Thinking About the Unthinkable
by Liz Costello

boy in classroom looking at a math problem on the chalkboad and scratching his head.

In the best of all possible worlds, the United States government would use Tuesday's "Attack on America" as a starting point for a thorough assessment of the real life consequences of global economic dominance. Most likely, I am preaching to the converted and anyone reading this page will agree with me that the catastrophes did not occur in a vacuum. Many of us are aware of the United States' role in destabilizing governments around the world whose policies interfere with our quest for the almighty dollar. We spend many heated hours discussing the disgraceful violations of human rights and civil liberties that occur in the name of democracy--a term that has, unfortunately, become a euphemism for unbridled capitalism. However, in contemplating my fears of a violent, knee jerk reaction from the current administration, I realize I also react without thinking.

The first words out of my mouth when I heard the news on Tuesday were "We did it. The multi-national corporations and the C.I.A. did this." While I still believe that in a larger sense there is probably some truth to that statement, as time has passed it occurs to me that believing that is ultimately more comforting than believing that the world at large is, in fact, not under America's thumb. It is more horrible to recognize the power of a group of extremists who cannot be reined in by fear of their own deaths. That, while the actions of our government have contributed to the climate of poverty and disenfranchisement that fans the flames of religious zealotry, there is no way I can fully understand the motivation of the attackers. I see them as desperate people who can move more freely in part because they do not exist as a nation. I also see them as a reflection of our country's own worst desires to exercise brute force for power's sake. However, I know that I will probably never be able to untangle the web of circumstances that led to the loss of so many lives.

Reading the New York Times today, the "fifth day," I was surprised to find myself somewhat encouraged rather than completely outraged by the response to the attacks. California Representative Barbara Lee's lone vote against the resolution authorizing military action against the terrorists gave me some hope. The NATO allies' unwillingness to hand the U.S. a "blank check" of support gave me hope. While I am disturbed by the apparent surge of popularity of our dangerously incompetent president (and yes, the polls cited are undoubtedly questionable thermometers of public opinion), I have the feeling that some actual dialogue is taking place both here and around the world. Don't get me wrong, I am still scared of the chain reaction that began on Tuesday, the results of which will surely give my pessimism much fodder. However, I find this whole thing has made me crave a greater awareness in myself, a desire to listen to other people, even if I disagree with them.

The most difficult thing about being a thinking human is that the desire to come to a conclusion is very strong. In a sense the moving mind continually seeks a place where answers may still it. Ironically, the drive toward definition, solution and control often leads away from the intelligence that fuels the drive. A friend of mine said that for him, getting along with other people seems more important than shouting his beliefs at the top of his lungs. If only the leaders of the world would take that approach, perhaps we might save the sinking ship of humanity. I know it's not that simple. I know that the outcome of this "New War" is most likely not going to be good for anyone, not even Nike, Monsanto and the C.I.A. But still, I hope and long for a raising of our consciousness as human beings living with other human beings in the world. And though I will never be able to join the crew of flag wavers, I still think the much-touted ideals of this nation, however hypocritical they sound coming from the lips of certain leaders, are good ones.


emergency missalette home page