Published on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 in the San Franciscon Chronicle
Good News -- Many Deplore Bombing Afghanistan
by Stephanie Salter
AS A RULE, I do not write a column about the response to a previous
column. You start down that road and you end up covering only four or five
subjects a year.
But these are extraordinary times. And no column I've written for The Chronicle has garnered the volume or tenor of response that the Oct. 17 column did on why I think bombing Afghanistan is "shortsighted, counterproductive and immoral."
Given that every major poll says Americans back this military strategy to the tune of 90 to 94 percent, I hunkered down for what I was sure would be a tsunami of you-traitor, love-it-or-leave-it response.
I'm elated to report I was wrong. While the missives still roll in (more than 1,500 e-mails alone), they are running about 6 to 1 in support.
Part of this is due to the alleged liberal inclination of the Bay Area -- although previous columns have shown me that this region hardly lacks for conservatives, hawks and George W. Bush fans who love giving lefties like me a haircut.
More telling is that the Internet makes every newspaper columnist a national voice. Readers from St. Cloud, Minn., and Woodville, Miss., have weighed in on my Afghanistan column. So have people from Cornwall, U.K., and Strasbourg, France. One Peninsula woman, who abandoned newspapers long ago for National Public Radio, was alerted by her son in Germany.
According to these supportive readers, the column has been photocopied, attached to e-mails and linked on Web sites, mentioned on the Canadian Broadcasting Co. and tacked onto convent bulletin boards. The primary, recurring sentiment in these messages: gratitude.
Because of the polls and the opinions of most of my fellow pundits, lots of people believed they were alone in their outrage and sadness over the bombing of Afghanistan. As New Englander Jane Livingston put it: "Thanks for restoring my faith in the capacity of the 'mainstream media' to serve public good, and for lighting a lamp of hope in the darkness."
A Chicago man, Paul Fowler, echoed another common theme: "Your courage gives me strength to speak my truth and stand by it, despite the prevailing winds of our troubled time."
Much as I'd like to think that column was courageous, it was more like losing my ability to stifle a scream. As I've told many people, I pay attention to what I hear about Jesus and what I read in history books; that combination renders me incapable of silence about the death and suffering we are causing the Afghans, or the truly rotten karma we are sowing all over the Middle East.
Lest I mislead, plenty of folks did indeed label me everything from "an unmitigated idiot" to a "traitorous bitch." I was told not only to leave my homeland, but to "go join bin Laden in his cave since you obviously think so much of him." I particularly enjoyed all the patronizing lectures about the Taliban's inhumane treatment of women. Like most of the left, I didn't suddenly discover this obscenity after Sept. 11.
Never mind that I said Osama bin Laden is evil and a mass murderer. If you're against bombing Afghanistan, you love bin Laden and condone terrorism. Do you think the most effective way to defeat him and his suicidal followers is to work with the rest of the peace-loving world to dismantle his malignant network from within, not destroy what's left of a pathetic underdeveloped country? Then you are an "empty-headed pacifist" or "a despicable worm."
But you know what? None of that matters anymore. I let out a scream and it was answered by legions of Americans in like-minded pain. We may be a minority, but we are not alone.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle