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"Convictions and Sensitivity"

     A website on the Internet feels like a strangely unreal
thing.  It's a way of putting one's insights and convictions "out
there," but there is often a nagging suspicion that it's the same
as not putting them anywhere.  Zelda, my co-author and co-editor,
often observes, concerning the Internet, "There's no there,
there!"  And I wonder who sees what we put up there, and what
difference it makes, if anyone sees it or not.
     Well, someone saw last month's rant.  I was so proud of
being able to trace the source of the grim title through that
maze of synapses which is the Unconscious Mind -- "Prospects
Drear."  I didn't invent that.  I thought of it, and made it the
title of my piece, but it came from somewhere.  And I tracked it
down -- Bobbie Burns' rather well-known poem, "To a Mouse."  It's
in the last verse, the one after the famous lines    --  
     "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley."
          "Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
           The present only toucheth thee:
           But och!  I backward cast my e'e,
                    On prospects drear!
           An' forward, tho' I canna see,
                    I guess an' fear!"
When I told people of this victory over faltering synapses, few
were much impressed.
     But someone found the rant itself, and responded in an
email.  He thinks he and I are kindred spirits, concerning the
Powers that Be in our country.  But, he thought we differed on
the attack on the World Trade Center.  I had admitted in the rant
to not feeling much at the time.
     "If the cowardly and senseless murders of thousands of
totally innocent, everyday working folks doesn't sicken you, and
there wasn't a feeling, however small, of 'personal injury' then
maybe it's time for some non-political reflection. 
     "The World Trade Center is just a name.  The building
functioned as an office building, not some clandestine link to
NAFTA.  It was an office building, full of working civilian
people, on most business days, as many as 50,000 people...
     "I live in NJ, 16 miles from Manhattan and worked in lower
Manhattan for 15 years.  The World Trade Center was my train stop
for all of those years.  I also spent the last 9 months attending
memorial services for the 75 people I knew who died there.  All
were guilty of going to work on time.  None were politically
connected to anyone other than the families they were working to
support.  They are all gone."
     He thanks me for listening.
     I responded, after some serious self-examination.
     "I received your e-mail, and want to thank you for it.  You
really did make me stop and think.  At this point I can see that
I need to add a remorseful apology to the rant you found.
     "I could plead ignorance, for starters.  I was assuming that
the World Trade Center had more to do with world trade and
globalization than it evidently does.  [It was built since I left
the East Coast in 1958].  I suspect the highjackers made the same
mistake I did, and attacked the symbol of what they thought had
been injuring them.
     "My insensitivity to those who lost loved ones is alarming,
and I feel bad about it.  My wording makes me look like a guy
with no feelings or awareness, which is dreadful, and I think not
true.  Some of the problem is the degrees of separation -- you
knew 75 of the victims and I knew none.  And some of my problem
may be the festering fury in me about my fellow-citizens'
insensitivity to all the suffering our government has caused --
many thousands of people in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador,
Chile and Cuba have been especially on my mind and heart, for
decades, partly because I do know some of them.  It feels like we
are involved in an on-going war against the poor of the whole
world, and when casualties finally appeared at home, I was too
cauterized, to enured to pain, to feel much.  I really am sorry.
     "And as a matter of fact I have been feeling more lately
than I did at first, as the rant suggests, and in spite of the
maudlin way the media rubs our noses in suffering.  But you
really jolted me out of my smugness, safe as I was at this long
distance from that particular blow.  Not so safe from the other
'political' concern of mine, which is nuclear waste, and New
Mexico's role as Designated Dumping Ground.  There is a lot of
material on all that on the website.  The damage from that is
slow, constant, and on-going, and will get worse, right here, up
     "So, let me thank you for waking up another part of me.  I
needed that."
     My new friend replied:
     "I am impressed with your reply.  It's a whole lot more than
I ever expected, and I do appreciate the thought and time that
went into it.  I do think we agree on far more than we disagree
on."  He lists my areas of concern in Latin America, which I had
noted because of my acquaintance with some of them, and then said
I could throw "Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru,
Argentina, a host of African nations, most of southeast Asia, and
a great deal of the middle east onto that pile of failed
diplomatic abortions as well.  Each has its own particular issues
that have been exacerbated and allowed to fester by the US
government's lack of basic coping skills.  It is beyond insanity
that this many different situations have been mishandled.  I
couldn't be more alarmed or ashamed, so I completely understand
your frustration and concerns."
     He explains more about the history and uses of the former
World Trade Center as a New York Port Authority office building
rather than the nefarious headquarters of NAFTA, the IMF and the
World Bank.  He then concludes:  "I have an on-going problem with
violence as a way to solve anything.  The insanity that brings us
to violence needs to be recognized and dealt with prior to it's
outbreak.  So far human kind only finds violence distasteful
after we have allowed it to, well, reach the point of insanity. 
Will we ever learn?
     "Keep ranting.  People need to hear it, and it's good for
the soul!"
     So, this becomes the new rant of the new month, longer than
usual.  The author, who sounds so sure of himself so much of the
time, but really isn't, came down off his high horse, which was a
good thing. 
     I shared all this with my daughter-in-law, who replied with
words I must share with the wider circle.  She refers to Barbara
Kingsolver's new book of essays, SMALL WONDERS.  "She does a
wonderful job of artfully combining politics with graceful,
compassionate, and articulate storytelling.  She's able to do
what I can't quite do yet - make my points strong and clear,
without discounting humanity and the value of all life.  But what
a wonderful goal to reach for!  It is something rare and maybe
new in the world, to be globally aware, clear on our intentions,
articulate for our beliefs, and still able to listen to other
views. It's an immense task!"
     The task of being a live thinking and feeling human being,
I'd say.  Meanwhile, can we get this war-threat derailed before
American-caused misery is multiplied exponentially?
                            *   *   *
Copyright © 2002 Harry Willson

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