The following letters were sent in response to an essay by former Isthmus editor Marc Eisen about his experiences while visiting the White House during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His reply follows. This was originally published in the September 28 issue of Isthmus.
Really didn't like the column
Let me see if I got this right. The two most powerful symbols of American economic and military might are destroyed, and 5,000 people are massacred by 19 religious fanatics who despise the values we cherish and who think their suicidal bravery will get them immediate passes to everlasting bliss in heaven. Among the dead are over 500 courageous firemen, police and pubic servants, who did their best to save a few of those 5,000. What is the response of the editor of Isthmus ("One More Casualty," 9/14/01)? He is pissed off that a man in uniform hurried him and his daughter out of the White House just as the Pentagon was attacked that terrible Tuesday morning. "One of our basic rights as an American is not to be bossed around by people in uniform," he complains.
I realize that the Marc Eisens, Bill Lueders and Alexander Cockburns of this country have a problem. They agree with many of the values of the 19 fanatics. While few of the U.S. group would go the limit in violence and suicide, they share with the terrorists an often-frightening hatred of American corporations and military might. They love to spread the myth that people around the world hate America. They agree with the terrorists that America is an arrogant bully who rips off poor countries of the world. They applaud the anti-globalization protesters in Seattle and Genoa who want none of McDonald's and Monsanto and Starbucks, of SUVS and nukes and "frankenfoods," of capitalists and Cold Warriors and fat cats. As one of their leaders, the writer Daniel Burton Rose, said the day after the attack, "Why couldn't they have done what they did on a Sunday? There are always ways to make allowances for people's lives."
Not just pathetic, but scary pathetic.
Marc Eisen: We were just sitting around the American Legion bar, using the news of the hijackings as toilet paper.
That essentially was your reaction to 5,000 deaths and counting. To the destruction of two buildings over 100 stories tall. To those people jumping from those buildings to avoid being burned alive. Your only reaction was that the White House police were suddenly yelling at you -- gasp -- to evacuate (because another jet might be on the way). Ho-hum.
You were at the White House with this third-trimester miss of yours. Of course, disregarding the danger he was in (tough luck, pal), you could have gone to a flaming grave yourself. Hey, like lucky you. What does it take to impress you?
As a journalist, you had the chance to get free firsthand information. Talk about Wally Ballou, the roving reporter. You have to be congratulated; you beat Heinrich Himmler's detachment. That's a name to look up.
I wouldn't trade in for your mentality if 10 billion dollars came with it.
You must be a psychopath. I say this kindly.
You talk about your precious civil liberties; those ragheads got on the planes in the first place because of civil liberties. Common sense would say, sorry, we can't let you board. But, civil liberties. In this society we have a basic trust.
Abortion takes 4,000 babies a day; I guess you're pretty hardened. I always though you liberals were cold-blooded, but not on that scale.
Your Pissmiss has five pages on driving up and down East Wash, as you call it. This is how you handle the biggest story of the week? Here's another question, shitboy, what the H P Phuck were you doing in Washington, D.C., if you hate this country so much?
Eisen concludes by saying, "Our liberty is threatened as much by a thousand pinpricks to our privacy and free movement as it is by a terrorist's bomb." Maybe so. But what about the relative threats to our lives? What's the immediate mortality rate among people deprived of their right to take short-cuts through the Capitol Rotunda, and how does it compare to the rate among those who were working in the World Trade Center when a Boeing 767 flew through their window?
How callous and irresponsible of Marc Eisen to be inconvenienced by the deaths of several thousand people. What kind of message is he sending to his daughter Hannah by inferring he is more concerned about his now inaccessible luggage rather than her own safety? Why is he more concerned about being bossed around by people in uniform rather than his own near brush with death?
Eisen says, "In my book, one of your basic rights as an American is not to be bossed around by people in uniforms." Wrong. Not every cop out there is a good cop, but the overwhelming majority of them are. If an officer orders you to do something, he or she has a good reason. In this particular case, Mr. Eisen, the reason should be obvious, even to someone as blinded by prejudicial bigotry as you. You look at that uniform and all you see is a uniform, just like some people look at a young male of color and all they allow themselves to see is a potential criminal.
You want to tout civil liberties, but what about the liberties of people in uniforms to be allowed to do their jobs without the harassment of narrow-minded idiots like you?
Marc Eisen replies: One of the defining characteristics of Americans is an unabashed belief in personal liberty (the wildly radical "pursuit of happiness" proclaimed by Jefferson). Beginning with the oppressive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, history shows that the most frontal assaults on liberty occur during times of national emergency. I offer no apology for sticking up for civil liberties.
Of course, the terrorism of Sept. 11 was a hellish, fiendish deed. A thousand writers have said it better than I ever could. My comments were deliberately confined to my firsthand observations, small and large, about security in Washington before and during the Pentagon bombing and how civil liberties may suffer in the aftermath. That's it. I offered no profundities. My modest contribution is as a guy who's already bothered by the excessive security measures of our age. My fear is that things will get worse -- our privacy will shrink, our autonomy will be curtailed. All in the name of protecting us.