Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Day After

September 12

Five years ago I was on a big bus, coming home in an uncertain country, burying myself in books and watching the West of America rolling by out the window. I spent most of the ride taking up two seats, cocooning myself as best I could, trying to process the profound experience I and the rest of my country was going through. I observed America being America -- flags flying at half staff, bus passengers bickering or stoically traveling to what they hoped would be safety. We related only in that we were all in the same bus, all going somewhere toward a fair hope. We all knew that nothing would ever be the same.

The last night of the journey I spent in a decent hotel after a decent meal. The next morning I got to the bus station and asked for directions for a place for breakfast. I had learned from the trip that these days most bus stations are just off the Interstate, near a cheap motel and near a fast food restaurant. This one was in a small town, and the nearest breakfast place was an old-fashioned small town diner, just what I needed if I was going to have a good meal and confidence that the home I was going would still be there, intact, populated by the kind of people I knew.

I'll never forget that breakfast of sausage, eggs, good coffee and the comforting conversations of people I didn't know. There were newspapers divided into sections by the previous occupants of the tables, and the chatter in Southern accents of friends accustomed to seeing each other at this place every morning.

"Hey, Ed"

"Susie. Seen Carl today?"

"He uz here and gone. Said he had to take the pickup for service."

They could have been reciting poetry. There were inside jokes, remarks as funny as anything Jeff Foxworthy could have said, and lots of laughter. I was in the bosom of family, the family of strangers under stress, Southerners bonded by generations of being American, being prepared for the worst and keeping as cool a face as anybody ever saw.

The rest of my trip was hardly a day long. The bag I had checked through was at the station before I got there, and all I had to do to get my car was take a taxi to the airport where I had left it, then get in and go home. I visited my family and got back to the business of creating normalcy out of an anticipated chaos. We knew that this was bin Laden's best shot, but that it was not his only shot.

It has been like that to some degree ever since then. Politicians haven't changed; we have only been allowed to see what they want us to see and not a glimmer of the chaos beneath. Before 9/11/01 I was a frequent contributor to the Letters to the Editor of the local newspaper, excoriating the politicians I had bad feelings about. Since that date I knew how very little I had known when I shot my mouth off, and I didn't have the heart to wage such insignificant, ill-informed battles again. Much conflict lay ahead in my own personal world, when attacks came from hotheads against the one institution I knew to be pure, the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, and I had enough to deal with in withstanding the waves of controversy on my own turf.

After time, I began to pontificate once again, but only about personal matters and not about perceived wrongs by specific individuals who claimed to be my country's leaders. The layer of mistrust will probably never go away. The shield of safety has been stripped from us all since the day when those planes were used as missiles against us, tearing deep into our daily activities for the rest of our lives. When George Bush took that megaphone at the site of the devastation, for once in his life, he made the right move. But it meant nothing. He is a product of his advisors, who have been wrong about everything. The one time he acted alone, on his own instinct, it was reassuring and strong. That is the best thing that can ever be said about him.

Now we go forward in worse shape than we've ever been in, and the future does not hold promise for better leadership or clearer direction. Saying I don't pontificate about my perception of the big picture, I shall stick with that now. I've been wrong before and undoubtably will be again. I am in the process of learning how to live on a small scale, and I have a few years to get at least that right.

Whether Wal-Mart decides to build just outside the city limits really doesn't matter to me. That Wal-Mart exists does, and I am powerless about that. My little town faces so much in the near future that it is up to us to do our own personal best, and to remember that atmosphere of the diner where the jokes were flying and the food was substantial. In such a place we can be sure of ourselves. It will take time.

13 comments:

Benedict S. said...

In the book, it would be deepening to reflect on the irony of the laughter.

John Sweden said...

As the presidential motorcade arrived, New York Gov. George Pataki jokingly told Bush: "See all those people? None of them voted for you." September 14, 2001

"I can hear you. The rest of the world can hear you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon." George Bush thru a “bull” horn September 14, 2001.

I wonder if the 15-20,000 poverty sticken, dead, innocent men, woman children of Afgahnistan, were glad to hear from you all. Osama didn't take the call.

I wonder if Afghan survivors are thinking the “layer of mistrust will probably never go away”. I wonder if they’re thinking, “The shield of safety has been stripped from us all since the day when those planes...used… missiles against us, tearing deep into our daily activities for the rest of our lives.” I wonder if anyone in America is hoping to hear from all of them soon.

Ironic isn't it, it was, “The one time he acted alone, on his own instinct, it was reassuring and strong” and George Bush at his best.

Jeez Osama's not home to take our call let see if we can reach him over at Saddam's, oop’s wrong number, 150,000 more dead, ummm.... maybe he's over at Ahmadinejad's......I hope someone give him the message.

I though he was much better and more Bush reading "My Pet Goat"

Robin said...

"The tyranny of a prince is not so dangerous to the public welfare as
the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."
- Baron de Montesquieu, 1748

Bert Bananas said...

Well, John, at least you got out while the getting out was good.

John(America) said...

Hello there John S. Miss FF and my all time favorite Spinoza man, Benedict. I decided to drop in to see what condition our condition was in while I am feeling a bit stronger. I am taking chemo and it has affected me with weakness and being very sick to my stomache, I am sure none of you want to hear about all the nasty details.

I can see not much has changed over the course of a few weeks, John and Benedict still battling over Spinoza and everyone else staying on the sidelines.Miss FF, I hope your knee turns out to be fine and keep turning out these wonderful blogs. I have missed this happy space and as I continue to feel better I plan on commenting here more often.

I was surprised that America wasn't attacked yesterday on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, in fact, I was expecting it.

Peace to all.

John Sweden said...

Bananas: As an outed Laztheist I must confess, and I think you, if anyone, will understand and appreciate, my need to move a country that repects, honors and enocurages me, without prejudice, to practice my beliefs, within a cradle to grave welfare system. Sweden is an orthodox Laztheist country where you are guarateed, by law 4 weeks, and traditionally given six weeks vacation. In addition in order to "tithe" you over you recieve 13 dollars extra per vacation day to help insure that you can adhere to and practice your laztheism in comfort and security.

I think its why Osama, recognizing our Laztheist foriegn policy and democratic values, singled us out for special mention as country he has no interest in attacking. It also could be we have no really tall buildings.

John Sweden said...

Hej, John America,

I was wondering where you've been. I wasn't aware of your illness and I am certainly glad to know you are feeling stronger. I hope for a full recovery. Just know that our thoughts are with and about you.

Looking forward to you rejoining the fray.

John Sweden said...

I apologize to those of you who might think I’m posting a little too much but I have a bit of insomnia tonight and my thoughts can’t be turned off.

What is it with Junior High School teachers?

As many of you know from our conversations on this blog, concerning those "truths" that are held "to be self-evident", which are embodied in the founding document of America, I have often made reference to Mr. Sykes of JHS 142. He also introduced me, and my classmates, to the ideas and values of Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohandas K. Gandhi. Years later, when according to some I should have been studying a certain 16th century philosopher, still “Sykes” inspired, I began to wrap my mind and my life around the words and works of these two men of action. In a lazthiest divination, their work could be described as a passive resistance to certain actions.

It was in my sleepless wanderings I came upon ”Twenty Ghandis” It was a nice reminder of the value of JHS teachers. Less importantly I think it supports my argument, that despite the momentary irrational fears that the world is going to hell and there is not much fair or unfairhope for our survival, the peacemakers can, will and do in the end win every time. The reality of this fact is what has and continues to make human civilization possible.

For those who toil in the darkness and the lower level crevices of humanity designing, building, using and advocating the use of weapons of both minor and mass destruction, for what ever noble or ignoble purpose you may rationalize, I offer this "self-evident" proven "truth" and a fact of "LIFE" (taken from this more this fair hopeful article).

"Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind," …"It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." said by a first of twenty-one Ghandis.

"Every problem which now confronts civilization will be solved eventually only by education" Marietta Johnson (teacher)

I hope you are all sleeping peacefully.

John Sweden said...

Seems I screwed up, so try this.

”Twenty Ghandis”

Well this dosn't work eithier. Lets go to the I don't know shit about computers way.

www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=72&ItemID=10938

Or go to www.zmag.org and search for Twenty Ghandis

Finding Fair Hope said...

Both times I clicked on the blue "Twenty Gandhis" I got the same message, John: "This URL is not valid." Then when I cut and pasted the address it took me there! Didn't have to go to the Mag address and search.

I think you were trying to type in the html as I showed you once and hit one digit wrong, maybe even a space. Sorry, my instructions should have worked but that morning I tried to do a whole blogpost sending people to my old posts I got it wrong over and over and had to say, "just click on 'Search blog'."

I had a lot of fun doing that the first time, but it is very easy to screw up. Salomé or Justin or somebody else who knows how to do it might come on and explain the procedure again.

By the way, it won't look blue on your computer screen when you do it.

John Sweden said...

Maybe we should try "Twenty Bill Gates"

Bert Bananas said...

John, you rendered these two:

"Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind," …"It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."

"Every problem which now confronts civilization will be solved eventually only by education"

But you forgot an even more importan one !!!:
"You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He's making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
Oh, you better watch out!
You better not cry.
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!"

There, now you can sleep well tonight.

Finding Fair Hope said...

bananas, I dealt with the subject of god as Santa Claus in a comment on this blog on the post entitled "A Cry in the Wilderness" a few weeks ago