In the process of cleaning out some files recently, I came across a file with some letters I wrote to the editor of the Seattle Times in the past. Why I have been hanging on to these drafts I have no idea, but it was interesting to read through them. This one, written 5 days after 9/11, particularly struck me as being eerily familiar. Check it out, reproduced here verbatim, and see what you think…
Letter to the editor, Seattle Times
September 16, 2001
In the aftermath of the terrible events of September 11, I have heard an increasingly loud message that I find very disturbing. It comes not only from flag-waving citizens demanding revenge, but also from community leaders such as [King] County Executive Ron Sims and national leaders, including President Bush.
The message I hear is a kind of “us-versus-them” chorus that, draping itself in a mantle of patriotism, has stirred up an attitude of outrage and hatred against an enemy whose face we think we have identified. Do we truly believe that our enemy is of a particular ethnic background and religious persuasion, a mere flesh-and-blood adversary who can be eliminated by one swift stroke from an angry nation bent on retaliation? If so, then we have learned nothing from history.
A hundred and fifty years ago, Africans were being bought and sold in this country as slaves. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, we rounded up and imprisoned Japanese-Americans. During the Holocaust, we viewed our German-American neighbors with suspicion. These are just a few examples of how Americans have been influenced by the messages from our leaders.
Years after the Holocaust, a Nazi concentration camp guard recalled, “The worse we treated [the prisoners], the more we hated them.” Think about that.
Our enemy is not a person or a group of people; it is hate. A hate that, kindled and fed to a fire of destructive heat, convinces a few people that their own lives are less important than the hate they attempt to spread and perpetuate through acts of terrorism.
I am a fourth-generation American citizen, and believe me, I am horrified and angry and heartbroken over this attack on our country. I feel the same desire to urge our leaders to action. But what action should they take? They want us to believe that eliminating terrorism in the world is a matter of eliminating terrorists. The disease won’t be cured by treating the symptoms; we must attack the cause, the germ responsible for the infection.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t believe we will arrive at the solution through acts of revenge or walls of insularity. Still, this is the kind of message our leaders are sending to us, and that is what I find the most disturbing.
[end of letter]
This one was not printed in the paper. Next time I’ll post one that was printed, from 1990 during the Gulf War. I was pretty mouthy back then too.