Here are some of the experiences that motivated me to be provocative with my essay, “The Myth of the Innocent Civilian” (essay in the second half of this post) which under the Patriot Act could put me in jail. Let me start from the beginning.
I remember on 9/11 being woken-up by phone with my girlfriend crying and telling me to watch the news because a plane crashed into the WTC building and then hung-up. I still laid in bed half asleep for about five minutes. It was her crying and abrupt hang-up that I decided to get out of bed and turn on the television set.
Immediately, I’m watching a plane crashing into the second WTC building, but the anchorwoman confused me, because she thought she was showing a replay of the first plane crashing into one of the Towers, not realizing that it was a live shot of the second plane. I’m seeing one building on fire and the second building with a plane crashing into it. As she is showing her confusion on the airwaves, I decided to switch to CNN, where I’m told the United States is under attack.
I was just numb.
Later, newsman Dan Rather is interviewing former Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger. After the interview, when Dan Rather thought he was off the air (he actually was, with no picture on the screen, but the microphones were still on) he says “Sandy that was great” and Sandy Berger says back “thanks Dan,” which I thought was odd, considering Dan Rather’s upbeat voice in saying “Sandy that was great” was so different from his somber voice when he was asking questions. Within a few seconds you hear a sad Dan Rather turn into a happy man. ‘What was that all about?’, I thought to myself.
After that, I decided to go outside. It’s now early afternoon. I thought it would be a good idea to stack up for food and water. As I’m in the elevator, a man who lives in the building steps in – it’s just him and me in total silence. Then he burst into anger “this is worse than what I saw in Korea. We should kill the bastards.”
I walk the streets and there is a surreal quietness except for the loudest noise being the footsteps of thousands of New Yorkers coming back from an early day at work. Then I walk farther away from my apartment to a nearby school. I run into students laughing and giggling, knowing what just happened. I even saw one school teacher joining in on the laugher. The teacher and all the students acting that way were all African-American. I was confused! I was dismayed! I was angry to see such non-seriousness. It was happening next to a fire station, and I would glance at the firefighters faces to see their reaction to the teenagers behavior. They seem to take it in stride.
I walk to my favorite Pakistani restaurant – it closed early. I notice all the Muslim owned shops closed-up… Afraid.
I walk and walk no ones talking – just walking. I could never forget the loudness of those foot steps.
Just then a woman exits out of an ATM bank. She is in a panic, crying and comes up to me. In the only speaking voice on the sidewalk she tells me that someone stole her cell phone. As I’m about to comfort her, another woman passing by shouts “shut the fuck-up lady, 10,000 people just got killed. Put things in perspective. Asshole.”
It worked! The woman stopped crying. We looked at each other. She says to me “that was rude.” But I thought to myself, ‘maybe it was rude, but the rude lady was right’.
I kept walking in silence, thinking to myself this is all because of our lopsided foreign policy in the Middle East.
Later, I catch-up with my girlfriend. We find an Indian restaurant that is open. Actually, all the restaurants that are non-Muslim owned were open – packed with diners. The same people that walked in silence on the sidewalks earlier in the day were acclimating to talking again – but not talking about why it happened. Instead, some tourists were upset it was going to interfere with their vacation stay in New York. My girlfriend was telling me, that she was not looking forward to the possibility that this was going to be the sole item of news coverage for the rest of the month. I was dismayed that she had that attitude. Others did not have anything to say about what happened – instead they would small talk about mundane things, like it was an ordinary evening, as they were drinking their beer, laughing and being joyous. These white yuppies and other folks were no different from the black students I experienced earlier in the day.
Later, about 10 p.m. there was news footage of a different angle of the second plane hitting the tower. I turn the volume up and my girlfriend (a Wasp) storms out of the bedroom screaming that it was too loud and she needed to sleep. I was pointing to the TV and saying “look at the new footage they have.” She screams “I don’t care!”
I was perplexed. I scream back “how can you even sleep? Can’t you stay up till midnight and watch this with me?’
She says “no, it’s too depressing.” My girlfriend is a doctor – a psychologist!
After that, I get a call from my girlfriend’s girlfriend, Alex.
“Hi, Michael this is Alex. Is Susan there?”
“Amazing what happened today.”
“It’s old news.”
“I saw the flames from the train as I was going to work this morning. I knew right away I was going to have the day off from work. So when I got to work they told us to go back home. You know what I did instead?”
“I decided it would be a perfect shopping day. So I rush to Bloomingdales and guess what happened?”
“They were closed. And so then the trains weren’t running. So I walked all the way down to the village to Babou’s apartment and we hung-out and smoked pot.”
A phone call I will always remember verbatim – from a Jewish woman who claims to have a Mensa IQ. An immigrant from the former Soviet Union, a rabid Zionist, who chose to live in the United States over Israel, who at a later date had no qualms telling me and my girlfriend over dinner, that she felt superior to us because she was born Jewish. Sick!
The next day I get a phone call from Israel from an ex-girlfriend, to see if I’m okay. She went on to tell me she was depressed about her fellow Israelis. She says “Israelis are celebrating in a silent way that it happened to America.”
Two days later on Sept. 13, I’m talking to my stockbroker in person at the bank, he is Italian-American. He is an apolitical person when it comes to foreign policy issues. Ignorant of history, but intuitively he senses something that my ex-Israeli girlfriend was telling me. In confidence, he tells me that on Tuesday morning on 9/11 when the bank was getting ready to close early his Jewish clients had happy smirks on their face. Asking me “what was that all about? I’m I not understanding something?”
The first Monday after 9/11 the major TV networks resume regular TV programming. (My girlfriend’s wish comes true.) On the David Letterman show, his first guest is Dan Rather – the same man with the happy voice, saying “Sandy that was great” is weeping in the interview chair. He went on to say how he was disturbed about the “Middle Easterners” who were caught dancing and celebrating on the George Washington bridge. Mr. Rather knew that those arrested “Middle Easterners” were Israeli nationals.
To this day, most Americans think those “Middle Easterners” celebrating on the bridge were Muslims thanks to Dan Rather and the rest of the sanitized US media outlets, who are afraid of losing their jobs if they report they were Jewish.
I’ll stop here. I can continue into infinity with all the nuance’s of my experience concerning the event of 9/11. I hope that, what I have imparted to you, is not your reality. If that is the case I envy you. But, I have not met a thinking person who has not had at the minimum – similar experiences or more depressing ones. I stand by the provocative essay that I wrote (see below) in September of 2002 a year after the event – even if it means my arrest under the Patriot Act.
You can yell “fire” in a crowded theater – if there is a fire. Unless you are a mute, you have a legal obligation to yell “fire.” When is someone supposed to be provocative? When everyone is dead from the disease? There is a time and a place to be provocative – the cancer is growing. The cure? Wake people up! That is my reality! What’s yours?
Something else struck a chord in my mind after I wrote “The Myth of the Innocent Civilian” that supports my experience and taught something about myself. When I had a conversation with a man who worked as a chef at a restaurant in Manhattan on Nine-eleven, he was also shocked at how uncontemplative people were on that day. He went on to tell me that in a quiet moment, in his kitchen, one of his cooks from Bolivia – pulled him over and said:
“I don’t understand you Americans, if this happened to my country, we would all be in church praying.”
The cook from Bolivia spoke those words the same evening I was across the street from him in the Indian restaurant.
Maybe I’m part of the problem.
Maybe I also live the myth.
by Michael Santomauro – Sept. 2002*
Who’s Kidding Whom?
At least half of those victims who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 will not be missed, in my way of thinking they were part of the problem. If the dead are a reflection of how the living and uncaring American concerns himself about the Middle East, then maybe the typical American deserves the same fate.
The majority of those killed on 9/11 thought that the Muslim world hates the U.S. because of our freedoms – that the Arabs are a hateful people – that the Palestinians are in the wrong – and that Israel is right.
Many of the dead, when they were alive spoke in the same vernacular as their loved ones do today.
“Who gives a fuck about the Palestinians.”
“We should just let Israel drop atomic bombs on the whole region and kill them all.”
“There’re just sandniggers, who cares about them.”
“God gave the land to the Jews. The bible says so.”
“There’re just a bunch of terrorists.”
“We should send weapons to Israel, look at what happened to them with the holocaust.”
“If we can’t trust them, why should Israel?”
Former Congressman Findley writes:
“Nine-eleven would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society. Few express this conclusion publicly, but many believe it is the truth. I believe the catastrophe could have been prevented if any U.S. president during the past 35 years had had the courage and wisdom to suspend all U.S. aid until Israel withdrew from the Arab land seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.”
Do we really care?
I think if the typical American does not make an attempt to understand the damage our weapons have inflicted on the Arabs by proxy with Israel and the continuous dishonest one-sided United States foreign policy in the region, then maybe we deserve more of what we got on Sept. 11, 2001.
Former Congressman Findley continues:
“In its violent assaults on Palestinians, Israel uses the pretext of eradicating terrorism, but its forces are actually engaged advancing the territorial expansion just cited. Under the guise of anti-terrorism, Israeli forces treat Palestinians worse than cattle. With due process nowhere to be found, hundreds are detained for long periods and most are tortured. Some are assassinated. Homes, orchards, and business places are destroyed. Entire cities are kept under intermittent curfew, some confinements lasting for weeks. Injured or ill Palestinians needing emergency medical care are routinely held at checkpoints for an hour or more. Many children are undernourished. The West Bank and Gaza have become giant concentration camps. None of this could have occurred without U.S. support. Perhaps Israeli officials believe life will become so unbearable that most Palestinians will eventually leave their ancestral homes.”
The arrogance, the callousness was there!
The typical, now dead American from 9/11 lived his life knowing these facts and not caring about it. The arrogance and the callousness was part of his everyday being. Was his life worth living, if he didn’t care how the American government was using his tax money to hurt people? – to destroy the livelihoods of an entire region? – to allow American bombs to be used in a criminal way when dropped by Israel? – Knowing the U.S. veto power would come to the rescue of Israel, in virtually any UN resolution that was condemning Israel’s crimes against the Arabs.
My contention is most of those killed on 9/11 were aware of this.
I think to myself, ‘when is America going to stop the culture of lies’. And then my inner thoughts hear the callousness of the dead – when they were alive before 9/11, scream – “So what? Who cares? Bomb them all.”
The myth of the innocent civilian. Who’s kidding whom? Nine-eleven should be a reminder that if more Americans have an early death, it is because of the end result of not caring.
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