No planes crashed into the bingo hall or the RV park or Avi Kwame, the mountain where people first descended when God created the world.
People respond with more empathy to baby animals than to grown ones, children to adults. We also respond with more empathy to those who look like us. Human nature. A face that looks like one’s mother or child, or like one’s own face staring back from the mirror, generates an identification that different ethnic features or colors doesn’t. Look at any company cafeteria, like groups attract. Doesn’t mean fear or hatred, it’s identity.
The name Osama bin Laden evinces a strong reaction; an American may view the man as evil incarnate, yet others may view him as one who stood up to the tentacles of empire. It’s likely the two extremes also view the victims of 9/11 and those victims of the US government’s resulting ‘war on terrorism’ under different lights.
I have long railed against the indifference displayed by the American public to the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, most recently when seen thru the lens of the jubilation following OBL’s reported death. It was only in the comment thread of a post regarding the operation to kill OBL assigning him the code name Geronimo that I had an epiphany – look to yourself.
I recalled my reaction to 9/11. I thought it was a damn shame, like a tsunami or a terrible fire. The fact that it was intentional made it so much worse. I prayed for the victims. Tears ran down my cheeks when I read of the brave firemen who perished, trudging up stairs with the intention of saving lives. I pictured the horror of those trapped inside as the flames neared them, God’s children exchanging blistering heat for a few more seconds of life; terror so intense I cannot imagine it. Similar to the horror while viewing the earthquake in Haiti.
Then I recalled a conversation later that morning with my closest friend on earth, my cousin Jesus. I don’t remember who initiated the call, I only remember both of us remarking that a hell of a lot of White people were killed. Both of us had been deeply moved while watching film of the burning buildings, but now we joked of our hope that the hijackers weren’t Indian or Mexican. The deaths were already in the abstract. A sad, awful event – but viewed in the abstract. They weren’t like us.
Let’s say Ben Little Horse directed the 9/11 attacks instead of Bin Laden – I’d consider him a hero, and I’d view the victims the way most Americans view Afghan and Iraqi dead – as collateral damage in the background of a larger picture.
Now let’s say on 9/11 OBL had sent hijacked airplanes to crash into buildings on reservations or varrios, jet fuel roasting brown children alive. My rage and hatred would then be undiminished. I’d pray that he be damned to hell, his soul in eternal flames. I’d be hoping his death was slow.
I’d be chanting USA, USA.