This is my reply to an unhappy net friend, three days after the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. She exasperatedly asked what good lighting a candle did -- wouldn't concrete efforts be more effective? -and was startled and dismayed at the animosity she got back in answer, both on the net and in "real life."
Copyright © 2001 B. "Collie" Collier
Don't feel bad, <name deleted>... from what I've heard there are even folks who're shallow and scared enough that they're sniping at people who don't wear red-white-and-blue today. I think that's sad... if they must attack someone, they should attack those responsible for the tragedy... not someone that lets their kind actions speak for them instead of some visible heraldry. :(
On a slightly more light-hearted note, our ex-roomie George (who's also heard about the 'light a candle' email) smiled and said, "Shouldn't they wait until it's at least dark out here?" Yes, we're all in sunny California... ;)
I've had quite a bit of emergency medical training in my life. The one thing they hammer into you, over and over and over, is if you can help, DO so! -but if you can't do anything... get OUT of the way! Thus I tend to seem outwardly rather unemotional about things like this -- my training in triage takes over, and I'm concentrating on either helping or getting out of the way. This occasionally gets people angry and upset with me -- because I don't visibly show emotional solidarity, and they feel they need that, to know I'm 'one of them.'
Here in the geekhaus we've talked quite a bit about the best way we can react and help. We came to some conclusions that maybe might be of some use to others also. I personally came up with a metaphor that satisfied me, that sort of explained how I felt, and suited my individual training. If this doesn't work for you, don't use it! -and please, don't waste time either feeling you must dissect it, or being angry that I feel different than you. However, if it does work for you, you're welcome to it, and I'm glad I could help, in however small a fashion.
To me, in this particular case, my society can be compared metaphorically to a piece of cloth. All my fellow citizens contribute tiny parts to the warp and woof in this weaving called the United States of America. Terrorist attacks try to shatter the society, to tear the cloth beyond redemption. Right now there's a gaping wound in our societal cloth.
Giving blood, donating money... those are ways to help heal that wound. So's going to NYC... but I can't go to NYC either, to help pick up the pieces, comfort the grieving, and help re-weave our shared society. What I can do, and shall do with all my abilities, is to make sure that my little piece of society is still strong and healthy. I don't have a huge piece of the societal cloth -- mine's pretty tiny, when all's said and done -- but that's the best symbolic gesture I can think of to make.
So what gesture is this I'm making? Well, I value immensely the freedom of speech, the rational discourse, the tolerance and openness of my country. We've got problems, yes, but then so does every country -- and we all of us work, in our own ways, to make our countries better, do we not? Right now, one of the most tragic legacies the terrorists could give us, IMNSHO, is if they managed to destroy that tolerance, to shatter our freedoms at the expense of a little more security.
There are many that are angry, many that are badly frightened, and many who wish revenge at any cost. That's fine, but it doesn't work for me. I react differently -- I'll try to help the way I think works best. I will fight as best I can to keep my little patch of society running smoothly and happily, to remember that life will go on -- MUST go on, and that we should learn from history, not be crippled by it.
That's my symbolic gesture: I will try my best to remain a calm spot of openness, freedom of speech, and rational tolerance for my friends, for as long as I can. I want to help preserve what's greatest about the US, to me... and this is the gesture that works for me.
I found Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" rather moving, as a sort of descriptive of desperately trying to hang on during the current insanity we're all going through. You can find a copy here if you'd like.
Our sympathies and best wishes from us three here in the geekhaus, to all of you out there, especially those directly affected.
-- laughing collie
Last Updated: Thu Oct 18 2001