Tag Archives: 911

Thoughts on 9/11 Ten Years After

I am probably one of very few people in North America who has never seen a picture of the Twin Towers falling. Ever. In ten years. There are several reasons for this. I didn’t and don’t have a TV because I feel very bludgeoned emotionally by the trauma and tragedy of the world. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. I care very much. Too much. So I have never wanted to see the people falling, the towers crumbling.

Even ten years later, when CBC’s The Current talks to a girl who was 12 at the time in a school near by, I find myself welling up with tears and emotion. It affected me enough that I don’t think I could handle the images. And I know what a terrible thing it was.

I was geographically far removed from the event, living in Vancouver, BC. And when a friend posted online in the morning before I went to work that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center I thought it was an unfortunate accident. As I drove to work I soon realized the severity of what was going on. I was glued to the radio all day, alternating between tears and panic.

I felt a fear that day that I had never known before and it makes me very sad to realize that many people have gone through this or live in a constant state of fear in countries and regimes fueled by violence and tyrannies. My world, my comfy world of little mundane issues was turned upside down. Like many, I didn’t know if we were under attack and war had reached our shores. I only know that my security was undermined and I was not prepared. Ten years later, were we to be attacked full on, I find I’m still unprepared. How do you prepare for such a thing. I’d like to think I’d survive, that I’m tough, that I’d adapt, but I don’t really know, and I hope I never have to find out.

The falling of the towers was also the final clincher in my mental health. I didn’t know I was going into clinical depression. I was already suffering from despair and sadness and not being able to cope with the little things. I was knocked completely for a loop after that. It was a long, painful year of recovery after that.

My story “Horizons” for the Mammoth Book of On the Road was for a collection of road trip stories. It was written during this time and about a woman who is late for work and therefore doesn’t die when 9/11 happens. She deals with guilt about being tardy while others were good and showed up on time. She also chooses to disappear, drive into the wilderness and camp for who will know that she didn’t die in the collapse of the towers? Interestingly, this story (which is not SF) got very little attention or reviews and even I forget about its existence. I might post it on this blog in the next few days.

What 9/11 did was put the Taliban on the map for many of us. It also gave George Bush his misguided holy crusade. Perhaps the good things were that emergency response measures and security were looked at closely but we also received an overlarge dose of paranoia. To this day it’s easier to fly from Canada to Europe than it is to the US because of ludicrous standards. And line ups and waits at airports seem to increase every year with another over-the-top precaution. Not all of them are but there are significantly stupid ones.

Many of us perhaps grew more fearful. Overall I haven’t, though it’s such reminders as this and close friends dying that tell me to enjoy every day and make it worthwhile. I still love and fear but I don’t let some threat keep me from doing the things I want, ever. And I will never understand nor condone that innocent lives should ever be taken just so some nutjob who wants to push his/her views on someone else can get attention. Here’s to world peace, letting us live and love and working at not hurting each other.

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Bigotry and the Dumbing Down of the US

The US continues to perpetuate the stereotype that Americans are stupid. There is always a truth in a stereotype. While I know many intelligent Americans I wonder at the great gobbets of them who have such a bigoted and kneejerk reaction as to stop using their faculties for reasoning, deduction and fairness. No political system is perfect and really, democracy only works with 100 people or less (in my opinion) before its edges get a little rough.

Nine years after 9/11 and the stupidity seems to be mounting, not lessening. Certain small-minded, fear-laden people are equating the building of a mosque near ground zero with terrorism and other silly notions. They’ve used such rabid comments even in their Republican and Tea Party campaigns. What comments? Oh, let’s see, equating a Muslim to a terrorist, showing a picture of a nearly stereotypical turban-wearing man as a terrorist, calling candidates of Lebanese descent (and Christian) as being Arab. The amount of ignorance, fear mongering and bigotry is astounding.

Now, not all republicans are bad, or so right wing that they can only see sideways, but this attitude that everyone of the Muslim faith is a jihadist terrorist is outright ridiculous and dangerous. Why dangerous? Well if someone kept calling me a terrorist or some other nasty phrase when I was not I would tend to be less forgiving of anything they did and maybe just maybe would decide that if I was already branded then I may as well play the part.  The best way to show the idiocy of such allegations and get sense into the thickening skulls of such people is to give a comparison. If all terrorists are Muslim and therefore all Muslims are terrorists, then all Klu Klux Klan members are Christian and all Christians are KKK. And what is KKK but a terrorist group too? Well, you say, that’s only KKK and they’re a freakish group but not the same as terrorists. Still, the overt labeling is dangerous and inaccurate.

If a man has an obsession with eating pickles and then kills someone, is it because of the pickles or the man? If someone reads a murder mystery and decides to commit a crime that might just resemble that story, is it the story’s fault or the person’s. Responsibility and choices lie with the individual and very few groups all think the same. I talk specifically of religious groups. There are orthodox and non-orthodox, liberal and conservative aspects to most religious paths, as well as branches and branches. Look at Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Muslim faiths. There are many varieties on the theme.

The mosque in New York would be like mosques everywhere else. They have not said that the mosque’s agenda is to teach terrorism and it’s retarded (how can you tell that this makes me angry) to believe that’s the mandate. I know several Muslims who are quiet about their faith, like many Christians or Jews. Here’s another question: should a religion move into another country and plant its religion doing missionary work and pushing its faith on the people who have other traditions. Think of all those early Christian missionaries and the ones today, going all over the world to do “good works” but in the process trying to convert people. In the past that conversion was often accompanied my abuse and murder.

I’m not that astounded that people are so biased as to not see clearly and whine about the mosque in New York. But I am astounded at some of the campaigns going around with outright racism and bigotry in their messages. Like you can run a country on denouncing terrorists and prejudicing people against those who are innocent. Can anyone say Hitler? I don’t expect any American to read this who thinks there should be no mosque at ground zero. What would be best of all would be a temple/church/altar of every faith in a circle at ground zero. Now that would show that perhaps the faiths can come together and let everyone be, in peace.

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Big Brother IS Watching, You and You and Me

George Orwell, like a fair number of science fiction  writers (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and others), visualized some aspect of a future world, perhaps an alternate world but created a story nonetheless that had some essence of things to come.

As Wikipedia says: The novel has become famous for its portrayal of pervasive government surveillance and control, and government’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication, many of its terms and concepts, such as “Big Brother“, “doublethink“, and “Newspeak” have entered the popular vernacular.

Indeed, the phrase “Big Brother is watching” is synonymous with too much government control, or the totalitarianism that Orwell feared. After 9/11 and the right-wing paranoia of the Bush administration we saw the rise of Homeland Security, where people’s rights were taken away. Some disappeared into Guantanamo without anyone knowing where they went, without any legal aid or advice. Others, while flying through the US, were shipped off to other countries for torture, regardless of what their citizenship was.  The phrase “Homeland Security” is reminiscent of the Fatherland (Hitler’s Third Reich) and the Motherland (Communist Russia). Though these last two are examples of extreme right wing and extreme left wing governments, they both encompass a totalitarianism and the circumventing of the rights of the individual, for the greater good, for the country.

It used to be that a camera trained on you and watching your every move was considered an invasion of privacy. Many years ago, before Homeland Security, my boyfriend had a friend in Calgary that worked for the local telecommunications company (at that time AGT–Alberta Government Telephones). He could not say what he did but it involved hidden cameras trained onto the streets outside the buildings. Every war commander knows that the way to break the enemy, to overcome them, is to either hinder or monitor their communications.  So every wise nation protects its communications and every ambitious or suspicious nation spies on its perceived enemies and communicates what it sees.

There are numerous instances of spy planes and spies. We accept that that is what countries do. There are cameras on you at the border or at your bank machine, to protect you. There are cameras on the roads now, webcams we call them, that show us the line-up at ferries, or freeways, or intersections, or borders. These are all informative pictures that we can use to plan around daily obstacles. But that is not their main purpose. They are surveillance methods to watch and control people, and to identify someone should there have been an accident, a murder, an escape.

There are those that argue that we need the greater security. We need protection from the evil terrorist/mugger/alien/your favorite bad guy. And yes, we do need some form of security, but there comes a time when government or police forces are also watching too much and our individual freedom is curtailed. I would say there is not one person who has not committed a small crime or infringement, whether it’s lying, cheating, jaywalking, running a yellow light, or drinking too much. Which means, that we’re all human and if allowed our little indiscretions, will most likely not make the bigger ones.

When I worked for Nokia, there were cameras everywhere. Corporate espionage is high. However, with all those cameras in the halls and the reception area, they were not allowed to train cameras on our workspaces, nor in the bathrooms. I’m not sure what the exact law it but watching someone 24/7 is not allowed. The head of security also told us that though they viewed all video footage they could not report on such things as two people having sex in the office. This video footage was only for such crimes as theft and breaking and entering.

Sarnia, Ontario is upset over a US surveillance balloon that watches over the river. The company claims it can be used for disaster planning, and other situations that arise. However, the mayor of Sarnia says that when the balloon (with camera inside that can see for 5 miles) first went up the company said it was for Homeland Security, but now they sing another song and say it’s not trained on Sarnia and it’s just research.

Google Earth has already heard concerns about their filming of much of the world, down to vans with cameras driving on the streets. And that many of these cameras take a picture of everything on the street, including you getting into your car, coming and going, and in some cases right into your windows to see what you’re up to. Sure, they claim it’s inadvertent but the pictures of us are showing up everywhere, even if we eliminate You Tube.

The 2010 Olympics will see a gigantic increase in security forces in and around Vancouver. They will be putting up many more cameras than are already up, by government and private businesses. After the Athens Olympics all extra cameras were supposed to come down. Instead the police turned them into citizen surveillance systems. Hello, Big Brother. BC’s privacy commissioner has promised that we won’t have the same situation.

Taken from A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada: “Despite the growth in CCTV, there is not convincing  research evidence that it aids in deterring, responding to and investigating crime.” That’s just one study but the Big Brother security folks want to sell cameras and keep their jobs and probably think we should live in a society that watches your every move and therefore you must behave. http://www.surveillanceproject.org/files/SCAN_Report_Phase1_Final_Jan_30_2009.pdf

There is a group counting the cameras in Greater Vancouver before the Olympics so that people can, in general be aware of how much surveillance there always is. But if you plan to come to the Olympics and actually venture anywhere public in Vancouver, you can bet that you’ll be filmed. In fact, there is probably not a street in any commercial area that doesn’t have one camera or another. It’s pretty impossible to remain invisible these days unless you’re in the boonies. Big Brother is here, and is watching all of us right now.  And maybe, just maybe, Big Brother likes to watch.

 

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Brutal Indifference to Child’s Plight

I’m sure if I talked about sex or the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, then more people would read this as it seems to be what titillates humanity most. But unfortunately this is more important, sadder and tragic than some woman selling her virginity. Oh, I know. I should just title this Virgin Sells Body for Charity. Now that would be something to talk about.

I have a friend who works ECOMM, emergency 911 calls. On January 10, the following occurred here in Vancouver, leaving me appalled and horror-stricken.

At 10:30 pm a woman and her child were walking home in the pouring rain and slush when  a barefoot, 12-year-old Asian boy (I mention the race because maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not) in pajamas came running out, pleading for help. His parents were fighting. The woman refused to help and didn’t even guide the boy to some phone or another place but just pointed to the care home nearby. Fifteen minutes later when she got home, perhaps guilt gnawed at her because she called 911.

When the police came, they checked at the care home where no one had answered the phone. The duty nurse, someone who is supposed to care for people, had said yes, the boy, soaking wet, crying and begging had come to the door. But they didn’t help or let him in because it was against their policy. They told the police that yes, they had called 911 but in fact the dispatchers confirmed that they had not. They left the boy, late at night, soaking and cold, to fend for himself.

The police then sent units up and down all the streets, including canine units but there were too many people who had come and gone by then. My friend, along with the call taker, checked houses within a radius to see if any had past histories of disturbances/abuse. Nothing showed up.

When the duty officer arrived on the scene, he sent the police door to door from the care home. In fifteen minutes they found six witnesses who had seen this boy trying to stop traffic in the street pleading for help. All the cars swerved around him. No one stopped. Not one of those six witnesses helped or called 911.

The police searched for three hours that night. They never found the boy.

Who knows what happened. Did the boy go home to a resolved fight? Or did he go home and get beaten for trying to involve others? Did he get frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia? Is he dead somewhere? Worst of all, this boy, should he survive this will have lost all faith in humanity and will probably grow up to prey on others as he has seen nothing but a cold and uncaring world. It makes me cry just thinking of this. All these coldhearted people should consider the child abuse that they perpetrated.

We like to think the big cities in the US have this problem but it’s right here, on your doorstep and it will get worse if no one cares. The police should commended for trying their all. The rest of us should wonder if we live in a civilized society.

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