Published on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Being Thankful for Small Favors
by Joyce Marcel
In a time of despair like these, with an election season marked by lies, fears, and hatred, with hatred of America growing around the world, and with a lost war on terror that is also a lost war in Iraq, I try to look for small signs of good.
For example, after the carnage at Beslan, the conservative New York Daily News, of all places, ran a story headlined, "Arab World Also in Shock."
It seems that after recent terrorist attacks in Russia, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, many of them attributed to the influence of Osama Bin Laden, some Arab journalists, intellectuals and clerics have started to reflect upon, as one headline put it, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists Are Muslims."
An Egyptian Islamist named Ahmed Bahgat wrote, "If all the enemies of Islam united together and decided to harm it... they wouldn't have ruined and harmed its image as much as the sons of Islam have done by their stupidity, miscalculations and misunderstanding of the nature of this age."
Unfortunately, hating the United States is as easy as it is popular in the Middle East today - and not without some justification. So it is a great sign of hope there that people are starting to realize that terrorism damages Arabic as well as Western culture.
America may be the fertilizer, but the Middle East is the rich and loamy field where terrorism is grown, and things must change there before it is no longer appealing for young people to strap explosives around their waists to kill strangers and themselves.
Then, in The New York Times, I found an article about "the nation's most visible face of white supremacy," Richard G. Butler, who died last week at the age of 88. Recruitment for new white supremacists has become difficult, Sarah Kershaw reported: "Americans in this day and age are not at all keen on the idea of being recruited into violent revolutionary organizations whose mission is to assassinate public officials. It is not a very sellable idea in a post-9/11 world."
File that under "Be thankful for small favors."
In my own life, once I understood that nothing could stop President George W. Bush from starting his wrong-headed war in Iraq, I began to send money to Doctors Without Borders. Those who suffered the most at the hands of the 9/11 terrorists have taken this idea much further.
Liz Alderman, who lost her youngest son, Peter, 25, at the World Trade Center, received $1.5 million in compensation. According to a story in USA Today titled "Sept. 11 Families Build Foundations of Hope," the Aldermans "put the entire amount into a program that trains doctors to treat victims of mass violence in countries like Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia... The Peter C. Alderman Foundation is one way the financial outpouring for families of the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11 is flowing back into the world." The paper then listed more than 130 charitable efforts, from $200 essay prizes to multimillion-dollar foundations, which were started by the families of people who were killed on 9/11.
These are small signs of goodness, and some may say I'm grasping at straws. However, when America's response to terrorism is to strike out viciously at any available target, whether it was responsible for the attacks against it or not, then what else can I do?
I believe there is a pendulum swing to the invisible forces that rule our world. If we go too far to the right, we will eventually swing back towards the left. The center seems to be where we find some small amount of safety and economic security, and we all know the center does not hold for long.
It is good news when forces appear that might serve as a counterweight to the machismo, swaggering and bullyism running wild in the world today. We need them to bring the world back into fragile balance once again.
Raising consciousness, helping those in need, healing wounds, a close examination of American defenses, holding a candle against the wind for peace, a new reluctance of Americans to join violent hate groups, Arabs preaching against terrorism in the Middle East - these are positive and powerful responses to terrorism.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. (firstname.lastname@example.org)