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What a Wonderful World

It‘s been exhausting and infuriating listening to newscasters lament America’s “loss of innocence.” When the hell was America ever innocent?

“Americans will no longer feel safe on their own soil,” they say. I so seldom feel “safe” in America that my own unease and sense of displacement in my homeland hums in the background on a constant purr. It‘s just part of the soundtrack. The night before the New York and D.C. attacks, I had a nightmare of being chased down and assaulted by cops. I woke up shaking and sweating, feeling like Dead Man No. 3 in a Freddy Krueger flick.

I can’t even find words to express my own deep sadness, not just at the events of the past week, but at the circumstances and situations that would contort and distort another human being so dramatically that he would come to be defined and consumed by the rage that resulted in thousands of ordinary Joes and Jills being so coldly, precisely attacked and slaughtered. I think the attacks were the very definition of evil. But I also know that the arrogance, racism and greed that are such dominant strands in this country‘s DNA are what fuel the animosity that so much of the rest of the world feels toward us. (And just for the record, the fundamentalist, misogynistic, homophobic and nationalistic alternatives offered up by so many of America’s self-proclaimed foes are just as repulsive and horrifying to me.)

I think we all need to step back and realize that bin Laden and his ilk didn‘t just fall out of the sky. They ain’t just playa-hatin‘. Most Americans have no idea what it costs so much of the world for us to be America. How could we? We don’t even know what it costs Americans for this country to exist as it does.

Just as I was trying to come to terms with all this, I was hit with another blow, Jerry Falwell‘s comments on how pagans, feminists, gays and lesbians brought on the terrorist attacks. How can we wag a furious, self-righteous finger at anyone else when this kind of hatred is being broadcast on national television by a religious leader? Does no one in the media have the balls to take on the madmen in our midst? Isn’t it clear that our leaders, political and religious, can be just as terrifying and insane as bin Laden? That this “monster” is just a mirror image, a duet with what we routinely have sung to us from talk radio, op-ed pages and religious programming?

This country‘s inability to see that we get back exactly what we have put out depresses me. No matter whom we bomb in retaliation, no matter how many cans of John Wayne Kick-Ass we open, the seeds of terrorism that sprouted all over New York will not be eradicated until we take a good, hard look at who we are, how we treat the rest of the world and how we treat our fellow Americans.

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