| The Horror, The
Thoughts on the aftermath of September 11
It became dangerous to say that America has a checkered historical past, that it often flaunts its arrogance as the mightiest power. That power has often been misused in support of despots--Batista, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, many others. America, too, has blood on its hands, blood shed in Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East. Treason! Anyone who dared suggest that not all was righteous on the darkening horizon was denounced--Susan Sontag, Bill Mahers, dotty old Andy Rooney, and even that stalwart figure of integrity Walter Cronkite, who decried the imperious, and impervious, American belief that "the power of our arms will dictate a quick victory."
The splash of patriotism led to wretched excess: At a Calvin Klein fashion show, male models in jockey shorts later held hands and sang "God Bless America." In Laguna Niguel a cluster of nubile girls gathered at a street corner with signs proclaiming: "Honk if you love America." At each honk, one pretty little girl jumped and did a patriotic split, causing a male driver to make a dangerous U-turn to re-assert his patriotism. In Louisiana, three teenagers who terrorized a group of elderly bingo players with squirt guns that the elders confused for terrorist guns were sentenced by a patriotic judge to write an essay titled "Why I'm proud to be an American."
Even self-announced liberals deserted logic and draped themselves in patriotism. After issuing a cominique from one of her mansions stating, "I get very upset when I see big business and corporations getting [favored] over working people," Barbra Streisand hurried to toss her support to the ex-Governor of Texas. If Barbra speaks, can Warren be far, far behind? Mr. Beatty ("the technology is to blame," he keeps declaring in answer to any question) followed in dogged flaggy support. Eminem has not been heard from; but fickle Elton John prepared to recycle his all-purpose "Candle in the Wind" (first awarded to Marilyn Monroe, then snatched away to be given to Princess Di--nothing for Mother Teresa) to honor the victims of the assaults. The Emmys finally went on. ("Let history record that," said the President of the Academy). In dutifully mournful clothes, the Emmy attendees shed rivers of tears at each patriotic reference. Even those performers who were secretly watching the world series wept along.
Impervious to trivialities, Cuban exiles in Florida opened the Elian Museum, displaying to the world his precious toys, togs 'n things.
In a closing message by the Assembly of Bishops, their holinesses from around the world condemned terrorism. Their statement, released by the Vatican, went on to decry "the fact that 80% of the world's population lives on 20% of the income." Was the report sent aloft from one of His Highness the Pope's palaces, or from one of the lesser palaces occupied by the blessed cardinals and bishops?
Vultures hovered and scratched with their talons. Creepy things crawled out from under rocks: Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell justified the treacherous attacks by terrorists as God's deserved wrath against feminists and homosexuals. Falwell's son asked devoted followers to sooth the subsequent criticism of his father by sending in a donation of 50 or even a hundred dollars. TV evangelists and millionaires Paul and Jan Crouch hosted quivering preachers who echoed Falwell's denunciation. In empathy, Sister Jan perpetually wept giant tears under the huge blond wig that threatens to swallow her head and the mascara-laden eyelashes that might blind her first. The son of Sister Jan and Brother Paul (Brother Son?) said God had timed the raid on the Towers and the Pentagon to correspond with the release of a dingy apocalyptic movie he produced. In Afghanistan, as Taliban forces caved in to the so-called Northern Alliance of often-warring tribes, opium-poppy growers celebrated the restoration of their only sure means of gaining big wealth, the production of heroin.
On the internet, cheap "survival kits"--gloves, masks--were hawked for high prices; for a hundred bucks you could buy an Anthrax detector, batteries included. An advertisement in the Los Angeles Times exhorted people to face the world bravely--with a new face created by the advertiser, a plastic surgeon.
Original material by John Rechy appears
frequently on these pages.