Who would have guessed that a terrorist attack could have inflicted so much damage on our country? I am not only referring to the thousands of lives lost at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon but also to what has happened to the American psyche and political process since those crimes were committed on Sept. 11th.
An unthinking war spirit has been cultivated. George W. Bush has been "made over" into a great leader and given carte blanch to exact revenge anywhere on the planet - even if that involves committing our own terrorist acts against poor people who just happen to live wherever our bombs land and missiles strike.
Tragically, patriotism has been used to dumb us down. Amidst red, white and blue flag waving, we have been handed a black and white world. Us against them. Good against evil. We are civilized. They are not. God bless America as we launch this crusade to clean up the planet and eradicate the bad guys.
I am horrified by the terrorists and what they have done. But I am also horrified by our response. Are we blind to the U.S. role in the world? Do we care so little about peace? Is there still a place for loyal dissent in our democracy? I hope so because I am dissenting.
I do not accept President Bush's declaration of war. Yes, I want the terrorists stopped and brought to justice but I don't think launching a retaliatory war and killing more innocent people is the answer. Such a response would only compound the tragedy and injustice. Vengeful violence will only breed more violence.
While congressional leaders may take pride in their bipartisan response to the crisis, I was appalled by the Congress' near unanimous vote of support for Bush's war plan (thank you Representative Barbara Lee of California for your courageous single vote of opposition). Now we face the awful prospect of a cowardly Congress giving Bush every ridiculous piece of military hardware he wants because to do otherwise would seem unpatriotic.
We have all heard that truth is a casualty of war. The dishonesty and demagoguery began from Day One when our political leaders told us that terrorists attacked our country because they hated our freedom and democracy. What is much more likely is that they hated our foreign policy. After all, the symbols they attacked were those of U.S. economic global reach and military might, not the Statue of Liberty, not the Liberty Bell.
When Dick Cheney went on "Meet the Press" and told us that effective anti-terrorist intelligence gathering will require greater U.S. involvement with unsavory characters, alarms should have gone off. The United States put the Shah of Iran in power. Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll. We armed the Taliban. We trained bin Laden. All of these actions left a trail of blood, victims and hatreds. If the truth be told, since World War II, the United States has immersed itself in unsavory characters and actively meddled, overthrown, and propped up unsavory governments all around the world. We have done this in the Middle East in order to maintain access to oil and to benefit U.S. oil companies.
Our longstanding uncritical political support and military aid for Israel has also engendered hatred for the United States. Many view Israel as oppressing the Palestinian people and occupying their land. Whether we like it or not, we are viewed as accomplices. The Bush administration's failure to promote the Middle East peace process has only made all of this worse. We must aggressively pursue peace in the Middle East with an even-handed policy that respects both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We need to address the root causes of terrorism and not just fight terrorists. We cannot afford to wait until terrorists attack with a nuclear bomb to realize we need a foreign policy based on justice.
It has not been easy to sort things out amidst so much trauma, grief and anger. Undoubtedly, many Americans have rallied round the flag and supported the president out of a need for comfort, safety and unity in this fearful and deeply disturbing time. The violence against so many innocent Americans has wounded us as a nation and as a family; we have turned to shared patriotism as a way of showing our pride, our respect for those injured or killed and our appreciation for those heroes who have led rescue efforts. But do we really want to go down the path set before us?
We can be patriotic and disagree. Now is the time to stop and think for ourselves - about what is right and what is not, and about what will make things better instead of worse.