, they
had responded to fliers for a Memorial Walk "in tribute and honor
of lives lost and lives touched by the Sept. 11 disasters." It announced
"America still stands strong, free, united. God bless America!"
The act of patriotism was their way of channeling the anguish,
insecurity and impotence they felt in the wake of the four hijacking
crashes in the suicide missions that destroyed the twin towers of
the World Trade Organization in New York City and part of the Pentagon
in Washington, D.C., three days earlier.
Like the marchers, I have my own stories to tell about friends
and family who narrowly survived the events of that day, which claimed
an untold number of lives and shocked the world.
But unlike them, I believe that flag-waving is the opposite of
the answer to what National Public Radio dubbed the "worst terrorist
attack in history."
It was a rude wake-up call.
It showed the powerful U.S. government as inadequate to provide
the public security it has so long claimed it guarantees.
And like one senator from Nebraska, many authorities said the
United States would be changed forever, as a result.
Oh, how I wish it would.
But I'm not seeing a change, rather more of the same kind of policies
and actions that have made the World Trade Center and the CIA target
U.S. President George W. Bush immediately characterized the assaults
as "an act of war" and, on the day of mourning, vowed to hunt down
the "enemies of freedom."
Following the typical pattern of media coverage of national crises,
news organizations let the executive branch set the agenda, rallying
around the president and the flag.
To the tunes on the radio of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
and "God Bless the U.S.A.," people across the nation took to the
streets, waving flags and chanting nationalistic sentiments.
The wheels of the military-industrial machine are being greased
furiously in response to the aggression. And the current global
socio-economic policy will be strengthened as usual, by war, if
one is not diverted.
Here's how I wish things would be changed forever:
- That the powers-that-be in the United States and internationally
would wake up to see that this current policy has deprived many
more than the 50,000 employees of the trade towers of life and
liberty all around the world.
- That the flag-wavers in the U.S. streets would look beyond their
national borders to see who's sustaining their precious freedom
and high consumption rates: the poor people mostly from abroad
who make up the majority of the world's population, who grow their
food and die from their pesticides; who build their cars, make
their clothes and wash their floors for pennies a day; who have
to migrate, separate from their families, and face repression
- That U.S. residents would sit up and take notice that if they
let their government continue to be bullied by transnational consortiums
that promote this inequality, their country will continue to be
in high risk of violent reactions such as the ones this week.
- That voters would recognize that we are all animals in danger
of extinction as long as defense spending is given priority over
Those of us who are working to demonstrate sustainable development
alternatives that will change policy direction maintain that peace
and environmentalism go hand in hand.
We condemn the brutal tactics employed in the attack. The casualties
are losses for everyone, not just U.S. citizens. And a belligerent
response will only sap support from environmental projects.
But we, the people, do not stand for the positions that fell.
Nor do those positions stand for us. And now that some of them don't
even stand, I, for one, don't feel any more impotent than before.
I don't need to wave a flag. I just have to continue showing that
appropriate technologies, organized cross-border grassroots networks,
environmentally friendly practices, and community-based fair trade
in goods and services can provide the peace and harmony that are
the groundwork for real stability and security.
Talli Nauman is a founder and co-director of Journalism to
Raise Environmental Awareness, a project initiated with support
from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1994.
Her experience includes more than 25 years of photojournalism in
the Americas, a master's degree in International Journalism and
a bachelor's degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. She can
be reached at email@example.com
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