Sep 132010
 

Warning: NSFW – post behind cut

I hadn’t planned on writing about 9/11 because I have too much to say about it. Too much that is personal and nothing that I thought could be of any interest to anyone. Or helpful or insightful. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps the perspective of a Pagan who lost someone in the attack, someone who is still in pain, would be of some value. I’ll give you a warning, I’m not editing this…just writing what I think as I think it. It may not be the most coherent. Also – I’m not taking a shot at anyone and I fully realize (in my head) that most of blog entries I’ve read are meant in the most compassionate, kind, and thoughtful way possible.

I got back home on Sunday evening and popped on my computer and started reading various Pagan bloggers’ thoughts on 9/11. The consensus seems to be that those of us still grieving are Doing It Wrong. We should be doing something else on 9/11. Burning lanterns, reading the Koran, embracing our community? Something like that. See, everyone knows what we should be doing and if we just did that, why everything would be so much lovelier. We wouldn’t have the boring commemoration ceremonies, the focus on violence

Did she burn? Pleasepleaseplease don’t have let her burn.

and other unpleasantness. I mean, aren’t we all just sick of 9/11 and how it has been turned into something political? 9/11 wasn’t turned into something political, it was a political act. My best friend, maid of honor at my wedding, died because some people wanted to make a political point. That’s all R was to them, one more body

If I squeeze my eyes shut really tight it’ll go away. Anything but burning. She jumped, that’s it, she jumped before she burned.

in their message to America.  So we can’t turn 9/11 into something political. It was and will always be political. We can’t avoid it. Which is usually the cue for people to say, “America is at fault and her actions brought on 9/11.” Victim blaming never goes out of style, does it? Yes, actions have consequences, but people are also responsible for their own actions. Those men didn’t kill R because of US foreign policy, they did it because they are evil, violent bastards acting in an evil and violent way. They did it because their leaders are power mad and this shit is a tool to use to gain more power. And you know what? I’m very angry about this and if you think I shouldn’t be angry, should spend the day chanting

What if her lungs were burned out by the heated air and she clawed at her throat? No, count numbers, count numbers and push the thought away.

or engaging in interfaith dialogue – you have no idea what many of us are still going through. What that anniversary day is like. Some I spend drinking. Hard. I rarely cry anymore. I may try to plan a ton of activities. Or I do nothing and lay in bed. Mostly I am apathetic to everything going on around me, until I get angry at the drop of a hat. Two years ago I tried to pray and make an offering to the Heroes of Flight 93. There is a growing cultus in Hellenismos for the passengers to be honored as Heroes and I thought I might find some comfort in that. But I tuned out after a few people argued that they can’t be “real” heroes since they don’t meet the criteria. They weren’t being assholes, but it was just more shit piled on top of a pile of shit.  And yes, I know I’m being self-centered.

So when I hear people criticize some of the family and friends of those lost in 9/11 because they want to oppose the building of a mosque and Islamic center near the World Trade Center, I just don’t understand where you get off thinking that you have the moral high ground to pass judgment on them. That their grief is wrong and they are terrorists

Pain and fear? Her last moments were pain and fear? She was laughter and her hair smelled like Suave. Now I can’t stand Suave. Crushed. She was crushed. Stop. Just stop.

for expressing it that way. You call them bigots. You know what? We live with this loss every day. You don’t. So if I want to stare at a wall for hours and they want to join in a peaceful protest and others want to drink or garden or pray – who are you to tell us what to do? How we should grieve. How we should feel. What would be better. Better for whom? You? Better for your agenda? If I had my way, we would all watch the news footage of that day on each 9/11. We would watch as people

Please let the smoke have killed her. She just coughed for a bit, then lay down by a desk and went to sleep. She was dead long before the flames got her. Or she jumped.

jumped out of the windows – picking that to burning to death. We would see the rescue efforts. We would listen to the phone calls home

R never called. That means she died right away. Perhaps right when the plane hit? Or was knocked unconscious?

by people trapped, telling family they loved them. Pleading for help. I want their names known along with their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. I want them remembered. Even if you are tired of hearing about it.  Even if you find it kind of a drag.  Even if the Hindus or Buddhists or Shinto have a much cooler way to spend the day.

Some family and friends of the dead talk about 9/11 all the time. Others, like me, can’t talk about it at all. I may write about it a bit, from time to time. But I can’t talk about it.  It was three years after the event before I told my husband that R was dead. I said one sentence to him and I’ve not discussed it out loud since. In Hellenic burial ceremonies the family screams the name of the dead three times and then they leave the burial site. It’s supposed to be a way to separate the living and the dead. I won’t say R’s name out loud. I can’t.

Jason, at The Wild Hunt described our nation as being in a kind of limbo. Not knowing how to honor this day or make it truly sacred. He has no idea how true his words are. We, those still shattered by this attack, are still in limbo. It would be great if we could find a way to make this day sacred. To honor our dead. But those of us still overcome, can’t get there from here. Hell, we can’t even see it from here.  I don’t know why that is.  I’m as baffled as anyone else.  It’s not like I haven’t had people close to me die.  I have.  And I’ve known people who died violent deaths.  But this.  When it happened, and I was driving to work on 394 in Minneapolis and the traffic stopped because we were all listening to our radios – that was the only right and normal thing that happened that day.  Traffic stopped.  And it felt like the world stopped.  And each year the world should stop again and it doesn’t and that feels wrong.  And all of you who can be irritated or bored or ignore 9/11 feel wrong to me.  Out of place, but you talk about how I (and others who are still mourning our dead) are the ones out of place.  How we are wrong.  I can’t face you, I can’t deal with you.  We are two separate species of animals on this day.

There is one thing that gave me great comfort. Hector Lugo honors the Passengers of Flight 93 as American Heroes in the Hellenic tradition. He also sent out a prayer. Hector, and all the others in Hellenismos who honored the dead and paid tribute to the Heroes of 9/11 – thank you. Words cannot express how much it meant to me that you did this. How much I appreciate that instead of telling me how I am Doing It Wrong, you just went ahead and made the day sacred using our religion’s practices. You didn’t chastise or make the false argument that our religion is one that demands that we embrace our enemies.  You didn’t direct me to follow the example of some other religion, to look elsewhere for some superior solace.  I (and others like me) need people like you within our own religious paths to lead, so that someday we can follow and no longer be stuck in limbo.

In shock and wonder we stared, unbelieving.
At the loss of our innocence.
At the loss of our pride.
But soon were we aware.
Of the greatest loss of all.

Your lives were this day taken.
Your light in this world shut off.
Your deaths a pain in our hearts.

We pray to you, who rule below.
We pray to you, who rule above.
We pray to you, who cross the lines.

Bring to these souls their deserved peace.
Bring to these souls this knowledge.
That never will they be forgotten.
Nor by those here maligned.

Bring to these souls their new name.

Heroes.

And our thanks and love this day.

  45 Responses to “I can’t get there from here”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Cara.

  2. Thank you for having the strength to remind us of what is real.

  3. I’m very sorry for your loss and pain. But there were Muslims who had family who died there too. There were Moslems who were first responders and are now dying from the contaminants. They had nothing to do with the attack and should not be made to suffer further for it either. The Constitution is there to protect everyone. Without it, there would be more bloodshed, more grieving.

    The mosque *needs* to go up now. We need it to heal, we need it to send a message that the US is not at war with Islam. There are over a billion Moslems in the world…only a few are responsible for the attack. We could just as easily forbid men to be near Ground Zero, because it was men who did the attack.

    I understand your pain and anger. My nephew was in one of the towers. Another nephew was in the Army that invaded Iraq. They are Arabs.

    I would think Pagans would understand religious prejudice and fight against it. I guess not.

    There is no right way to grieve. If its healing for you to be angry, then do it. If being angry doesn’t help, then maybe forgiveness will.

    • Some of my family are Muslims. I’m an Arab-American(mother’s side) and German(father’s side). I think you are making presumptions about me that would be wrong.

      I don’t care one way or another if the mosque is built or not built. I don’t *need* it to be built nor do I *not need* it to be built. There is no constitutional issue regarding the building or non-building of that mosque and I don’t understand why people keep trying to make it one. I also don’t think that world piece hinges on one single building being built. Those who aren’t total nuts will not suddenly hate us and those who are nuts will not suddenly love us if the mosque is either built or not built.

      • “Those who aren’t total nuts will not suddenly hate us and those who are nuts will not suddenly love us if the mosque is either built or not built.”

        What a remarkably rational and wise thing to say.

    • Your statement ( “I would think Pagans would understand religious prejudice and fight against it. I guess not.” ) was… inappropriate to say the least. It is not a case of religious prejudice. It’s simply too soon for such a thing to happen in my and other’s opinions. I am sorry for your nephew’s loss. But to assume that Pagans, or even Cara, does not “understand religious prejudice” because she and we are in pain, and not that our judgement is clouded by pain, but there are some things you just do not touch even after a decade.

      If you are very comfortable with the idea of a mosque going up so close to the WTC site, I invite you to come here, to NYC, to rally for it. Again, I am sorry for the loss of your nephew. I lost my downstairs neighbor, who would babysit me, because he was a volunteer EMT and went into the building of his own free will to get people out, and my brother-in-law was on duty in Iraq until about a year or two ago. I will admit they are not Arab (Jewish and Brazilian, respectively), but I’m not sure what that has to do with this.

      Are you trying to say your opinion is valid and the only one entitled to exist because you have Arabic relatives and are, maybe, American? That Cara’s feelings and the feelings of many, many others are wrong because you think yours is right?

      If this is the case, that’s very shallow-minded of you and you have just successfully undermined any message you were intending to deliver. If it’s not the case, I would love to see you come back and explain the reasoning behind your post, and perhaps for you to elaborate on what you were trying to express that you clearly failed to previously.

      Thank you. Have a nice day.

  4. No one in their right mind could question the reality or the validity of Cara’s grief. There is no right way to grieve, nor any time limit on grief.

    My father died in 2005. It wasn’t violent or unexpected. He had been sick for years, and his condition had deteriorated significantly over the previous year. There was no malevolent intent behind his death. There are not people still walking around bragging about killing him — glorifying in it. He “just” died of cancer. But I’ll grieve for him as long as I live, and also try to honor his memory. The pain is less now, in some ways, than it was five years ago, but I will never “get over it.” And I don’t want to. And I don’t think there’s any way I could comprehend what it must be like for Cara and others who lost loved ones on 9/11.

    And no one in their right mind could have imagined that there would not be significant opposition from 9/11 survivors to the idea of building a mosque as close as possible to Ground Zero. And no attempt was made, even though the plans had been in the works for years, to meaningfully engage with those survivors. Instead they have been, in essence, told to shut up, and when they have refused to do so, they have been subjected to a non-stop tirade of public abuse and scorn. They have been called irrational, ignorant, intolerant, liars, un-American, bigots, Nazis, racists, a danger to our troops, and an international embarrassment to America as a nation.

    Thank you Cara for not being silenced.

  5. I feel so sad and sorry for you, and for all of us. I know you can’t get past it. I can’t either, and we did find my cousin Ryan alive, 2 days later (no ID and he was knocked unconscious and didn’t know who he was)…I do know. And I feel so, so sad for you. Thank you for sharing this. Our Salt Lake City Pagan Pride Day DID honor 9/11 with a Pagan ritual of remembrance for those who died. I am glad we had the chance.

  6. Cara, may your grief be eased, though your loss can never be erased. May your gods carry you in comfort and peace on those days when you need it. And may you know that you have touched many hearts with this post.

  7. Cara:

    I can understand completely where you are coming from. I myself have lost someone, though not nearly as close to my heart, in the WTC attacks on 9/11.

    People will play the cards either two ways, or sometimes try to play them both ways. “It’s time to move on” and “it was attack by Islam against America”. The voices of the friends and families of those lost ultimately go unheard, and it’s a damned shame they do. We are not all the same, we do not all think and believe and feel the same, and we all have different connections to the people we lose. For you, losing a bridesmaid was probably like losing a sister, but I really can’t judge because I’m not you, and I won’t try to.

    It is NOT time to move on for many of us, and it was NOT an attack *by the whole of Islam* against America. While I have elaborated on the former, let me elaborate on the latter. I have no problem with a mosque being in New York City. I do not think it is a good idea for the mosque to be so close given that the wound in many hearts is still open, and the people wishing to open the mosque did not openly state their plans previously or reach out to survivors or family and friends of those lost. They lack tact, and by doing what they are, they have essentially stated they don’t care about what people say or feel. Maybe 20, 30 years from now it wouldn’t be such an ordeal, but it’s only been ten years. It’s too soon.

    Apuleius already said it, but I would like to thank you as well for not being silenced, and for being bold enough to write on this subject for those who are too forlorn to even touch the keyboard with intent of writing on such a sensitive topic.

    • I do not think it is a good idea for the mosque to be so close given that the wound in many hearts is still open, and the people wishing to open the mosque did not openly state their plans previously or reach out to survivors or family and friends of those lost. They lack tact, and by doing what they are, they have essentially stated they don’t care about what people say or feel.

      Not to quibble – but I was under the impression that they had intended part of this community center to provide an interfaith place of meeting and dialogue, specifically in response to the tensions resulting from 9/11, and that they’ve been open about their plans for more than a year now, with very positive response from everyone (including FOX News). It was only when a few conservative bloggers began making noise this summer in the run-up to the fall midterm elections that suddenly public interest turned against them, and in light of that they have announced that they may consider moving or delaying their plans. So I do not see how they have exactly been unreasonable. Especially considering there is already a mosque in the area, and there was a Muslim mosque/prayer space in the WTC towers themselves which, even after the first attempted attack in 1996, continued to function with full support of the local community.

      To suggest that they have been insensitive for not being able to predict the intentionally provoked outcry by a few far-right conservatives, when all signs seemed to indicate that they would be welcomed and supported by the local community, seems unfair, a mischaracterization to say the least.

      • Ali: “Not to quibble – but I was under the impression that they had intended part of this community center to provide an interfaith place of meeting and dialogue, specifically in response to the tensions resulting from 9/11, and that they’ve been open about their plans for more than a year now, with very positive response from everyone (including FOX News). It was only when a few conservative bloggers began making noise this summer in the run-up to the fall midterm elections that suddenly public interest turned against them, and in light of that they have announced that they may consider moving or delaying their plans.”
        ——————————————–
        The very first public mention of this was a piece in the New York Times that ran in December of 2009. In that article Imam Rauf is cited as saying that they had intentionally kept their plans under wraps until that time.

        There was strong opposition to the project in the Spring of 2010 leading up to the vote by a local community board in lower Manhattan to approve the project in early May. This opposition included 9/11 victims’ families, three of whom were quoted in a USA Today article on May 7 — one called the idea “despicable”, one said she had “misgivings” and another said “I don’t like it, it’s too close to the area where our family members were murdered.”

        At least two of the board members of the World Trade Center Memorial committee have been very strongly and publicly opposed to the project: Dave Beamer, father of Todd (“let’s roll”) Beamer, who died on Flight 93; and Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of Flight 77.

        So, no, this is not a case of people being duped by a small cabal of right-wing agitators. Every poll that has ever been taken on this issue has shown clear majorities opposed to the Ground Zero Mosque, whether the people being polled were NYC residents, NY State residents, or all Americans.

        • Apuleius, Thanks for the references. It looks like the mention of Rauf and the planned community center in the New York Times article more than nine months ago, also included a mention of the wide-spread support for the project among the local community, including people comparing it to the local Jewish Community Center and YMCA (a comparison to which the executive director of the JCC, Joy Levitt, responded warmly and with full support). It states clearly in the article that the community center was intended to be “a place of peace, a place of services and solutions for the community which is always looking for interfaith dialogue,” and was meant to be a “push back against extremists.” This was the nature of the planned project as it was described – and applauded – in the FOX News clip that I referenced above.

          In addition, Rauf stated on his 9/12 interview on ABC’s morning talk show that, had opposition to the community center been so evident back in 2009 when the plans were first announced, he would certainly have agreed to move. Considering Rauf’s long history of interfaith work in which he has tirelessly sought to ease relations between American Muslims and their neighbors, I see no reason to disbelieve his sincerity on this matter. Indeed, he continued to write and speak publicly on this call for peaceful interfaith discourse in the months leading up to and following the 2009 article.

          Despite some objections as you say, the local Community Board did approve the project in May (you left this fact out above, which is why I mention it now). Though opposition may have been “strong” and passionate among a few, it was by no means wide-spread at the time, though it seems based on your reference to the USAToday article that efforts were already being made to turn it into a national matter instead of a local one. However, three families do not constitute a wide-spread majority by any means, despite how vocal their protests or grief may have been. The families of 9/11 victims – who are far from unanimous in their opposition in any case – do not hold more weight in public policy making than any other New Yorker, nor do they have veto power over how interfaith dialogue in this country is undertaken. Dave Beamer and Debra Burlingame, despite tugging at our heart-strings, do not constitute any kind of majority of the almost fifty members of the World Trade Center Memorial Board of Directors, let alone of the full staff. (And even if they did, why would the World Trade Center Memorial staff have veto power over a building project two city blocks away?)

          Furthermore, even after all this controversy, doing a simple Google search brings up several polls which report that a majority of New Yorkers support the right of Muslims to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan, or anywhere they choose (which would be even more important if Park51 were, in fact, a mosque), and that though many still oppose the precise location of the planned project, even this opposition has actually been decreasing in recent weeks. Indeed, the most common reason cited for being opposed to the community center’s location is one of “sensitivity” regarding 9/11 – in other words, “we’re against it because other people are against it,” which seems, to me, to be one of the oddest kinds of meta-opposition there is.

          The fact is that national opinion was not shaped by concerns for “sensitivity” until certain conservatives took it upon themselves to make such sensitivity a national issue. (If this began in late spring instead of early summer, I stand corrected on this minor point.) But even though naming names and featuring certain opinions prominently can create an illusion of wide-spread opposition (confirmed by polls with misleading questions about a “ground zero mosque” which misrepresent and mischaracterize the nature of the controversy), this does not mean that Rauf should have predicted this effect or that he was insensitive in failing to do so. If anything, his failure was in underestimating how ruthless and manipulative of others’ grief the Right can sometimes be in their pursuit of votes, money and power.

          But all of this is besides the point, really. Individual rights and freedoms are not subject to a public vote (and the opinion polls showing that a majority of people support Rauf’s right even if they do not think it’s a good idea illustrate that most Americans are aware of that fact). We do not protect minority rights only on occasions when the majority deems it appropriate. We especially do not deny or repeal those rights simply because another minority is vocal in their opposition.

          Trying to demonize Rauf for having the audacity to exercise his religious rights is, at best, narrow-minded and populist.

          • “In addition, Rauf stated on his 9/12 interview on ABC’s morning talk show that, had opposition to the community center been so evident back in 2009 when the plans were first announced, he would certainly have agreed to move.”

            But this leaves the $64K question: why not move it now that he does know that most people think it should be moved?

            Obviously what really happened is that Rauf kept his plans secret as long as he could, and surrounded himself only with people who agreed with his plans. Not only that, but Rauf intentionally avoiding any engagement with those who oppose his plans, while leaving it to Bloomberg & Co. to attempt to shout down the opposition by calling them anti-American bigots.

  8. I don’t think the nation is ever going to get anywhere regarding 9/11, because the people who deal in one manner want to kick the shit out of the people who deal with it in another manner, and vice versa. It’s equal opportunity, all around, all sides. Everybody yells at each other that “you don’t know what it’s like!!!!!” without bothering to ask whether maybe they do, just because they don’t see them standing in the same place they are.

    If you’re still grieving, you’re a whiner and a drama queen. If you’re not, you’re a cold blooded, insensitive bitch. If you don’t talk about it, you’re withdrawing and avoiding. If you do, you’re an attention whore.

    That’s the part I’m tired of. I have former friends who don’t speak to me anymore because I’m not angry/upset enough, and I have former friends who don’t speak to me because I am. I can identify with people who say they’re tired, because I know that some of them are tired of the same thing. I finally decided the only sane thing to do was tell the former friends with demands to piss off, and write them off as never having been real friends in the first place.

    • *nod*

      I’ve lost quite a few close people in my life (cancer, AIDS, brutal murder…), so part of me has to wonder if my indifference to 9/11 is influenced by that. Y’know, shit happens, don’t be a baby, stop beating a dead horse, it’s just the cycle of life, not everything is the way you want it… that sort of thing. The other part is the whole situation surrounding it demands I feel the way the vocal majority does, and quite frankly, I highly doubt my feelings can be manipulated like that. In fact, the harder someone pushes something on me, the more I’m likely to become apathetic or indifferent.

      I also worry people will judge me for /not/ feeling as they do, even though I again do not have “a horse in the race”, as they say. I’ve never been to NYC (dad refused to take us as kids, and I currently have no reason to visit), nor do I have any friends or relatives there. I also do not have any working for the Pentagon or residing near DC. Yes, I’m an American, and at the time, I worked in a large building in Chicago near the Sears Tower (nka Willis). At *that time*, I was deeply concerned. But now. meh. The danger to me is over, and all I’m seeing on TV is just a bunch of repeats.

      *click*
      *click*
      *click*

      Ooh! Family Guy! Yay!

      When 9/11 happened, I was in utter shock. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was thinking of me and mine. And I was angry, in a “WTF did we do you?!” so of way. And, when we invaded Iraq, I was pissed off about that, because I wanted our guys kicking ass and taking names in *Afghanistan*. I still do! I will forever say we had no business in Iraq, even if that too makes me come off as unPatriotic or unfeeling for all the Soldiers who suffered and died there.

      My uncle died in Viet Nam before I was born, which I only learned recently he was one of the first casualties of the Tet Offensive. He was my mom’s brother who meant the world to her, so her grief to this day, over forty years later, is understandable. I honor him for his service, but I do not mourn his death. Why? Because outside of him looking almost exactly like Ryan and of countless stories I’ve heard about him, I don’t know him personally. How can one mourn someone they have never known or were witness in some way to their life or death? In the grand spectrum of things, he’s only a footnote in history, and that’s only because his name does indeed appear on the Memorial Wall.

      I guess that too makes me apathetic, uncaring or self-absorbed to some. Some folks say it doesn’t, but that’s just how I feel.

      While I do have concern our son will get hurt, killed or psychologically damaged there after he completes Infantry training, as that’s where just about all the Infantry guys are headed, I actually have more of a /petty/ concern Ryan will want to quit and not make something of himself, that he won’t become a “lifer” or become a Chicago cop, which was the *other* big deal he’s always had. (CPD hasn’t been hiring in a good long while, and he has always said if he couldn’t go CPD, he wouldn’t want to go elsewhere.)

      That’s where *my* mind is at, which at this point in my life, I honestly don’t think anyone can change. “It’s been done to death”, as they say, and while I will repeat I do feel bad for those left behind, like you Cara, I don’t feel the same sentiments. To me, it’s back to being the day before my mom’s birthday.

  9. I’ve known you for over 7 years and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I’m so sorry, Cara.

  10. You are perfectly right to deal with your loss in your own way. Thank you for your words.

  11. I have two thoughts on this post:

    (a) What is the process of grieving for? When I wrote in my previous post here on Pagan+Politics that this culture is bad at grieving, I meant to evoke this notion that few of us understand its purpose and so we are, as a society, incredibly bad at it. In other words, we do it in incredibly unhealthy and self-harming ways. This does not mean that people in the grips of grief are “doing it wrong.” I did not read a single post on Saturday that made such a suggestion – what I saw were many posts describing people’s personal experiences on that day. (The post over at the Pantheon blog by the Pagan clergy person who ministered to the injured and grieving alike in the heart of NYC was absolutely amazing and gave me, at least, a new insight into just how truly devastating and terrible the event was – I recommend everyone read it if they haven’t already.) In every one of these posts was the affirmation that grief can lead to love and healing as much as to anger and fear. This is an incredibly important message to keep in mind.

    The purpose of the grieving process should not – cannot – be an indefinite period of unhealed sorrow. If, after almost a decade, an individual person finds him- or herself in such a state, it is important that they seek support, counseling, whatever help they require. Such aching, unhealed wounds rend us and render us sick at heart, and we need to show ourselves the love and compassion we deserve in seeking the care we require to overcome our grief. In my experience, prayer, rituals of peace, and reaching out for a sense of community with others have all been things that have helped me cope with my own times of grief and loss. If I and others suggest these things, it is only out of compassion and personal experience, not because we would seek to condemn you or anyone for the pain you still feel.

    Which leads me to…

    (b) The difference between personal and public grief. Cara, you are right that there are very few people in this country – let alone the world – who can understand the unique and personal aspect of your grief. That you should find the counseling and care that you need in order to someday find yourself healed and whole again is beyond question. What is still a matter of public discussion and debate – and quite rightly – is how we should shape social and political policy based on the events of 9/11, and whether we should allow those policies to be shaped by the intense but personal grief of a handful of people. When I and others speak of “turning 9/11 political” we are perhaps misspeaking, and you are right to point this out.

    The attacks on the WTC towers and the Pentagon were, very clearly, symbolic and political acts. If the goal of the attackers had been to kill as many people as absolutely possible, they could have targeted, for instance, a football or baseball stadium. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks chose two targets which were, in their minds, legitimately political in nature: the Pentagon, ministrative building to the U.S. military, and the World Trade Center, ministrative building to much of the U.S.’s hegemonic capitalist power throughout the rest of the world. (This was also not the first time the WTC towers had been targeted, another indication that they held symbolic political power in the minds of the attackers.) That civilians died in these terrible, tragic and destructive attacks is certainly true. But this is the case in every act of war and destruction, whether it occurs on U.S. soil or by U.S. hands in other countries where we so callously brush off civilian deaths (and the thousands and thousands of refugees driven fleeing from their homes) as “collateral damage.”

    So yes, the 9/11 attacks were, from the beginning, political in nature. But surely you can understand why it is unhealthy and unhelpful to declare the grief and sense of despair that arose from those events as political rather than personal. Transforming personal grief into political policy has kept many people from being able to cope with and heal from that personal grief. Instead of seeing our loss as a pain that will, one day, finally be healed and released so that we can live whole and happy the way our loved ones would have wanted, we are told that to overcome and eventually release our grief is somehow a denial or rejection of those who died, and that the only way to honor them is to remain forever wounded and in pain. How can this be healthy or healing for any of us? And how can it truly guide the political decisions of a country that needs, now more than ever, a measured and dispassionate perspective that can help us shape a culture that is fair-minded and free?

    I want to be clear. What I am proposing is that we as individuals need to acknowledge and heal from our personal grief and sense of loss, so that we as a nation-wide community can respond to the political nature of the 9/11 attacks in a way that will best cultivate and shape a truly free and just society. We cannot do one without the other. We cannot avoid the personal nature of our grief by transforming it into a public burden. We cannot avoid the personal nature of our grief by hijacking the political process from those whom we feel have not suffered as deeply as we have. And we cannot avoid the personal nature of our grief by declaring that it is an honor and remembrance demanded by the dead, instead of what it is: a wound that begs to be healed with compassion, love and forgiveness.

    • An aside: one hat I wore for several years was that of a homicide bereavement therapist–I worked with those traumatized by the murder of a friend or family member. And one thing that I learned in that time is that traumatic bereavement, grief due to a violent death, does not heal in quite the same manner of other griefs, however deep.

      It is not at all unusual for family members, at any rate, to be extraordinarily affected by significant reminders of their loss, including anniversaries. This can be true for friends, also, though it is perhaps less common.

      That’s not to say that healing does not occur, and it is not to say that grief counseling is not useful. But to be grieving a personal loss from 9/11 in the year 2010 is by no means a sign that the person in pain is “doing it wrong” or is in need of therapy, in a judgmental way. Can counseling help? Yeah, absolutely–particularly when it involves other survivors of the same tragedy.

      But, while I agree that personal grief is not a reason for our nation to turn away from ideals of freedom and compassion, and while I don’t think your intent, Ali, was to imply that there’s anything wrong with Cara for feeling a high degree of pain around such a difficult time as the anniversary, I think it’s worth saying so straight out.

      Cara, I’m sorry for your loss. If more help _is_ needful or useful to you than what you have already found within your community, I hope you’ll find it. But, FWIW, as a professional in this area of psychotherapy, I just wanted to say directly that nothing I know about you causes me to presume you _need_ me or anyone else to help you grieve and slowly heal.

      Need it or not, though, you have my concern and my support. Blessed be.

      • ” But to be grieving a personal loss from 9/11 in the year 2010 is by no means a sign that the person in pain is “doing it wrong” or is in need of therapy, in a judgmental way. [...] But, while I agree that personal grief is not a reason for our nation to turn away from ideals of freedom and compassion, and while I don’t think your intent, Ali, was to imply that there’s anything wrong with Cara for feeling a high degree of pain around such a difficult time as the anniversary, I think it’s worth saying so straight out.”

        Cat, yes it is, and thank you for doing so. I know that some of my comments – especially because they focused so much on the larger political picture – could have come across as callous or unsympathetic to Cara, but that was certainly not my intent. I can’t pretend that I don’t disagree, sometimes deeply, with the political views that she shares here, but that doesn’t mean that I do not also empathize with her sorrow and wish her all the support and healing she wants or needs.

        Your professional insight here was also very valuable to me, personally. What you say about different grieving processes makes sense, and I admit that though I have lost quite a few people in my life to various tragedies and ironies (a friend killed in a roadside accident while responding, in his role as volunteer firefighter, to another accident that had just occurred; a dear friend dying of sudden heart failure while undergoing his physical fitness test to join the military; my best friend from eighth grade dying of skin cancer before seeing his twenty-third birthday; an acquaintance from high school committing suicide during the same year that I myself had been contemplating such an act, etc.), none of them have been homicides, let alone on the scale of the 9/11 attacks. Even so, when Jeff and I sat with the kids on Saturday night to light candles and talk with them about the events of that day, he and I both could not keep from weeping. Although neither of us lost anyone directly in the attack, even for us the pain is still very close. I cannot imagine how much deeper that grief runs for those who did lose a loved one.

        All that said, just as I do not think that the death penalty can truly act as a healthy part of the grieving process for those who lost a loved one to homicide, I do not see how war, vengeance and prejudice can be a healthy part of the grieving process for those who lost loved ones on 9/11. I appreciate and sympathize with Cara’s sorrow and grief, but I also worry about what larger effect it has, perhaps not even one she intended, to share that deeply personal grief here on a group blog specifically focused on political commentary.

        It can be difficult to reconcile the ideas that, on the one hand, I can empathize whole-heartedly with Cara and admit, readily and humbly, that I might never truly appreciate her sorrow, and that, on the other hand, I still disagree on a fundamental level with her approach to political policy, in particular regarding this country’s response to 9/11. I would have to be truly callous and unloving to tell Cara that her grief is “wrong” or that she should “just get over it.” I also believe there are times when even the attempt to delineate personal grief from public policy can feel like a callous violation of that grief. My understanding of grief, from what I have experienced of it personally at least, is that it can leave you feeling utterly skinless and exposed, with no barrier between yourself and others, so that every movement feels raw and harsh, every tension between your sorrow and the lack of comparable sorrow in others seems unbearable, intolerable. So I can understand why my post, and others’, might have felt like a violation or callous rejection of Cara’s feelings; I can understand why my political opinions might seem cruel or unfeeling when they rub up against such raw sorrow. And I can understand why the free practice of religion so close to the site of tragedy nine years ago, for instance, might also seem like a violation or offense, too painful a reminder of the loss that so many experienced that day.

        I have to do my best to sit with that, as do we all. I have to accept that even the most well-intentioned ideas and actions might seem callous or painful to some, while also holding in mind – as difficult as it is – that this is not in itself a reason to abandon them. I think that it’s important not to let my concern for the pain that Cara feels overrule my conscience, or convince me that for the sake of her pain I should turn my back on the potential pain of others or remain silent in the face of instances of injustice. I think that it’s important that, as a society and country, we do not let our deep care and empathy for those still grieving 9/11 to overrule our sense of justice or to trump our ideals. It might just be that when faced with these controversies, we have to accept that, yes, a Muslim community center in NYC will be painful to some, and yes, we support it anyway; and our support is not a rejection or denial of the pain it might cause, but an affirmation of hope that one day such sorrows will at least be less common…. I hope you, Cat, as well as Cara and others, can get a sense, despite my stumbling words, of the paradox I’m trying to describe. Just because I can at times speak in language of high ideals and partitions between personal and public suffering, doesn’t mean I want to diminish Cara’s or anyone’s grief. It is a challenge for each of us, I think, to hold both the intimately personal and the broader social aspects of this discussion in our hearts and minds, to appreciate the tension that arises from them… and then to act justly and peacefully anyway, even when we know it might feel to some like a hurtful or callous thing to do.

        Perhaps it is easier for me to do so, because the sorrow is not so personal, the grief not so intimate. But if this is true, then isn’t it also all the more reason for me to do what I can, and to speak when I am able? That is the question I have to ask myself, even at the risk of coming across as a cold-hearted bitch.

        • Hi, Ali,
          You write, “I hope you, Cat, as well as Cara and others, can get a sense, despite my stumbling words, of the paradox I’m trying to describe.”

          And, yeah, I think I get it. There is this difficult place for all of us where the political and the personal intersect. I agree with Third Wave feminists who told us that “the personal is political,” and I think that, if we are honest, all of us hold political views that are rooted in our personal experiences… which are, in turn, so often the product of the politics around us.

          And one thing I wish I’d written yesterday in my comment, but forgot to mention specifically: I think that writers, when we’re doing it right, will reveal those personal cues to our convictions, perhaps explicitly and directly, as Cara has done here. And if we do so fearlessly and honestly, we both allow the world to glimpse our unique experience, and maybe be transformed by it as we have been–but we also allow the world to see our brokenness and our pain, and that takes incredible courage.

          I just want to recognize the courage it took to write from a place of personal hurt–and to own it. As a writer, this is one of the things I love and respect in my own work, when I pull it off, and in the work of others. And I sure as hell hope that nothing I say adds to that pain, or condescends to it in any way.

          So: I just needed to voice that respect.

          And maybe to respond to that paradox–how do we respect the personal dimension without putting the political implications of a piece of powerful writing like this out of bounds? How do I, as a pacifist, deal with the conflicted impulses between empathy and my strong conviction that, as Ali put it, “just as I do not think that the death penalty can truly act as a healthy part of the grieving process for those who lost a loved one to homicide, I do not see how war, vengeance and prejudice can be a healthy part of the grieving process for those who lost loved ones on 9/11.”

          It’s interesting that Ali raised the parallel with the death penalty. Because, while I am as opposed to the death penalty as I am to warfare, I’ve actually been in a position of dealing with men and women who are grieving after a homicide, and in the process, wrestling with their perceptions of that exact question.

          One thing that is very helpful to survivors of any kind of social violence is activism, engaging with the world and trying to put right for future others what has been so terribly and irrevocably put wrong for them. From the parent of a child who died of cancer who becomes a passionate fundraiser for cancer research, to the survivors of rape and sexual abuse who become advocates trying to assist other victims, action is one way many people find comfort and healing.

          Survivors of homicide are no exception, and the survivors of homicide I have known have often involved themselves in advocacy around the death penalty.

          I live in Massachusetts, a state which has no death penalty. And over the years, some of the folks I counseled have found themselves attracted to work on behalf of changing that fact. In addition to survivors lending their efforts to prevent domestic violence, control handguns, and other liberal approaches to violence–which others of my former clients did engage in–some of my clients were led to work I myself find deeply disturbing.

          And, make no mistake about it–they are, in many cases, powerful public voices for that cause.

          As a therapist, however, my duty was clear: it was not my place to second guess what forms of activism my clients would engage in. My personal ethics were no more appropriate for me to attempt to proselytize to people who were, perhaps after many months of working with me, both vulnerable and trusting of me than my religious convictions would have been. Where I could see that the person involved was not following this path in an attempt to avoid their grief process (and let me just say, that was in EVERY case that did follow this path which I was involved with) all my job was to do was to be supportive of their work.

          And hope like hell the advocates for the alternative position–some of whom I have also known–were as effective in telling their stories.

          It’s a free marketplace of ideas question, in other words–let all our truths be spoken, and may the best ideas win. Trust the democratic process to get us to a good place in the end… and, if you are, as I was, in a position of trust toward a person in pain, get out of the way of whatever they have to say.

          Sometimes it felt odd to do this. But it always felt right.

          However, that is what a counselor should do–someone, as I was then, in a position of trust. In such a position, the well-being of the person in pain comes first.

          That is not the case when it comes to political speech, however. In this arena, or any other, where a person freely enters to share their perspectives, however hard-won and personally rooted, not only are we not under an obligation to put their well being first… we are actually under an obligation, as citizens of a democracy, NOT to do so. Where there was no appropriate way to challenge the ideas my clients in counseling held around the death penalty, it would be equally inappropriate to allow myself to be silenced in a political forum by my sense of how difficult it may be for a survivor to speak.

          In the political arena, the democratic process is the first priority, not the emotional well-being of any one individual, however concerned for them we might be.

          Which is not to say it’s OK to be a “cold-hearted bitch” about it. Cara–or me, when I speak from personal knowledge, or you, or any of us who bring our deepest experiences and values to our political speech–is never entitled to a free pass to having her ideas challenged. But we are ALL entitled to a respectful, thoughtful hearing.

          I don’t hear Cara asking for that sort of quarter; my sense is, she just needed to bring all of herself, including very powerful personal knowledge, into this debate.

          As with my clients, I do sincerely hope that voices for peace are as eloquent. But at least here, while I own my obligation to honor the personal truths Cara speaks, I am able to join my voice to others that challenge some of the related ideas.

          • I don’t view very many things as out of bounds to talk about, if it is done with some basic level of civility.

            As for what I have brought to the debate – very little. I haven’t staked a position on the Iraq War. I haven’t advocated a position against Islam. Nor have I said I oppose the building of the Mosque at the proposed location.

            What I brought, perhaps, was just a view from inside my head. A view of what it’s like when you are reading something about 9/11 and how even the most well meaning of words by kind people can hurt and cause a reaction that can leave people puzzled. Because your experience has disconnected you from the majority on that issue and you can no longer speak the same language. Language fails you and fails them.

            While I won’t protest (or support) the building of the mosque, I can understand why some of the families are protesting it. And it’s not because they are hateful bigots. Or that they are too addled by grief. They are not morally inferior because their experience has led them in another direction. For people to cut us some slack while we work all this out. And for our faith communities to realize that many of us don’t want to be told how awesome it is to read the Koran as a sign we are loving people. (Not that I’m against reading it, I’ve read it several times) What we, or I am anyway, looking for from our faith communities are rituals to help us and to make the day sacred within our own faith structures.

            We’re looking for some damn understanding and solace. Not a lecture. Which you seem to get, Cat.

  12. Cara, I am deeply sorry and saddened by your loss. No words, by man or god, could give comfort to it.

    I too, noticed that much of the Pagan blogs were very much “move on, release your grief, find coexistence and peace” in their treatment.I am sorry to say I was little better in my short post, but I felt the day needed silence, not words of war.

    Yet, it seems for all the pretty words, nothing has really changed.

    I am sure that if I have a reputation in the Pagan blogs by now, it is not a pretty one. I am often outspoken against Islam and am not one for pulling metaphorical punches. Ali here I am sure isn’t to fond of me, and I’m still trying to figure out if Ali is Pagan or Muslim, because honestly it is hard to tell so deeply does Ali defend Islam and hold it high. Yet, it matters little to me which Gods, if any Ali worships.

    I think the reason many people from all walks of life and religions, myself included, are against Islam is because even if it wasn’t “Islam attacking America” it was still done in the name of Islam. Just as the Crusades and Witchhunts were done in the name of Christianity, I believe there is a desire to see Islam weakened to the point where it can no longer offer that violence, just as Christianity can no longer offer totalitarian violence agianst those who do not worship Christ. I am sure there are some who will disagree, who will say that those opposed to Islam are “Islamophobic” and “racist bigots” but I think that is disrespectful to all sides.

    Linda says the mosque *needs* to go up now so that we can heal. But I fail to see how it is healing. There are those who say it is a symbol of Islam’s victory, and there are Muslims who no doubt see it as such. Indeed, the very size of the community center does seem rather much. Were it four stories, I doubt we’d see much protest. Were it two, few words would be spoken. But to be over ten stories and to stand taller than most buildings around it strikes me as a little much. I have heard rumors that the top floors were the “prayer center” is to be located will have a clear view of the WTC site. I do not doubt that there are misguided individuals on both sides of the fight, but there are those with clear and just reasons for their stances. Linda, your call for tolerance is noble, but your application is intolerant. You suggest the Mosque is a salve to heal a wound, but even to me, one who lost little in comparison on that day, it feels of salt to that wound.

    One thing I have noticed about Pagans is the insistence on tolerance and peace. These are noble ideals, to be sure, but I would say to all Pagans and Heathens, that ours is a world of many faces and natures. It is the nature of people to day to desire peace, to want it above all else, and many are willing to give anything so that they do not have to face the ugly side of life. But Paganism/Heathenism to me is as much about the ugly side of life as it is the pretty. It is, in Nietzsche’s words “The Dionysian and the Apollonian.” It is terror and beauty, emotions and reason, the bestial and the divine, all at once. I think we are missing a key element when it comes to the healing of the 9/11 Tragedy. One which I see at least, being an Asatruar, though I can speak for no others.

    There was no were-geld paid to the victims families.

    We have fought wars for nine years almost, but we have not gained any vengeance. Those who did the killings died in the same blast. Those who planned the murders have escaped all justice, and those that are “captured” languish in “prisons” that by all accounts are not dens of terror, pain, suffering, and retribution. There has been little accounting done for the deeds of that terrible day. People like to say that vengeance and retribution don’t solve anything, that it just begets more of the same, but I disagree.

    We Pagans/Heathens have many gods and goddess who exist either as representations, physical beings, or however you choice to view them. Yet we believe they exist and that they each have a purpose or job at which they perform, from which their power is drawn, and that power which they create.

    We have gods and goddesses of love and desire, which I often see invoked.

    We have gods and goddesses of fertility and the harvest, which I often see called upon.

    But we also have gods and goddesses of War and Vengeance. These, I do not see invoked, or called upon.

    I see many pagans willing to reach out beyond our pantheons and call upon Shinto and Buddhist deities, desiring peace and serenity. But where are the Pagans/Heathens calling upon our own divinities for righteous vengeance against those who slew kin and friend and hero that day? If I see someone call upon Odin, it is for wisdom in dealing with their hatred and removing it, not invoking him as the Terrible One, God of War. I have seen none call upon Aries, who clothes his bed in the skin of those he’s killed, for retribution against those Terrorists who kill in the name of Allah. I see no one crying out to Thor, killer of Giants, to bring might Mjolnir down upon the God of Mohamed.

    It is likely that I will have drawn much hate with these words. Perhaps I violate the spirit of this article as badly as I feel Linda and Ali have done. If so, I am sorry.

    But looking at it, I see in the Pagan community people who are uncomfortable with who they really are. People who are so eager not to be “intolerant” that they willingly put up with things I would think intolerable. Pagan who look at Muslim women who are so bundled in fabric that their faces barely show and proclaim “Oh, she is so modest, how holy and admirable is that.” They never stop to think that the woman is modest because her religion teaches that the mere sight such things as her hair will arouse men so much that they would rape uncontrollably, or that women are second class beings because Eve tempted Adam in the Garden and thus caused him to fall from grace, nor that a woman is counted as worth half a man in the courts of Islam, or that she must prove her innocence in a rape case with either four male witnesses or eight female witnesses. And would likely be charged with worse crimes for having performed sexual acts in front of so many people.

    Little concern is given that in the ancient Pagan/Heathen world, the human body, male and female, was a thing to be shown of with pride as a vessel of Sacred Power and divinity, that to show off that form was considered desirable, and that to cover it was to deny and defame that sacred beauty that is the Human Form.

    If my words seem angry, it is because I am angry. I am angry because there has been no vengeance for the fallen. I am angry because all I see are platitudes to an Ideology that supports misogyny, homophobia, paganophobia, and speaks of peace while doing nothing to stop the violence of its radicals. I am angry because all I see from those screaming for tolerance is intolerance to those who do not share their views. I see Muslims screaming about oppression and intolerance, yet who show little tolerance towards the victims in this Mosque building.

    Yes, there were Muslims who died at the WTC, but too often I see those Muslim victims paraded out as a reason to let Muslims build, pray, and act as they please in regards to 9/11. Yet I rarely see anyone say fair number of those Muslims who died at the WTC were the ones flying the planes. Perhaps my emotions have gotten the best of me. Perhaps pain and fear and anger push me too far for today’s world. But I do not live by the standards of “today’s world.” I live by the standards of my ancestors and my gods and goddesses. Perhaps hearing the GZM Imam say things like “America has more Innocent Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has the blood of Innocent Non-Muslims” has roused my temper. Yet I am caused to remember that just as according to Christians “all are guilty of sin who have not accepted Christ”, so to is it for Muslims that “All are guilty of sin who have not submitted to the Will of Allah.” That to Muslims there is no such thing as an “innocent non-Muslim” because we are “guilty of sin,” while every Muslim is cleansed of there Sins by “Submission to Allah.”

    Perhaps I am wrong, to call upon the gods and goddesses of war, with a desire to see those who would kill us, be they “radical” or not, driven away at the end of divine wrath. But I am a heathen, and if it was good enough for my ancestors, it is good enough for me.

    Cara, again I give my sympathy, and hope that the gods and goddesses of the afterlife, bring peace and comfort to your friend. I am sorry, if my comments have got to far for you. I have no desire to try and hijack your sacred words nor your sacred grief.

    • Oy, Norse Alchemist. If you’re having trouble figuring out if Ali is Muslim or Pagan, you’re not reading her very carefully.

      And messages in favor of peace and religious freedom (yep, even for religions we don’t think make a helluva lot of sense) are not what I’d term messages to forget personal grief. Actually, my own experience after 9/11, working with folks in varying levels of personal loss and trauma, was that the drumbeat to war seemed to function, for most of those I worked with, at least partially as a distraction from grief they found impossible to be with or to bear.

      Individual mileage may vary. But I worked with folks from career military to first responders and a few who had come very near to death on that day when the Towers fell. I can think of only one case–admittedly, I can think of one–where the desire to wage war on Muslims seemed to coexist with being able to feel the personal loss and grief a lot of folks were left with, and my own sense is that part of our instinct toward violence is about not feeling sadness, not about honoring the dead.

      I won’t deny that my impressions are subjective, and won’t adequately describe everyone’s experiences. But I also don’t see strident anti-Muslim messages as bringing back a single person who was killed that day, healing a single wound, or drying a single honest tear. I’m sorry, N.A…. your position makes no sense from where I sit.

      • Well, to be honest, “strident anti-Muslim” isn’t going to bring them back. Nor is it supposed to. Perhaps the rage is a distraction from the grief, but is that so bad? Humans evolved/were created in such a ways as that is to happen. Sometimes that distraction is what allows us to move past grief, though this isn’t always the case. If it is intended to accomplish anything, it is to prevent more deaths in the name of Islam, even if Islam is just and excuse and not a cause. I think it relates to the same reasons many pagans are stridently anti-Christian, because we don’t want a return to “those days.”

        I’m honestly not surprised my position doesn’t make much sense to you Cat C-B. We have different backgrounds and I find that I have more in common with a 9th century Norseman than I do a 21st century anything. Also, rage, pain, and anger aren’t meant to make sense. They are senseless things. It’s what makes them so powerful as emotions and motivations. But just because a thing doesn’t make sense, doesn’t mean it is wrong or bad.

        • _Is_ it so bad? Distracting ourselves from grief by whipping up hatred against another human group? Well, it’s certainly not new. Declaring a group of people to be the Bad Guys, and charging after them to make the world safe for Democracy/mom and apple pie/our tribe/our clan/people with my color skin _is_ an age old strategy for avoiding human feelings.

          That assure somebody else will have cause to feel them, too.

          Yeah, it’s a bad thing. Gandhi was right–an eye for an eye does make the whole world blind. And having nuclear weapons doesn’t improve the strategy, either.

          Yes, N.A., you and I see the world quite differently. (I’ll leave it to Asatruir to contemplate whether or not your view is one representative of 9th Century Norsemen or not.)

          • Gandhi also said that it is better to be violent, if violence exists in yourself, than to wear the garb of non-violence to hide impotence.

            • That was in response to an alternative of passivity. Gandhi favored an active and engaged non-violence, rather than a complacent one. (See http://www.aetheling.com/essays/pacifism.htm for a discussion.)

              I don’t think demanding vengeance is the only form of activism possible in response to an unprovoked attack, and I have never thought it was unimportant to arrest, try, and punish those who were behind the September 11 attacks.

              I have always thought that starting a war, which would inevitably harm many individuals who had no role in the attacks, would likely make it difficult or impossible to arrest Osama bin Laden. I think events have proven that to be correct.

              I suspect that broadening the aggression to include all Muslims, as you seem to advocate, would generate even more loss of lives uninvolved with the original crime, and even more chaos, making it even more unlikely that the actual perpetrators–those not already dead–will ever be caught or punished…. particularly as anti-Muslim sentiment and actions here make it less and less likely that citizens of Muslim countries will assist us in that goal.

              • Incidentally, the author of the article I cited, though a Quaker, has a very different view of non-violence than I do. It may, however, be of interest to readers of this forum.

              • “I don’t think demanding vengeance is the only form of activism possible in response to an unprovoked attack, and I have never thought it was unimportant to arrest, try, and punish those who were behind the September 11 attacks.”

                You may recall the debate that erupted after 9/11 over whether this was a law enforcement problem, or a war. At that time the law enforcement model was in disrepute because it had gotten nowhere after the bombings of the USS Cole and two US embassies in Africa. It is a bit rhetorical to throw the inflammatory word “vengeance” at those who decided that, whether we like it or not, we were at war.

                • But, Baruch, if a law enforcement approach got us “nowhere” in previous episodes of terrorist violence (an interpretation that is open to debate, I think) what has a nine year war gotten us that a law enforcement approach would not have done?

                  And the death toll can surely be conceded to be far higher.

                  However, I’d like to point out that I did not throw the word “vengeance” out in order to be inflammatory, or as a characterization of all who favored going to war at that time, but specifically in response to Norse Alchemist, whose rhetoric around Muslims has been inflammatory and vehement enough that I think it’s disingenuous to say he is not favoring vengeance. I think it’s pretty clear that he believes vengeance to be a legitimate goal of foreign policy. (So, I think most observers will concede, do many of those who favored the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan initially, though perhaps not all. )

                  • Thank you for your clarification of your words (word, actually. :-)

                    Nine years of fighting two wars, one of which has nothing to do with 9/11, and deficit-financing them so most of the population does not share (immediately) in the burden, is not the best test of the war option. Any option can be ineptly executed.

    • “But we also have gods and goddesses of War and Vengeance. These, I do not see invoked, or called upon. ”

      Then you’ll be ecstatic to note that I have taken your words to heart, and acted according to your vision and wisdom. What part of your head do you want the valknut on?

      • I suppose the part that would mock you best for deciding that out of all the people in the world who deserve death, you choose a simple alchemist of little importance that merely points out unpopular truths rather than those would actually see you persecuted, tortured, and killed, Snoozepossum.

        Am I really so terrible that you feel you must place upon me a doom of death? Is my anger so unjustified, that I must be slain? It would seem that with simple words and old attitudes, I am more worthy of divine wrath than any rapist, murderer, child molester, or religious fanatic.

        In the end, though, Snoozepossum, I do not fear your curse. Some how, I think, whatever gods would seek to carry it out would find themselves opposed by other gods that find my questions and thoughts favorable to them.

        • Sigh . . . you just can’t make some people happy, no matter what you do. You complained of a lack; I rectified that lack. Dear me, are you saying that the correction of this oversight in general practice is only to be applied to your personal bogeymen? How ungrateful of you to be so particular after all the effort I went to.

          Will send you contact info for a soap opera casting company immediately. Suggest you go look up what a valknut is used for.

          BTW, “I merely” is an awe-inspiring weaselization to whip out at this point in your campaign, and if your alchemy is simple, yer not doing it right. However, if you were applying the adjective to the practitioner as opposed to the practice, please ignore my criticism and carry on.

    • N.A., I am a Pagan, a practitioner of Druidry, and a devotee of Brigid, goddess of inspiration, integration and transformation, goddess of dark forge-fire and radiant solar light, goddess of social justice and compassion, queen of the light, wife to the dark, and mother keening for the senseless death of her son, goddess of all that rises up from the depths of the earth in healing springs and ashless flame, and goddess of beer.

      Hope that helps to clarify things for you.

  13. Cara – I am so sorry for your loss.

  14. Cara, I hear you. Can’t really say much else… I’m pretty sure you understand.

  15. Thank you for this piece as well, Cara.

    I hope that my words in my own blog were not a cause of sadness or offense to you–they certainly weren’t intended to be.

  16. I started to read through the comments but started becoming angry and had to stop. My mother was born on 9/11. Every year now she feels unable to celebrate her birthday because of the loss. We knew no one in the towers, we are just faceless Americans who grieve for all those that were lost and for their families. No one has any right to tell anyone else how to grieve or for how long. This was a NATIONAL tragedy and it should NEVER be forgotten. I personally tear up every single time that I hear, read or see something about 9/11. They should ALL be acknowledged as USA’s beloved dead because they died for no other reason than they were Americans. Those on Flight 93 ARE heroes because they did something to limit the deaths of others and lost their lives in the process. I hope we are all so brave when push comes to shove. Hugs to you and yours, Cara. May you find peace in time.

  17. Cat C-B, there was no “Reply” button to your response to my response to your etc, so I’m starting a new comment here.

    It’s remarkably easy for a country with little military tradition to ineptly execute a war (let alone two), Heck, Britain didn’t do any better in Afghanistan than we have and they *had* a military tradition: sons of a certain class were expected to become officers and get posted overseas. Like any good car, America has a left-hand and right-hand rear view mirrors: The military is always ready to fight the last war and the peace movement is always ready to protest the last war.

  18. i am in no way , discounting or demeaning anyones pain from that day in resent history , i saw the planes hit the towers on tv myself and was left numb by it as well . i didn’t personally loose anyone in the attacks , but can understand thier pain and loss . we all lost a bit of innocence that day and is still hard to comprehend . but altho thier timing and location isn’t the best our muslim freinds and fellow americans have the constitionaly given right to built their community center in new york. we as pagans understand bigotry and such non sense as many of us , myself included , have experienced it directly. a pagan group i belonged to was harrassed and picketed by the local kkk near us . but at the risk of loosing our own rights we need to stand up for the new york muslims right to practice religion as they see fit . the terrorist acts of 9/11 was commited by extremists not the muslim community at large . our constitution guarantees the rights of anyone to practice their religion w/o fear of retribution or reprisal . these rights are important and cannot be set aside when convenient .we as pagans need to stand w/them b/c our rights as a minority might be next . i understand that nerves and hearts in new york and though the US are still raw , but higher principles are at risk . if those in power can deny the muslims rights what or who is next ?