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Making Sense Of It All – 9-11 The Attack on America.
Below are writings by people who are trying to think this process through. We would like to print any intelligent, insightful and appropriate essays, poems or thoughts. You can email your writing to me at: email@example.com
Saturday, September 15
Some thoughts I wish to share with my neighbors
George F. Drake, Bellingham
I have followed the news of these two days with wet eyes and deep emotions. To me the views of downtown NYC look like the Seoul, Korea I knew back in 1952 after the armies of North Korea, China, South Korea and the US had gone through it four times. The horror, the destruction of life and property is beyond ones ken. In the Korean War the servicemen, in part to save their own sanity in the face of such inhumane bloodshed, took to trying to save the children. Check out my web site www.koreanchildren.org to get an idea of where I am coming from. The humanitarian compassion we are witnessing in NYC is akin to that same feeling of a need to prove that we are decent human beings and can go the extra mile to help those in need.
A decade later, while in the US Foreign Service, my office was blown apart by an act of terrorism in Colombia. Rushing to the scene of the devastation I met the governor, among other officials. He said, “Please do not take this personally. The US Cultural Center is a symbol that is the target of those who hate the US.” I pointed out that I was not a symbolic father and husband and did not appreciate the attempt on my life. Real people occupy symbolic targets, as we are so aware of in NYC.
Over the years in many parts of Latin America I found myself in
positions where I was accepted as “a friend representing the common
people of the US but not the government.” As such I became very much
aware of the deep hatred of the US government in many circles and for
supposedly very legitimate reasons. As a sociologist I studied the
ways in which the local oligarchy infiltrated and co-opted
organizations of the poor and the left to ensure that there would be
no organized pressure for social change. I had full access to the
files of the Mano Negra (Black Hand) of Colombia (a right-wing group)
and confidence of leaders of many Communist front organizations. I
had long meetings with double agents of the right and the left and met
with priests who cried over the injustices against the poor. Right or
wrong, the poor hated the US and saw us as the friend of their
The cries for social justice from the poor of Latin America have too
often been equated with communism and suppressed by agents of the US
government or by those who would pretend to be speaking for the
government. I cannot speak about the Middle East, Africa or many
other parts of the world. But I have over 50 years of experiences
with some of the poorest of the poor in Latin America and I can tell
you they do not love the United States. When natives I hired to help
me when I was doing geodetic surveying in Guatemala went on strike for
fifty cents a day wage rather than the twenty-five cents I was paying
I agreed to the new wage. After all, a quart bottle of beer cost 25
cents and a dayís labor should be worth more than that.
Three days later a soldier appeared at my camp and said the governor wanted to see me. So I drove to the state capitol and was informed “The local economy is based on a daily wage of twenty five cents. Pay it or leave.” He didn’t say “alive” but I fully understood. So I paid 25cents. Economic slavery I called it. Economic stability, they called it. And economic stability became equated with the needs of American investment capital. And the poor hated us for it.
When visiting with the Chuc Mayan natives who had just returned from exile in Chiapas a Mexican social worker with them told me of his companion who had tried to organize a weavers cooperative among the native women. She was gunned down by the right wing paramilitaries as a subversive agent trying to undermine the economic system. After all, how could the middle class merchants, often on contract with US or multinational companies, make a living if the natives wanted a just wage?
I can go on with many other examples of why we are hated by the poor of Latin America. Rightly or wrongly they blame their miserable condition on us.
Those who call for an understanding of why we, as a people, or rather as a nation, are hated so deeply are on the right track. I have long expected that the US would see large-scale terrorism on our soil. The act we witnessed this week boggles the imagination in its level of horror and we must track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. This is for the short term. And in the long term?
Learn another language. Encourage our youth to travel in other countries by bicycle or by foot for six months or more. Encourage them to meet and spend time with the downtrodden, the poor, the natives and not just those who enjoy French wines in the Hilton hotels of the world. We need to develop an appreciation of cultural diversity and recognize the rights of all citizens of this world to be free of economic exploitation, political oppression, hunger or fear. We need to learn to listen to the “other” and truly try to understand their dreams, why they cry, and why they hate us. We need to learn to love one another regardless of color, religion, tribe, culture or social status. Only with such understanding shall we ever be able to find the road to peace in this world. Then we have to elect national leaders who think the same way.
I love America and I weep for those who died in this act of terrorism. I write this to offer the insight of one who also loves Latin America and weeps for those who die daily because of our insensitivity to their condition.