Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I think Welch is probably on the right track. Silence is the best way to remember this day. But I already broke my silence with a silly post about a new toy, so I might as well voice my thoughts.

This time last year, I spent a good part of the day thinking about military service. The thoughts came down to two questions: Should I? and Could I?

Could I? was a simple question of practicality. At the time I was 30 years old and out of shape. Now I'm 31, and in much better shape, but I still wouldn't blame the government if they looked at the hoards of easily moldable hale and hearty 20 year olds, turned to me and said, "No thanks."

Should I? was (and is) more complex. While I do practice Buddhism, my philosophies are closer to those of the Zen warrior than the Tibetan monk. If you attack me or someone I love, I will, to the best of my ability, do what's necessary and appropriate to keep you from doing it again. So I'm not a pacifist. But I do suck at taking orders. If I respect you and you convince me, then I'll do what you say, but "Because I said so" has never held much water for me.

Eventually I decided I shouldn't, for the simple reason that I didn't trust Bush and/or whoever it is that's actually running things to do the right thing. Look at how they handled the economy. When he was running, it was "The economy's doing great, we can afford a tax cut." And as soon as things started going south, the message changed to, "The economy is tanking, what we need now is a tax cut." And now we're at war with Iraq. Why? Well, I couldn't really tell you. The reasons keep changing.

A year ago, we were attacked by a group of people filled with hate, people who have the money, means and personnel to do great damage to us. They thought we were cowards who wouldn't strike back, and we proved them wrong by attacking their strongholds and scattering them to the four winds, liberating an oppressed country in the process. Al Qaeda is still out there, apparently regrouping, probably in Pakistan. Afghanistan, newly liberated, is teetering on the edge of anarchy. In other words, there's a lot of work to be done before we run off starting wars with nations that, according to all available evidence, had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks.

I've always been a patriot. I love this country. I love our landscape, our ideals, our culture, our people, our food, our language and our literature. I love the way we open our arms up to the best of every nation in the world. I love the fact that, in this country, the power goes from the people up, not from the powerful down. I love voting. I love the fact that a friend of mine once told Neil Bush to kiss his ass. And because I love my country, I consider it my obligation to voice my dissent from our leaders when I think they're on the wrong track. And boy are they ever.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant against Bush, but the simple fact is that I am pissed off about the way they've used September 11th as a tool to try and advance their agenda on everything tax cuts to war on Iraq. One year ago, 3,025 people died in a senseless attack. I still can't really get my head around that. It's too much grief to hold all at once. If I tried, I'd be collapsed over with my head in my hands like those statues of the Compassionate Buddha.

I probably won't do anything special tonight. I've spent so much of the last year grieving that I feel like I ought to be striving for less grieving, less remembering. From time to time today, I'll stop what I'm doing and remember what it felt like to watch those places slam into the towers and then, very delicately, and with great compassion, I will get on with the business of getting on with my life. And if today is like any other day, at some point (perhaps more than once), I'll turn to the edge of my monitor and read the poem I have taped up there, The Guest House by Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks). It's a good 'un, and helpful for such occasions.

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