Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2001 /25 Elul, 5761
Remember the Asian-American murdered some years back by American autoworkers enraged at the impact Japanese workmanship was having?
And we had the bombing of the four little girls in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, which we should never forget, any more than we should forget the Oklahoma City bombing or the 1993 stage rehearsal for what happened to the World Trade Center on Tuesday. All those terrorist actions had in common the idea that strikes against a monstrous Big Brother or a Great Satan were being made.
In contrast to such bigotry and mass murder, we can take pride in how marvelous New Yorkers were on Terrorist Tuesday, helping each other, volunteering, donating blood. As usual, our cops, firefighters and emergency workers proved what noble professions they work in, and just how much bravery they are capable of when the risks are as high as they can get. The sacrifices made by those who died in the middle of a rescue operation when the twin towers collapsed form a monument to the truest meaning of public service.
Mayor Giuliani was splendid, as eloquent and compassionate as even his enemies would want him to be. He also said something of great importance to us all, which is that we cannot submit to group hatred, especially the kind symbolized by that act of massive terror downtown.
There also are those who felt that the chickens came home to roost, that our Middle East policy guaranteed we would someday experience what those the world over have become accustomed to mass murder and violence in horrifying proportions.
There is much to be improved in the Middle East, but I do not think that we or any other responsible country can allow terrorists to write our policies. Had the civil rights movement submitted to terrorist violence like the Birmingham bombing, our society might still labor under segregation.
If the suicide bomber is the plague of our time, in the face of which we cannot be completely safe, then that is how it goes. Since the destruction of American cities during the Civil War, we have not had to face war on our soil. We have learned an old lesson anew.
That is another tragic burden of our age. The feeling on Tuesday was much like the darkly new recognition of universal human vulnerability that became true the day President John Kennedy was shot in 1963. The first time our country learned that lesson was when a lunatic terrorist murdered Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and Americans discovered that the President, too, was flesh and blood.
Yes, in many ways, we have learned what Michael Corleone meant in "The Godfather II" when he said that history teaches us that you can kill anybody.
We have to remember that birth is the first mortal wound, guaranteeing eventual death, and that how you meet death tells us as much about your soul as how you mete it out.
In that sense, we have to continue seeking our better selves. I place my bet on our
ability to step upward. We'll make mistakes, be shortsighted, selfish and arrogant, but we
will also continue to try to get it right, regardless of the difficulty or the
JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy
of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994, Always in Pursuit: Fresh American
Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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