CultureThe year as they lived it
Our nightmare (9/19/01)
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Tell us your impressions of the waning year; tell us about geopolitical events in the year that was supposed to change everything; or tell us about your relationships and community, your adversaries or your garden.
We posed these open-ended questions to a varied group of metro Detroiters, from high-school students to college professors, from activists to artists. Here we present the words and thoughts that more than a dozen respondents were generous enough to share.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
“Without criticism and reliable and intelligent reporting, the government cannot govern.”
I’ve been employed by the mainstream media for more than 20 years in Los Angeles and Detroit. I’ve covered earthquakes, riots, fires, floods and now, Sept. 11.
I had an enlightening dinner conversation before Christmas with a fortysomething suburban mom who has become a news junkie ever since the attack. This pretty, pleasant, average woman wondered about my greatest challenge as a radio news anchor. I told her I am duty-bound, despite the inflamed blur of red, white and blue, to fairly present any story. As a journalist, it’s my professional obligation to report the other side.
“Other side?” she asked quizzically. “There is no other side,” stated this patriot with point-blank conviction.
I remember a time when Americans criticized the Soviet news agency, TASS, for one-sided propaganda, and it continues to condemn fascist regimes for restricting the press.
Sadly, I see too many reporters robotically regurgitating whatever government mouthpieces spoon-feed them. Challenging times demand courageous questions. A brave 9-year-old boy poses the following profound questions:
For George Bush: “If we stand for peace, why are we bombing and killing people?”
For John Ashcroft: “Are you ashamed that people are being jailed just because they look Middle Eastern?”
For every corporate CEO who blames layoffs and firings on Sept. 11: “Why does the man who makes $7,000 lose his job while the boss who makes $17 million gets to keep his?”
And perhaps a follow-up, for all of us, so simple yet complex: “Who are the evildoers?”
Innocent, sensitive and unpolluted by bigotry or cynicism, this grade-schooler asks tougher questions than most of my colleagues in a year that was mournfully missing heroes from the ranks of the mainstream press corps. In 2002, consider it this proud mother’s mission to root out some answers for her valiant, inquisitive son. —Jayne Bower is an anchor for WWJ News Radio 950.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
Lost: 1,400 jobs, some lives and much hope. It has been a strange year, filled with unprecedented events for all of us. The Latino community witnessed the loss of a major employer, Mexican Industries. The long battle to bring the union into this major parts supplier owned by former Tiger Hank Aguirre ended sadly. Workers voted in the UAW; the plant closed. Some 1,400 people out of work, one of the company’s subsidiaries, Dos Manos, rushed to finish orders by putting people on overtime schedules and then issued layoff notices to the remaining workers. The same week of the attack on the World Trade Center, a worker from Dos Manos, a 65-year-old Cuban man, got his layoff notice, took a gun to work, shot two co-workers and then turned the gun on himself. (Let’s hear it for the NRA!) No flag was lowered, no plant shut down to pay sad tribute to the convergence of all these broken dreams: arrival to the promised land; the phenomena of Mexican Industries, (capitalism in post-industrial Detroit) providing jobs for the Mexican community in Detroit (the Empowerment Zone?), the thrill of a union victory, the UAW in Detroit, the labor capital of the world? So many questions in the New Order.
Found: Our elders’ story. A group of us, descendants of Mexican families who arrived in Detroit in the ’20s and ’30s, celebrated the 300th birthday of Detroit by documenting the oral history of Los Repatriados, offering this tribute to our elders who were deported during the Depression. Approximately 15,000 Mexicans were voluntarily or forcefully deported between 1929 and 1939. Many who returned never talked about it, thus it is a little-known event in our own community.
On Oct. 7, 300 people from our Mexican community went to the Detroit Institute of Arts to view the screening of Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land. They also participated in the first public discussion with Chicano historians and elders who themselves were deported during this sad epoch in our history. Children are asked to interview their grandparents; we are making connections with our elders and youth in ways we never dreamed possible. Artwork, theatrical productions, music and video documentaries are reflecting this lost era, now revealed to us, thanks to our elders. We hope this tale of our history serves to galvanize us and all immigrant groups for the impending scapegoating and deportations facing us now. The difference between then and now? There was no one willing to defend the Mexicans from government agencies. Because of their efforts, we are here and we will stand against such injustices: Nunca Mas! Never Again! —Elena Herrada is a union organizer and political activist.
Peter Mark Williams
WEDDINGS & HISTORY
The course for 2001 began in August 2000 when my divorce proceedings finalized. We’d been separated for three years, so I expected it would be pro forma. But before I knew it, I was in a funk that affected nearly everything that I did (and didn’t do) this year.
On New Year’s Eve, I watched with interest as Mayor Dennis Archer opened the Century Box, sealed by Mayor William C. Maybury on New Year’s Day 1901. I was a graduate teaching assistant in Michigan history at Wayne State University and looked forward to the coming yearlong celebration of Detroit 300. I also had begun to sense a growing personal significance in the city’s motto: “Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus.” — “We hope for better days; It shall rise from its ashes,” written by Fr. Gabriel Richard in the aftermath of the great fire of June 11, 1805. I thought of that as I dug in emotionally, and especially after Sept. 11.
It is ironic that I attended seven weddings this year, two on April 7. No event speaks more to the hope that one’s days will henceforth be better than a wedding.
I attended many Detroit 300 events. I enjoyed the celebration of the past and forward gaze to a brighter future for a city that, like me, suffers a touch of melancholia. The high points of the summer were the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and the Concert of Colors. They exemplified the diversity we in America know we need, claim to want, but usually relegate to mere buzzword. And there was no trouble at either event.
You asked if we thought the world was really different in the “post-Sept. 11 Era.” I don’t think so. The world was no different the day after you discovered that there was no Easter Bunny than it was the day before — just how you felt about it and yourself. Everything we know now was there for the knowing had we been willing to know.
In fact, I think that Speramus meliora; Resurget cineribus would be a better motto than “United We Stand.” It speaks the truth of how we feel as a nation, as a city and, as I can attest, how many of us feel personally, without the frightening nationalistic chauvinism. The history of the 20th century alone should be warning enough about just how dangerous a sentiment that can become. A happy and hopeful new year to you all. —Peter Mark Williams is a Wayne State University master’s student and a researcher for the Detroit African-American History Project Web site (set to launch in February 2002).
POWER OF ONE
Never have I felt so vulnerable and alone, yet so close to family and friends and to people around the world as I do today. The personal losses I experienced this year have taught me the preciousness of life alongside moments of profound pain. This is a time when I, and others suffering losses, get to look at the important sources of strength, and what are the fantasies — surface pictures of success — that can be destructive.
Our society has begun to honor just folks again. Sept. 11 reminded us of the power of one — to hurt many or to help them. It reminded us about the difference between celebrities and heroes — people who thought of others before themselves; those who did their job well, beyond the call of duty for the benefit of others.
Let’s not forget about the nature of power especially when one loses touch with the community of men and women, whether you are the head of a company, a terrorist organization, a social club or even a family.
Before we distance ourselves too quickly from what we call evil, it’s important to understand where we are similar, not just different.
The suicide part, for example, is sadly not just the method of choice of terrorists trying to be heard, but of our teenagers too.
How do we value ourselves as well as others? How well do we listen to what is troubling us or another?
Perhaps we’re ready as a nation to discuss the meaning of that phrase in our Declaration of Independence that tends to get brushed off on the heels of the more profound rights of “life and liberty.” What do we mean by “the pursuit of happiness?”
How does what we’ve learned over the past year help us to understand it? —Sharon Luckerman is a staff writer for the Jewish News.
As this incredible year comes to an end, I find that its triumphs and overwhelming tragedy have created a new spiritual awakening in me. My senses have become more fine-tuned, and I now approach each day as if it were a major adventure. This year I celebrated my 40th birthday and continue to delight that I am frequently required to show my I.D. before I can enter clubs. (I thank my grandmother for excellent genes!)
This year offered me the opportunity to broaden my scope as an artist, art educator, businessperson and community activist. I embrace this challenge without hesitation. I do not feel that I am wearing many hats, only one. My being a candidate for Detroit City Council puzzled many skeptics who didn’t understand why I would seek an office without major endorsements or money. As an activist for the Detroit community, I knew that I was making the right decision in running for office. With lots of prayer and support from my family, friends, the art community and a donated school bus, I was in the top 50 after the primary. I extend a multitude of thanks to those who voted for me.
My other life as an educator keeps me close to young people who supply me with info on the hippest gear, dances, footwear, video geeks, hip-hop artists, sports and animation in the city. They bring me joy.
The art world of fellow artists, clients, curators, gallerists and art writers has increased my scholarship in the quest for continuity between art and viewer.
From the catastrophic images of Sept. 11 and national mourning, the me became we. The picture is larger as we are thrust into a new reality.
This is my 40th year. My true mentor is my mom, whose strength, encouragement and vision have placed me here.
I am thankful for my life. —Painter Jocelyn Rainey directs the JRainey Gallery in Eastern Market.
Senior year. Everyone always said that it was the best year of your life. So far, I haven’t exactly felt the love. It seems like everyone is always on edge, you know? Like I’m always on thin ice with people whom I had always gotten along so well with. I don’t know if it is because everyone is nervous to grow up or just the fact that everyone is changing in order to soften the blow for next year.
This is a hard year. We want to have fun but we also need to get ready for the rest of our lives. Having already been accepted to college, it is hard to keep myself focused. Senioritis!
Thinking about next year is hard. I realize that every single one of my friends will be in a different place. And it will be up to me to keep in contact with the people I love.
So this year is my last year to be a kid. The last year that I can make mistakes. My last year living rent-free. My last year as “daddy’s little girl.”
Next year will be good too, but for now, I’m holding on to 2001 as long as possible. —Jennifer Gutsue is an honors English student at Hamtramck High School.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
Mean people really do suck.
High school civics was extremely important, and one should be ashamed that it took a horrifying, cataclysmic act of terror to get them to realize that, from the president on down.
The world changed forever on Sept. 11, as it does every day. People live and die. It’s a question of degree and proximity, and it has always been thus.
Patriotic civilians knew to fly the flag on June 14, 2001, and how.
It has always been patriotic to question authority.
The lesson from second grade — bullies only understand pushing back — applies as adults.
Domestic terrorist attacks do not increase a president’s IQ.
The mainstream press cannot walk and chew gum at the same time or we would know everything about the Florida presidential recount, and how Enron financed Dubya’s campaign (and what the quid pro quo was).
Being a leader in the global community is a good thing, and was between Jan. 20 and Sept. 10.
If Gore secured the presidency he earned, we could well be enduring another impeachment. “Bipartisanship,” circa 2001, is a one-way street.
If Clinton or Gore had even proposed the civil rights evisceration of the last three months, “jackbooted thugs” would have rejoined our daily vocabulary.
If, after your country has suffered its worst one-day death toll on its own soil in 140 years, you don’t get a part of your political agenda passed, the terrorists have won.
“The terrorists have won” has become the worst, most overused hyperbole in the history of the universe, faster than anything, ever.
When you have 24 hours a day of “news” to fill, nature abhors a vacuum.
To understand that better, you need to read medianews.org.
Bubba and his people didn’t really trash the White House on their way out.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Never could. —Lex Kuhne is a Birmingham attorney and former Metro Times columnist.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
It’s hard to know where to begin, reflecting on a year with so much that has happened. Celebrating my 20th year in the real estate business (with 15 years with my own company) in downtown Detroit is a good place to start. Now, an opportunity to liquidate and move on has become more enticing as the effects that come with turning 50 are more evident. Couple that with the events of Sept. 11 and it seriously impacts your priorities. A certain weariness of doing the same basic things for 20 years gets stronger especially when the progress you expect is not on the schedule you expected. I’ve been saying “five years from now …” since the Ren Cen opened in 1977. I really believed Detroit would be further along by now in its revitalization. What I see are missed opportunities to rebuild the city around new housing and support of small businesses. Detroit is always suckered in by doing the mega projects while ignoring the smaller ones that are the foundation of any city. Being an eternal optimist, though, I’m hoping the new mayor, Kilpatrick, will have a broader vision of inclusion in his plans and the backbone to carry them out.
The events of Sept. 11 had a major initial impact and will have some permanent impact. Some of the patience and politeness of three months ago have vanished. I see people again blowing their horns at other drivers. Recent experiences with MichCon and Comcast have convinced me that customer service has only gotten worse. You know, it’s hard to figure out exactly what is going on with the economy. Every day thousands are being laid off and companies are going bankrupt. Car sales are at their peak and retail isn’t doing too badly. Predictions are the economy will be OK soon into next year, with or without this stimulus package being fought over in Congress. We are making progress in Afghanistan but still haven’t caught bin Laden. At least reading the latest information about the tragedy and some heartwarming side stories puts me back into that more peace-loving, caring mood. Other than that, its still a crazy world, and I am looking forward to a prosperous and healthy 2002. —Ray Parker heads RFP Associates in downtown Detroit.
(Metro Times Photo / Larry Kaplan)
SEASON OF THE WITCH
This was a year that started out well enough. After all, it was the first real year of the millennium and Detroit’s 300th birthday. Unfortunately, Americans had not listened to Jessie Jackson’s election warning to “Stay out of the Bushes.” We had just had an almost Republican president in Clinton. The economy was starting to slow a little but most folks felt it was a momentary blip.
Yes, things were pretty bright, and for Arab-Americans things were more than bright. Our community was beginning to make inroads both politically and culturally. We were courted by presidential candidates. Hell, one of them — Ralph Nader — was actually an Arab-American himself. ACCESS and its work were growing by leaps and bounds. Along with New Detroit and the cultural exchange committee, ACCESS had launched the largest world music festival in the country, “The Concert of Colors.” ACCESS was also about to announce a $15 million capital campaign to build the first Arab-American museum in the country as well as several other institutions. This kind of growth was taking place throughout the community, with expanded mosques and churches, new schools and other buildings. The only dark spot during this time was the deteriorating relationship with the African-American community and Arab and Chaldean store owners, a situation that members of both communities hoped would be resolved by people of good will.
Then on Sept. 11 it all went bad, terribly bad! Thousands died in the World Trade Center bombing, including 800 Arabs and Arab-Americans. Then, like an atomic bomb, the ripple effects of the bombings began. In the first wave came shock and accusations. Then the backlash, attacks on Arabs and Muslims and anyone who looked like them. Then came the “Ashcroft effect,” an intense deconstruction of civil rights for all Americans via the “U.S.A. Patriot Act” and several other pieces of legislation. In one fell swoop, we Americans suffered an unprecedented loss of civil liberties that now allows the government almost unlimited entry into our private lives. Immigrants, however, and Arab-Americans in particular were singled out for the worst of these laws. They now can be arrested, deported, and held without ever seeing their accuser or ever knowing what they have been charged with.
Yes, this truly is the season of the witch. All, however, is not lost. There are groups like the ACLU and young anti-war marchers and a growing sense in America that something is not right. There also is a growing sense in the Arab-American community that we can persevere.
And this gives me hope. That’s how any new year should begin — with a bit of hope. —Ismael Ahmed is executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).
SHOOTING THE BLUES
Robert Jr. Whitall
Reflecting at year’s end 2001 in this time of peace and religious traditions as publisher and editor of Big City Blues, my thoughts and passions focus on New York City. Trying to keep the blues alive, the road led to New York four times this year. It began New Year’s Eve 2000 with a feature cover shoot of Shemekia Copeland at B.B. King’s in Times Square. In spite of 16 inches of snow we got the shot and it was special. As the year progressed and I kept running into my New York friends the Holmes Brothers, we kept talking about doing an issue on New York City. In August when Chicago B.L.U.E.S. in New York closed it was brought to my attention that there were no places for the blues in New York. I contemplated doing a story on no blues in New York.
On the morning of Sept. 11 that thought was gone — New York City had the blues. The New York City issue now became clear to me. I contacted Wendell Holmes and we set up the cover shot for Monday, Oct. 8, at the Fulton Street Pier in Brooklyn Heights so the background would be the dramatic backdrop of Lower Manhattan without the World Trade Center towers. The shoot went off without a hitch.
To complete the New York issue we found ourselves in New York again in November for a group shot with the great skyline behind them like the cover shot with the Holmes Brothers. We got 120 e-mail replies from musicians who would be there on Nov. 12. At 9 a.m. that day, an airplane crashed in Rockaway Beach and New York was shut down, closing all bridges and tunnels. The photo was taken with only the 31 people who were able to get there.
Back home in the Motor City I was besieged by New York musicians who couldn’t make the shoot and asked if we could reshoot the photo. They felt and I agreed that New York had more to show than 31 musicians. On Dec. 16, I made my fourth and final 2001 trip to New York; this time the magic happened. Seventy-one people and one dog made the photo, and with the breathtaking skyline behind them my New York story was done.
To see these photos of New York visit www.bigcitybluesmag.com or pick up a Dec./Jan ‘02 copy of Big City Blues Magazine or at the Tangent Gallery in Detroit until Jan. 20 (313-875-7302). —Robert Jr. Whitall is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Big City Blues magazine.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
FAITH & ABSURDITIES
2001 will forever be defined by the events of Sept. 11, both personally and universally. What else are we to write about — The Beatles having a number one record 30 years after their creative death or the cynicism of Britney Spears (the fact that she exploits sex for profit without understanding it; the fact that her handlers know who her audience is; the fact that thinking adults actually like her, on and on ad nauseam)?
And say what you'd like about unification, tribute shows or America's mallish new patriotism — it's a year defined by violence. Violence is so much like cancer, both so resolute in their ugly ambition. After violence, just as it is after cancer, presuming you survive, there's only exhausted relief. There is no joy in enduring something you wish you'd never known in the first place. My wife and I would often remark after the destruction that the nation's shattered illusions now matched our own — the collective mood was identical to the singular. And that's where we are now. As a result of my own experience I now have a significant respect for death, love and time, which is a long way from saying I'm "happy" I no longer have leukemia. (Although, obviously, I am, and then some.) Just as I can't accept that people say they're "happy" we're winning the war. I'm not much on dancing Osama Bin Ladens.
So this year we all learned that there's an absurdity to the world, to existence ..."duh," my kids would say. "Get over it," goes the phrase of the day ... no getting over this one. But even with the fallen illusions and absolutes of mortality there remains joy and love and faith ... life, where you can find it. Faith is a choice I guess, believing that God's will is independent of man and nature's action. Norman Mailer argues that evil of this size exists because God is imperfect and embattled as we are imperfect and embattled. Our time and trouble matters greatly now ... As Shakespeare wrote, "There is providence in the fall of a sparrow." Although I remain unconvinced that he's up to the job, Bush has done a good job, in a very singular sense: Even his speechwriters came up with a very poignant line: "Every life lost was a world unto itself."
As far as my job, I agree with Dylan, who said this spring, "If I were born in these times I wouldn't even play music. I wouldn't listen to the radio." So writing songs in the face of the music business ("enemies by definition, music and business," wrote Lester Bangs) and confused audiences is in itself an act of heroism. Here's to all of us, whether we're charlatans, dreamers or the last of the true believers, answering whim's call every morning ... it actually makes more sense now, in a way, to have a job with no physical structure — a job that on the surface makes no sense to the straight world, but still a job that gracefully attempts to make meaning out of the glistening shards of memory and emotion. Besides, I'm a father; to ever give up on love — the one thing of this world always hopeful and enduring in its effulgence — would be to give up on my kids. So we live on with things seldom imagine just days or months or hours ago. Other than that, it was a great year ... other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? —Stewart Francke’s recordings include What We Talk of ...When We Talk and Swimming in Mercury.
In the process of creating art there is first a communion with oneself before the manifest art is brought before its audience. However, with the knowledge that there is more of an audience than simply the creator, the artist is faced with a challenge. The artist will choose to refine or muddle, and to repress or take risks with the message. This is the same process with all methods of expression and communication and all methods risk gaining and losing a percentage of the audience. To get beyond this issue entirely of what others think or infer from one’s own personal choices is an underrated triumph. It is through visual art and interaction with people of foreign language and culture that I have taken communicational risks this year.
Throughout the course of 2001 I began and eventually exhibited a series of work dealing directly with the topic of communication and its pitfalls. I employed the use of Braille, sign language and undecipherable handwriting. The results communicated what, for me, literal language could not. My ultimate objective may have been to be secure enough to accept truth and therefore be honest to and about myself. Ironically and appropriately, truth has an ever-changing face. The face of truth today becomes the vehicle for deception tomorrow. If we are resistant to necessary change then we practice self-deception. This is something that many overlook.
During my stay in Scotland and Ireland this year I was able to have conversations at length with travelers from all over the earth. I discovered how eager people are to gain the tools of communication when the gap is wide enough. Why are we so indifferent to true understanding when we have common language?
The first days of 2002 I will be in Amsterdam. When I return to Detroit, this interaction of culture and language need not stop. Therefore, I will be regularly volunteering at the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. The opportunity to explore a world so foreign to most of us, resides within walking distance of the Cultural Center. —Sculptor Phaedra Robinson works with detroit contemporary gallery.
(Metro Times Photo / Bruce Giffin)
FACING THE UNKNOWN
Fear, shock, strength, sadness, hope. Just some of the words that spring to mind when reviewing 2001. Each year most people have high and low points and last year proved to be no exception. In the first half of the year my husband and I had personal triumphs, enjoyed visits to my birthplace in England and spent good times with family there and friends here. In August we suffered a family tragedy. This event had already made me very conscious of the importance of living for each day and how life can knock you sideways. Then came Sept. 11 and the hideous anthrax scares. To those of us who have lived in countries already visited by devastating terrorist attacks the size and scale of the New York disaster was stunning. It was obvious there would be changes within this nation and the international community.
On a national level there seems a heightened awareness and more media coverage of worldwide events, and perhaps more willingness to listen to other nations. Internationally there has been cooperation between countries but we will have to wait some years before we know the full impact of all that has happened.
I have been asked whether I noticed changes in the American people. I sense a stronger isolationist mentality in some, a more thoughtful attitude in others, the same friendliness I have always encountered and a mixture of views on political issues.
Before this time my only qualm about living here was the gun culture, which I found very alien and disturbing. This tension has now disappeared. All of us face the unforeseen and unknowable and in this new year we will still make plans, set goals and live by our ideals. My hope for 2002 is for respect between nations and compassion and understanding between people. —Dawn Beavon is a British citizen who lives in Ferndale. She is a youth theater director and works for Beaumont Hospital.
All I’ve actually discovered in my 16 years of life on this planet is that I know absolutely nothing about life. Once I finally answer one of life’s questions, it seems more questions are just around the corner. This summer, however, I was given an opportunity to grasp who I really am.
About five months ago, I was in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado on an Outward Bound course. This is where I spent 23 days living with all my belongings on my back. This turned out to be my most life-changing experience. The trip included a 14-mile endurance run and a three-day solo, and taught technical climbing skills, environment-friendly camping techniques and lessons in leadership.
The satisfaction I received from completing each day on the trip made me wonder why anyone would resort to drugs when there is so much real fun to be found in the world. It seems to me that teenagers around here don’t seem to appreciate the difference between fake, substance-based fun and real fun. So put down the hookah and do something productive, start a band, read a book, do something you’ll be proud of the next morning.
I began the trip, unsure if I would be able to meet the rigorous physical demands, and came out thinking that no task in life is too large. Now that I have learned to maneuver my way around any mountain range with only a topographical map and a compass, I feel as if school work and life’s everyday tasks just aren’t as difficult anymore. I highly recommend an Outward Bound course for anyone who needs to be reminded of who they are, or enlightened about who they could be. —Alex Gorosh is a junior at Roeper School in Birmingham.
Why do they hate us?
As a historian, this question — asked mostly by white Americans in the wake of Sept. 11 — struck me as naivé, at best, and arrogant, at worst.
As a student of U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the CIA’s half-century of covert (but by no means secret) intrigues abroad, during which it waged wars, toppled governments, and plotted the assassination of foreign leaders deemed a threat or obstacle to U.S. interests, my immediate reaction to this question was the same as that of most black people I spoke with then and since: What goes around comes around.
As a student of U.S. domestic policy, and particularly the FBI’s near-century of clandestine (but by no means secret) intrigues at home, during which it waged wars on dissent, destroyed lives and movements, and instigated violence against American leaders deemed a threat or obstacle to national security, I won’t apologize for this reaction, nor hasten to assure white Americans that everyone feels the way that they do.
The targets of these foreign and domestic intrigues were usually people of color. As a member of an oppressed class, America in 2001 meant a return to those bad old days.
I am only one of many who believe that America’s racist seeds have helped to create an environment that now threatens all Americans, yet few seem prepared to look at its roots.
My parents and older siblings were involved in the movement against racism and war. I’m old enough to have personal memories of a time when dissent was seen as treason, questioning the status quo was considered subversive, and one was deemed guilty because of religion, ethnicity, beliefs, and/or associations.
Then, as now, the government justified its narrowing of civil liberties by declaring a righteous war against an evil external enemy and an insidious “fifth column” in our midst, usually foreign-born with distinctive names, lifestyles and beliefs.
Then, as now, the powers-that-be exploited grief and promoted fear to erect a powerful national security apparatus that included an attorney general’s list of subversive organizations.
Then, as now, the war and justice seemed color-coded.
When a young white man was convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing, a national net of suspicion was not cast over all young white men with crew cuts as being potential terrorists or accessories. The same cannot be said of Arab-Americans and Muslims today or Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When the mainstream media christened New York City police officers as “heroes,” many black people wondered where this courage was when few to none crossed the thin blue line to testify against their brothers in the heinous mutilation of a black Haitian and the firing-squad shooting of a black Guinean.
Even black law enforcement officers have been victimized by New York’s finest for being unlucky enough to be caught standing, walking, running or driving while black.
Many African-Americans wonder why white Americans who support an open-ended campaign for against foreign terrorists seem deaf to or outright dismissive of calls for reparations for centuries of homeland enslavement.
Some black Americans noted the coincidence of the United States refusal to allow the question of reparations to even be raised at the U.N. conference against racism in Durban, South Africa — only days before Sept. 11.
Of course, those who make such a link will be called emotional, irrational, oversensitive, confused, hateful. But, as Malcolm X said, a person who’s been stabbed with a nine-inch knife is not consoled when it’s pulled out six inches, particularly when the one who put it there avoids admitting it or the damage it caused, and fails to appreciate that, even if it was removed, it would still leave a scar. —Historian Paul Lee is the director of Best Efforts Inc., a professional research and consulting service based in Highland Park.
I love Detroit. I believe we are all Detroiters at heart. That is why I call myself Dr. Detroit, for a city which is proud, joyful and creative.
I am an optimist. My Gray Panther friend Ethel Schwartz said, “Don’t tell me what’s wrong. I already know that. Tell me what’s right, how we can make things better.”
My activism and contact with this beautiful and noble community last year gives me hope for Detroit and the world.
Detroit has soul and great music. Labor and civil rights are important to us. So is family and our love of life.
Detroit’s progressives must remember that our vision is of a loving community where we feel safe and supported. We need less blameology and victimology, more hope for the future and the possible human, to save ourselves is to save the world, inner peace and outer peace, evolving global justice and a politics of love.
Now is the time for us to complete our life legacy. We are creating our future as we think, speak and act. Our visionary hopes for the future require all of us to show respect to each other. To embrace tolerance and decency, unity in diversity. And to continue to build a win-win world. All we need is guts, brains and compassion. We need a good-news network where our positive visions will create a tipping point in human consciousness, allowing a paradigm shift from the creed of greed to one of peace and justice.
Remember all that you are grateful for. Gratitude will give you more strength and love to live the rest of your life. A little bit of solitude, a whole lot of gratitude and a loving attitude. —University of Detroit Mercy professor Mike Whitty is currently researching the future of work.
THE YEAR 2001 – AMERICA’S YEAR
I had no idea that when I boarded a flight to Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, that when I stepped out, my whole world would be turned upside down. In the hour and a half that I was in the air, our nation was the target of the most vicious attack in its history. As the Midwest Regional Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s premier civil rights organization on behalf of Arab Americans, I knew that I faced a long road ahead. I just wasn’t quite sure how rough this road would be.
It took me four days to catch a flight back to Detroit, and when I returned I was greeted with a swarm of media inquiries about how ADC felt about the attacks. How did ADC feel? How would any human being with a shred of empathy feel about news of these attacks? Why were we, as Arab and/or Muslim Americans, expected to feel any different? As days passed, media inquiries increased, but were more sensitive. Besides the media, we were faced with threats to our work, our daily lives and our well-being. However, along with these threats, we received an outpouring of support from various organizations, government agencies and individuals.
Reflecting back on the two months that followed September 11, I wonder how I managed to maintain some sense of normalcy in my daily life. Like all Americans, I am justified in saying that life will never be like it was before September. Has the media contributed to our belief that America has changed? I would be more apt to say that, if anything, it reinforced this belief. We cannot deny that things are different now. Waiting hours in line to go through security at airports, increased security on airplanes, in malls, during large events, etc. reminds us how different things have become. Our perception of flying, the question of civil liberties and our feelings of safety and security have all been altered. To say that life has changed is an understatement. Life has taken us on a roller coaster ride and shaken us completely.
The year 2001 will remain significant in my memory for more reasons than one. While our nation’s infrastructure was shook, it did not crumble. Our strength, our resolve and our solidarity were tested on September 11. Yes, lives were lost. Yes, we were forced to cope. Yes, America was changed, but we emerged strong and we were steadfast in our commitment to help each other work through such difficult times. This year is more than just the year in which terrorist attacks shook America. It is the year in which we, as Americans, united and remained strong for the sake of our freedom. —Imad Hamad is the Midwest Regional Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
(Metro Times Photo / Bill Gemmell)
During the 1980s, the United States allied with the Afghan freedom fighters to defeat the Soviet empire. Today, the United States has engaged the Afghan fighters to battle the war on terrorism. This renewed alliance is based on the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States as well as the imminent threat of terror against the peoples of both countries. Depictions of this renewed alliance flashes across television screens around the world. We saw Afghan ground troops fighting shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Special Forces at Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, and Tora Bora, Afghans and Americans standing side by side for the U.S. flag-raising ceremony at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Marines at Camp Rhino performing a 21-gun salute at the funeral of a fallen Afghan warrior, injured Afghan and American fighters being evacuated together to one of several U.S. naval ships in the northern Arabian Sea for medical treatment, and U.S. Marines joining in playing the Afghanistan national sport of buzkashi. The brave Afghan warriors who helped the United States vanquish the terrorists should be credited for their very important role, for without them, the United States would have had to go into the war on its own and, of course, that may have been another tale thankfully never to be told.
The United States clearly recognizes the critical role the Afghans played in the first battle in the war on terrorism. The policy of reconstruction and redevelopment of Afghanistan is not only in the national security interests of both nations but it also provides the foundation for an enduring and rewarding relationship for both countries. Unfortunately, the soil of Afghanistan was used as a battlefield by several armies over the last three decades and so the infrastructure of Afghanistan was obliterated by the conditions of war. As the new year takes hold, Afghans are hopeful that the renewed friendship between the peoples of our two countries proves to be faithful and beneficial. —Khalid Sekander is a Detroit lawyer who was born and raised in Afghanistan.
Tarek R. Dika
It’s a paradox. One year (actually 14 months) into the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, and the overwhelming amount of casualties have been Palestinian (559), a fourth of whom were under the age of 18. While Israel reoccupies villages, extra-judicially kills Palestinian activists, demolishes homes, continues to build its peace-hindering settlements, it steals the claims of fighting a "defensive war."
How is it that a functioning state, which subjugates another people, deprives them of their land, jobs, rights and dignity is fighting a "defensive war"? Or better, how is it that a landless people are fighting an offensive war? It seems to be quite the opposite. The intifada represents an attempt by an occupied people to defend themselves from military occupation, from joblessness and poverty, humiliation and desperation.
All the while, the Bush administration seems satisfied with its policy of selective terror: that is, condemning Arafat’s terror and ignoring Israel’s. Israel shoots lethal weapons at Palestinian demonstrators, makes economic development impossible by setting up roadblocks and checkpoints between cities and continues to build illegal settlements.
These are policies strikingly similar to what the British did in South Africa during the colonial period: setting up settlements, depriving the indigenous population of their political freedom, demolishing houses and killing demonstrators. Yet when Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress fought back, the only people to call them terrorists were the Afrikaners, who were, by chance, the settlers.
The case is no different in the Middle East, where we are experiencing what Robert Fisk calls "the last colonial war," a war of liberation from military occupation and the apartheid policies it comes with.
So it’s been a year. For many of us, so much has changed. For Palestinians, however, 2002 will mark the 35th year of continued, unabated, military occupation. The only things that have changed are an increase in deaths, settlements, and restrictions on movement. Happy New Year, Palestine. —Tarek R. Dika is a journalist for the Arab American Journal in Dearborn.
The horrendous terrorism act on Sept. 11 was one of the most shocking events I've had to experience. The media has made this incident the hottest topic of the year. The minute I witnessed this horrific devastation, I believed America would be changed forever. The media kept on insisting that it had, also. It has now been more than three months since the attacks and I question, is America any different?
Living in such a small town, filled with various cultures, many being Muslim, I thought chaos was about to erupt. I was, without a doubt, completely mistaken. I realized that many of the citizens in Hamtramck have grown up with Muslim friends or neighbors. They are accustomed to sharing a community with Muslims, causing no desire to place blame upon them. It was not as if the Muslims of Hamtramck are members of the Taliban. However, the world is filled with ignorant and arrogant people, when combined made into a terribly bad mixture. Many Americans wanted to strike back immediately, though that wasn't the most rational idea. In fact, I agreed on how the government handled the upsetting situation. Since, the government didn't know exactly who committed the act of terrorism, how were they to act upon it? This gave the citizens of America a chance to come to their senses. In reality, waiting to act helped bring America together.
So, to answer my question, I do believe America has changed, but for the better. The people are more apt to aid to one another. Which I think can only lead to an improvement in society. —Amber Keen is an honors English student at Hamtramck High School.
PLEA TO AMERICA
The attacks on this country on Sept. 11 have devastated the lives of many. I have seen the images flashing across the television screen: desperate rescue workers sifting vainly through rubble; firefighters valiantly unveiling an American flag across the side of the Pentagon; distraught families searching for missing loved ones. This act will forever change the American way of life. But please don’t let it change what America values.
As an American Muslim I’m sure that not only the credibility of my words but also the value of who I am has now dropped dramatically. After Sept. 11 in this land of hopes and dreams, American Muslims have been diminished. A Sikh man was murdered outside the gas station that he owned. The reason: He was wearing a turban. He was deemed guilty by association, though, in fact, his only association was his ancestry. A Pakistani man was shot and killed. The reason: He looked like "those people." Mosques across the nation have been targeted with bomb threats. That a religious or racial group would be singled out to bear the brunt of America’s anger is not something this country has valued, or ever will.
America has asked many Islamic states to join them in this war with an "If you’re not with us, you’re against us" policy. For the sake of retaliation, is it necessary to put an entire country, one that is not guilty of any crime, into such a state of instability? This does not mean we should not ask for their assistance. I just hope we will not demand cooperation as a requirement of maintaining diplomatic relations with us.
Those who are lost will never be forgotten, and we must fight back against those who have comitted this heinous crime. But, we must also be cautious that we do not sink to their level. —Besima Alesevic is an honors English student at Hamtramck High School.
(Photo courtesy Jeffery Sauger)
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If you are doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about, Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true. Who wants to be a millionaire? They burn Witches, don’t they? —Troy Gregory fronts the Witches, a Detroit rock band.
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