File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 31

Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 12:41:35 -0500
Subject: 9/11/01

In the Inferno, when Dante meets Virgil he describes the Roman poet as
one whose voice is hoarse from a long silence.  That is a little how I
feel right now.  Words have become difficult lately.  This is also why I
have been so silent.

In June, my wife Mary and I found out that Lily, a close friend of ours,
had been diagnosed with diabetes and there was a chance she had cancer.
Further tests confirmed this suspicion.  She was diagnosed with ovarian
cancer.  Later, the possibility of pancreatic cancer also began to

The doctors prescribed kemo treatment for her in the fall.  Lily tried
to be brave and positive in the face of all this.  Mary and I also hoped
for the best under the circumstances. We would wait with her and see
what developed.

In late August Lily went to see the doctor.  He told her that kemo was
no longer necessary. The cancer was too far advanced.  He recommended
hospice care instead.  She was only given a few more weeks to live.  

Mary and I were shocked by this news.  We had known all along that this
was very serious.  We never expected events to move as quickly as this,

Lily remained at home with family and close friends.  There was a deep
sense of love and mourning.  On September 1, she died.  She was only 43.

Then, on Tuesday, September 11, the catastrophe struck New York and
Washington D.C.  Without going into details, let me just say I knew of
number of the people who were trapped inside those towers.  I have
talked directly to family members of some of those who are missing and I
have wept.  

In tragic circumstances such as this, terrible ironies emerge.  There is
the man who was working in the building and went down for a smoke when
the first plane hit.  Another went to work late that day because she was
busy frosting her sister's birthday cake. Both survived. Another woman
lived in the Midwest and was only there in New York that day to attend a
business meeting.  She is now among the missing.  

My own feelings are extremely conflicted by all of this.  President Bush
has called this an act of war.  I see it instead as an act of
globalism.  What died on September 11th was the myth that America is
alone and separate, apart from the world.

America has always tended to see itself as isolationist.  In part, this
luxury was due to its unique particular geographical circumstance.  The
Atlantic separated it from Europe, the Pacific from Asia. The neighbors
to the North and South were weaker and relations with them were fairly
easy to maintain.  

Now with the compression of space and time that characterizes globalism,
this immunity has been forever lost. America can no longer act as though
it were a gated community in the face of the world.  

I see Americans struggling right now with this new awareness, their
gradual awakening to the reality of how hopeless and narcissistic, its
dreams of SDI and unilateralism have become.

I have heard voices asking: "How could such a senseless act occur
here?"  It is difficult for Americans to see themselves as the rest of
the world does, especially with the weak news coverage provided by the
American media.  More is known here about Gary Condit than about
Afghanistan or Palestine.  

Americans want to see themselves as noble, idealistic and courageous. 
The reality of sanctions against Iraq, the elimination of the homeland
in Palestine, the sweatshop conditions in the oil fields, the bombing of
civilians during the Gulf War, the unacknowledged racism against the
Middle East, none of this registers deep within the America psyche.  In
our proclamations of innocence, we fail to see the blood on our own
hands.  We rail against terrorism, but forget to mention the School of
the Americas or the history of the CIA.

Which is not to condone what happened here this week.  Nothing can. No
possible good can emerge out of this tragedy.  It remains senseless and
horrible and numbs the mind.

The real question, however, that Americans must ask themselves is this.
Will we continue to believe the duplicitous and bipolar logic of a Bush
administration that wants to proclaim in the fundamentalist theology of
a Christian jihad that we are good and they are evil? (Whoever they
are.) Or will we sober up to the true reality of what we have become and
begin to shoulder a greater responsibility for our global presence
within the world?

That is the terrible choice that confronts us now.  Will we remain as
children living in a fairy tale view that America is a kind of theme
park of freedom and democracy or will we mature into a deeper and more
tragic vision?  Will we engage our role as global citizens and begin to
realize ourselves as the multitude and not merely as God's own chosen

with love and grief,



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