by Andrew Rice
[i>Andrew Rice read the following reflection “What Happened to the Truth?” at the Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows One Year celebration at the Judson Memorial Church in NYC on Feb. 14th, the night before the Feb. 15th rally. [/i>
Used to be, before some of the most powerful in this nation were overcome with anxiety and false-pride, that solving a problem was predicated on first looking truthfully at what it is, what causes it, and then proceeding forward with the specific goal of redressing that problem by attempting deal with it’s causes. It all sounds so “pre-9/11” now, so peculiar. We can still to do it in our personal relationships or in reforming our businesses: take an honest appraisal of what is wrong and go from there. If you go to a therapist with your spouse to save your marriage, each of you are usually prompted to look at the difficult truth of what’s harming your relationship. However, in the post-9/11 world, to speak the truth about our conflict with Al-Qaeda, we are told, is unpatriotic – so puzzling. It’s funny how victimization can contort all this. Have 3,000 of your fellow citizens brutally murdered and then you can look at the problem any way you want. It’s your right. When your unjustly terrorized, you don’t have to look at the truth. As we’ve been told, everything’s changed after 9/11, and the most spectacular development of all, is the right that us victimized have now to see our enemies and our problems in the most convenient ways we need and want to.
Well, I know what I’m about to do is treasonous, and because of it, I may even make it onto Bill Bennett’s “internal threat” list, they may even begin monitoring my emails if I ensue this most “Non-Patriot” of acts – but I’m going step back to a more sane time, to the pre-9/11 period, and take a gander at our current mess in the way that we used to be allowed to: I’m going to look at the truth.
It seems to me that my brother David, who worked in the World Trade Center, was a victim of a crime on Sept. 11th, 2001. I know, I know – I’ve been told over and over that he’s a war hero and that now we are at war with “shadowy figures”. Indeed he was a hero. The way in which he lived his 31 years up to that day was truly heroic, he in fact did many miraculous things for people in that way that everyday people seldom get recognized. But a war hero he was not. He actually went to work that day as a bond broker, usually in wars the combatants are aware of being combatants, and the civilians are aware of being civilians. David was murdered by political extremists – he was a victim of a crime against humanity.
It also seems to me that the “embittered few” that are wanting to kill us again, (a number of very angry men who are in fact not few, but many, and who seem to be growing in number by the day) that these killers, who murdered my brother (it says HOMICIDE on his death certificate by the way, not VICTIM OF WAR), aren’t so much as mad about the fact that my mom has the freedom to vote or that in the pre-9/11 period, we had the civil liberty to march and protest in New York City, but instead are avenging in their own horrific, unforgivable way, very real and complex geopolitical problems between the Arab world and the United States government. I know, I know, it so backwards of me to look at it this way. I’ve seen the mainstream news and their reporting on the “truth”; I’ve been a good American and listened to my President, without asking him to explain himself since that is “the best part of his job” he claims. They say it’s an apocalyptic battle between the good (us) and the irreparable evildoers who hate our freedom no matter what we do. It’s a tough maneuver to pull off, but I’m going to hold steady to my pre-9/11 approach and look at Al-Qaeda threats and ideology for what they are. Seems to me, that U.S. military hegemony in the Middle East may have something more to do with the unjust killing of my brother than Al-Qaeda’s desire for an Islamic theocratic world order. Maybe reducing our power in a region where we are greatly disliked, rather than increasing our aggression, would be the way to rationally confront this problem? but that would be so pre-9/11 to look at the truth and proceed from there. How dare we ask ourselves to make sacrifices after being so unjustly terrorized? When your hit unjustly, which of course we were, they say that it’s your God given right to strike back and not negotiate. So funny how Jesus changed President Bush’s heart years ago, but the prince of peace does not seem to have had any impact on his potential to lead us down a path of reconciliation now that we really need to hear that most profound message of Christian love.
Now what about this Iraq situation? I tell you, not being able to look at the truth here really makes things difficult. Let’s see: what our president and secretary of state say is that Saddam Hussein is an immediate threat to our security, that he’s got nukes that he wants to blow us away with, and that he’s been training and harboring Al-Qaeda. Scary stuff indeed. But when I put on my pre-9/11 glasses, I see that Saddam Hussein, though he indeed is an awful dictator, has never threatened to attack Americans or our country, unlike his religious fanatic nemesis Osama Bin Laden. In fact Americans have been busy visiting Iraq over the last 12 years to witness the tragedy of U.N. enforced sanctions, and none of them have been hurt or killed. Interesting. I don’t know if Osama or one of his followers would be so kind if they came upon an American citizen on the streets of Pakistan? Anyone remember horror of Daniel Pearl being murdered?
As for Saddam’s nukes – Bush and his guys have been trying awfully hard to prove he’s got them, and to these pre-9/11 eyes I can’t see the evidence, nor can I find where Saddam’s ever had the intention of using weapons of mass destruction as a “first use” against us and essentially ensuring his own annihilation. As far as I know, George W. Bush has been the only one who’s been threatening that unbelievable act of nuclear first use recently.
I guess there is just something infuriating about having to go about things now in the post-9/11 way that we are told to. It’s been hard to reconcile, still, that my brother is gone, and to be branded “unpatriotic” when I talk about what helped cause a bunch of angry young men to kill him. I thought maybe knowing the truth would help us prevent future atrocities, help us deal with causes rather than just treating the symptoms. In South Africa, a place my brother loved dearly, they have risen to a higher level of human consciousness because of how powerful “truth” can be? it liberates you. I guess I should not expect a unilateralist and often arrogant government like ours to seek out historical lessons from our allies? especially when this advice is so inconvenient when your rigidly obsessed with retaliation, and stuck in denial. Oh, how many of us are such scared and peculiar people nowadays. Funny how a superpower, so intimidating and unprecedented in it’s strength and resolve, can’t deal with the truth.
Rudy Giuliani told us in the early months after Sept. 11th, when Anthrax anxiety was abound, that “those people did not die in those buildings so we could stay in our apartments and hide from the world.” So tonight, I’ll piggyback off of him and say, that the murder of my brother, and the many others, is not redeemed by being scared into appealing to our lowest form of humanity. Our victims are not redeemed by us rationalizing away the importance of international treaties and the U.S. constitution. I know my brother David would want me to insist on upholding and pursuing the best potential of human nature and to not abandon my principles when they become inconvenient. He would want us to treat the brain tumor of terrorism with chemo (reforming American foreign policy), rather than attempting to ameliorate the headache it causes with aspirin (violence and warfare). And that’s what we’re doing here tonight, and what we’ll be doing again tomorrow and beyond. We are helping create a world where less people want to become terrorists – that’s peace work.
[i>Andrew Rice is a board member of Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org), and speaks regularly across the country for a restorative, non-violent solution to terrorism. Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, Rice moved from NYC to Texas to work for the progressive, non-profit TEXAS FREEDOM NETWORK (www.tfn.org) – which counters the influence of religious extremism in politics, and organizes over 400 progressive Texas religious leaders to speak out in favor of compassionate and inclusive democratic communities.
Rice received a BA in Religious Studies from Colby College in Waterville, Maine in 1996, and then earned a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University Divinity School in 1999. In 1999, Andrew produced FROM ASHES, a documentary about an ex-con who runs a hospice for rejected HIV+ people in rural India. FROM ASHES screened at film festivals in the U.S., Canada and India. He has also worked as a documentary producer and editor for BBC and PBS programs.
Andrew Rice’s older brother David Rice was killed on September 11th in the World Trade Center. David worked for the investment firm Sandler O’Neill. He was a 1995 graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, a Fullbright Scholar in South Africa in 1996, and earned his Masters in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics in 1997. A recovering alcoholic for 9 years, he dedicated much of his free time to helping others similarly afflicted. He was 31 years old.[/i>
Published on Friday, February 28, 2003 by CommonDreams.org