Connecting the Dots
It is the morning after. Secretary of State Colin Powell just said
to Katie Curic that "we must not associate the horrific events
of September 11 with any religion, or particular group of people.
All religions," Mr. Powell said, "respect life. This is
simply a group of terrorists."
The Secretary apparently saw as priority the calming of nerves
and protection for those who live here and may be seen as disturbingly
similar to America's attackers. A laudable effort. Katie herself
seemed obsessed with the urgent need to protect Arabs and people
of Islamic faith.
All of this is very American and makes me painfully aware of my
foreign birth, as well as the ultimate futility of my ceaseless
and honest efforts for more than four decades to become American
in every possible sense of the word.
I confess the rose-colored glasses do not fit me. I think if someone
happens to be Arab in America at a time like this it is tough luck
like, say, boarding a plane at Dulles airport, thinking that you
are flying to California. I think it is time for Arabs to think
about being Arab.
Yes, I think every Arab in the world supports the murderous actions
which has been the sole contribution of the Arab world for some
time now. Most would not say so, many might do so only in their
innermost thoughts. But when a vast segment of humanity is consumed
by a single emotion - hatred of, and a wish to destroy a small country
and its people - it is reasonable to assume that unanimous agreement
on that subject goes hand-in-hand with applause for those who appear
to "do something about it."
(The same is largely true for the Irish when I.R.A. bombs explode
As for Mr. Powell's wishful thinking about the world's religions,
he is not alone, of course. It is fashionable in the Western world
to say that all religions are the same. How serious, educated people
can subscribe to such nonsense is for future historians to analyze.
Islam, or certain strains of it, may respect the lives of Moslems,
but I have yet to hear of a Moslem (in Hungary we grow up with quite
a lot of knowledge as a result of 150 years of Turkish occupation)
who respected the lives of non-Moslems in a way Americans do.
We have finally heard our president say that we are at war. His
statement that our enemies are hiding is incorrect. Our enemies
are entirely visible. We are, whether we are prepared to admit it
or not, at war with the Arab world. Better said, the Arab world
is at war with us. The reasons are irrelevant. America's support
of Israel is America's decision, just as America's decision of Great
Britain in the world wars was America's decision. Our enemies are
no less enemies just because they say they have "good reasons."
Without a doubt, the oil reserves of the Middle East and our need
of them present a complication. No doubt, our dependence limits
the options. But, perhaps, not as much as we fear.
To continue in my highly un-American ways, I will make the blanket
statement that Arabs are basically cowards, and their leaders have
gotten accustomed to living in the lap of luxury. In a stupor of
religious intoxication, some will engage in suicide missions, but
they are cowards nonetheless. A decisive measure affecting every
Arab might very quickly bring the leaders to their senses. Many
such are within the purview of our government.
By now, everyone is shouting at me, reminding me of the unfairness
toward Japanese Americans in 1942. Frankly, I could never see the
point in the national remorse. No one was physically harmed, in
fact, harm might have been forestalled by interning them. We have
been afflicted by some terrible virus that is destroying the natural
defenses people, especially Americans, used to have, and which includes
suspicion of others whose way of thinking is utterly different of
How else to explain that of four hijacked airliners only one had
people on board man enough to thwart the plan?! Could it be that
our new flight personnel spends too much time endlessly, and hysterically,
recounting all anti-smoking measures and the punishment for those
who don't buckle under?
And now for my worst offense. I am not able, and will no longer
even try, to feel a close kinship with people who wear earrings,
have their bodies pierced at various places, sport African garb
(unless they actually come from there) or refuse to learn English.
Of course, I will continue to think of them as fellow human beings.
But not as fellow-Americans.