Our second day on the road back to New York City...
I am awakened by the sounds of the Star Spangled Banner coming from the lobby of the hotel where we have spent the night in Flagstaff. The memorial service has begun at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, and it is on the TV in the lobby. I go down to check it out.
A group of older black women are standing there watching it, tears in their eyes. I am reminded of a sign we saw on the way into town on a Hopi Indian store: "America Land of the Free Home of the Brave." You probably can't find two groups more denied the American Dream than these two and yet they grieve like everyone else over the attack in New York.
Passing through the Indian reservations of Arizona and New Mexico you are struck by the abject poverty of these places, and reminded of the 500 years of state-sponsored terrorism against these people, a virtual genocide. How many millions were killed by the American settlers and soldiers? I can't remember now. But the living results are brutally evident in the shacks and trailers along old Route 66.
My wife and I make our way into town and find a Catholic church, San Francisco de Asis, where a service is being held to honor the dead. The church itself is remarkable for its matriarchal images, with a large mural of Mary and her mother and her family above the altar, and then a statue of her in place of the usual crucified Jesus.
We stand, as there is no room to sit. Minutes go by and the service does not begin. The priest comes and takes a seat in the 7th row pew as if he were just another mourner. After a long while, someone gets up from her pew and reads from the bible -- but the reading is not the one about vengeance and bloodshed. Rather, it's about beating our swords into plowshares. Oops, off message!
We leave the church and both of us are filled with an overwhelming despair. We still have not heard from friends in Manhattan or from our friend Barbara who works at the Pentagon. We pass by a store -- "Guns and Groceries," the sign proclaims. On the way out of town, the cell phone rings. It is Barbara and her husband Sam calling from outside the Pentagon. She tells me she is OK and that there is a large airplane wheel sticking out of the side of the building where she works as a clerical. The morning of the crash she was late for work because she was taking Sam to the airport. I start to cry again. She says thanks and "Don't worry I'm OK," and I hear Sam cracking in the background "That's debatable" and they both laugh.
I pull off the road in Winslow, Arizona, and tell Kathleen I want to get a picture of her on a corner. She doesn't know why and, knowing her intense dislike of The Eagles, I tell her it's a song by Jackson Browne (which is technically true; he co-wrote it). She obliges, but when she reads this I'll be in big trouble.
I continue to be amazed at the large number of people -- both on the radio and those we run into -- who are completely opposed to some half-cocked military response to what has happened. No matter what the media tells you or shows you, I am convinced there is a majority of Americans who, though they want justice and want to be protected from further attacks, do not want George W. Bush to start sounding like Dr. Strangelove.
Speaking of Strangelove, this past week began with one of the most powerful pieces on 60 Minutes in a long time. They laid it all out: How the United States -- and specifically Henry Kissinger -- plotted to overthrow the democratically-elected president of Chile in the early 1970s. The plot succeeded, President Allende was assassinated, and thousands of other Chileans were brutally tortured and murdered. Today, many within the new government of Chile would like to put Kissinger on trial for these acts of terrorism. Do you think the United States will give him up?
Well, that story was forgotten, 48 hours later, as quickly as it had been forgotten 30 years ago.
A few of you have written me to say, Please, Mike, don't talk about this stuff, at least not right now. We need to bury the dead.
I agree. And I apologize to any who have taken offense. No one wants to talk about politics right now -- except our installed leaders in Washington. Trust me, they are talking politics night and day, and those discussions involve sending our kids off to fight some invisible enemy and to indiscriminately bomb Afghans or whoever they think will make us Americans feel good.
I feel I have a responsibility as one of those Americans who doesn't feel good right now to speak out and say what needs to be said: That we, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants. I know it's a hard thing to hear right now, but if I and others don't say it, I fear we will soon be in a war that will do NOTHING to protect us from the next terrorist attack.
I have received more emails this week than ever before -- about a thousand every four hours. Ninety percent of them are from people who also refuse to be drawn into some form of senseless bloodletting, and who agree that we need to find the right way to bring those to justice who committed these acts.
I have been touched by many of your comments and am so sorry I cannot respond to them while I am on the road. But I am sharing your feelings with those I meet (and, I have to say again, it is a Godsend to have an invention like the Internet where I can travel across the country like this and be connected to so many thousands of other Americans and to so many foreigners who grieve for us and fear for what our leaders may do).
We pass over the Continental Divide and Rush Limbaugh babbles on about whom we must bomb. He signs off, and I am sure he is on his way down to the nearest recruiting station to sign up -- for surely he would not expect your son or daughter to risk their lives for freedom while he just sits back and enjoys his new half-billion dollar contract.
Coming into Albuquerque, Kathleen is leafing through the Frommer's travel guide for a place to spend the night. She finds what seems like a nice spot near the White Sands national park, but then reads this passage: "Occasionally the road to the hotel is closed for nearby missile tests." Yes, welcome to New Mexico, the "Land of Enchantment," just one big testing ground brought to you by the originators of every single weapon of mass destruction known to man. We opt for the downtown Hyatt.
The hotel is like a ghost town. "Every convention cancelled," the lady at the counter tells us. I ask the bellman how many people are actually here tonight.
"9.9 percent occupancy," he tells me. Hmmm. Why not just say 10%?
I guess that would be asking for too much optimism on a night like this...
I will write again when we get to our next stop, Oklahoma City.
PS. Three days ago, I learned from someone at ABC News that ABC had videotape -- an angle of the second plane crashing into the tower -- that showed an F-16 fighter jet trailing the plane at a distance.
I have not shared this with you as I had not personally witnessed that tape myself and did not want to contribute to all the unsubstantiated rumors. It just came across on the TV that the government admitted they did dispatch fighter jets when they knew the planes were off course.
From this point, I will pass on any censored information to those of you in the mainstream media who are being blocked from reporting.
Is it becoming more clear now that the plane that went down in Pennsylvania was shot down to prevent it from attacking its destination?
The truth is harrowing, unbearable -- but it must be told to us. A free people cannot make an informed decision if they are kept in the dark. Let's hear ALL the truth NOW.
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