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Some of Us Did Not Die
10 September 2002
This is a speech, given 9/8/02, at an anti-war rally in New York's Union Square, organized by Stand Up New York.
A year ago, I stumbled up here to Union Square looking for other people who were feeling as I was: shocked, sad, angry, scared. I was looking for other people - and it turned out that a lot of us were doing the same thing - looking for people who wanted to talk, to ask questions, to debate, to grieve. We walked up here to find each other because we sure as hell weren't showing up on TV.
The TV screens brought us attack footage. Hour after hour the pictures were the same: planes slamming into buildings, the Trade Towers burning, crumbling, crashing to the ground. We were brought the horror from every angle - from Brooklyn, from New Jersey. We saw weeping victims' families and heroic rescue workers. The journalists sometimes turned the camera on themselves and told us what they'd been through.
But by day's end our AWOL President took center stage. He instructed us to pray.
A few days later, to pray became an order to shut up - "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists," we were told, and finally, but very quickly, the order was for war.
After that, you don't need me to recount the media obedience stories. Suffice to say the most powerful journalists gulped down unchallenged, a whole new vocabulary - I called it a Warnacular.
The US - came to equal America. America - became synonymous with the Civilized World. Patriotism became shopping, and investing, not raising awkward questions about anything, and certainly not about the economy or the stock market. Security became giving the Justice Department untrammeled power to listen to our phone conversations, read our email, infiltrate our meetings, round up our neighbors and scupper the Bill of Rights. Security, in other words, came to mean making a whole lot of people, and our Constitution itself deeply insecure.
The attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon was explained as an attack on the US and way of life. Afterall, we were told, anyone with a beef against US policies anywhere in the world, was a hater of freedom and democracy.
Vice President Dick Cheney said as much on NBC's Meet the Press a year ago next Sunday.
"Obviously (who ever did the attack) is filled with hate for the US and for everything we stand for& freedom and democracy. It must have something to do with his background and his upbringing," Cheney said. Host Tim Russert left it at that.
Well twelve months later, we're here again, and thousands of us, around the country. We've still got doubts and fears and questions - and most likely, we're still not on TV.
Apparently, our views are still not considered legitimate expressions of US sentiment. The leaders of our movements are still not accorded the respect given to others, like those who, for example steal elections, defraud investors, make money backing undemocratic regimes and ducking UN sanctions. Corrupt CEOs and War Profiteers like, for example, Dick Cheney, himself.
Cheney was back on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" this morning (9/802). Among other things he suggested that Iraq's Saddam Hussein might have been responsible for last fall's anthrax attacks. "Who did the anthrax attack last fall, Tim? We don't know" said Cheney.
MR. RUSSERT: Could it have been Saddam?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't know. I don't know who did it. I'm not here today to speculate on or to suggest that he did. (http://www.msnbc.com/news/805214.asp
But we know what he was there to do.
For twelve months whenever the public began to get interested in the state of the economy, or corporate America, or the level of corruption in the White House, we've been brought another color-coded terror alert, another story about "sleeper cells" or as Bob Schaeffer put it today on CBS, "Mom and Pop" terrorists just waiting to do us in. We've been invited to spy, but more importantly we've been warned that our neighbors might be spying on us, in our homes, in our libraries, on the internet.
For twelve months the media have brought us undiluted, the administration's tales of our nation's vulnerability, our weakness. I reckon they've done their best, literally, to scare us to death.
But you know what?
We came together last year. And we're still here. And we're still not dead. And we do have choices. And giving in is only one of them.
Did something frightful happen? Yes. The US has vulnerabilities. But it's also the richest, most over fed, most muscled - the ONLY superpower on the planet.
And now it's not our vulnerability we need to focus on. It's our strength.
100 US and British aircraft took part in an attack on Iraq last Thursday (9/5/02). It was the largest joint assault in four years of attacks. The British Telegraph, no radical newspaper, suggested that the intent was to destroy all Iraqi air defenses to allow for easy access for special forces to fly into Iraq in advance of an American-led war.
Did Tim Russert even mention it today when he talked to Dick Cheney for an hour? Did Bob Schaffer on CBS, where if you were looking for an alternative to Cheney, he interviewed Donald Rumsfeld?
Well did he?
No. He did not.
Congress came up to New York last week to participate in a special session in memory of those lost at Ground Zero. If you had come up for that solemn affair and found out that while we were there Allied airplanes were attacking a sovereign nation, with no international or domestic public mandate - wouldn't you have had some questions?
The Pentagon spokespeople told the British press the attack was in self defense. No one yet, on TV or on the floor of the Congress has asked - in self defense? 100 planes against what?
Look. Clearly, it's not working. Our Grief is not a cry for War we said a year ago. Clearly no one is listening. Not in the media, not in Congress.
Our leaders are in killing mode. Our media will follow.
I suggest that regardless of what we're told is appropriate by the President or the press, we move our grief into a new gear.
As my dearly beloved friend June Jordan wrote last year: Some of Us Did Not Die & Some of us are still here, and we have obligations not because we're vulnerable but because we're so darn strong. And we better get deadly serious about that strength, and our responsibilities and our choices. Right now. Whether we show up in the media or not.