My own experience with what happened has been mixed. When I first heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, I was on a Greyhound bus from New York to Oakland. I was three days into the trip already, somewhere in Utah, when someone reported what happened. At first, I blew it off, chalking it up to the ever-present wing-nut factor on Greyhound. It only became somewhat real to me after I decided to check my voice-mail and received a number of calls from family and friends hoping that I was not still in New York. My access to information on the attacks was limited for the duration of my trip back to the West Coast, consisting primarily of reports from remote radio stations which kept going out of range on the small radio I carried with me. Some of us on the bus began to worry that Greyhound transportation would be shut down as well as air traffic, prompting me to wonder if the freight trains were still running (and no, I wasnt wondering about my shipment from Pocatello).
When I got to Oakland shortly before midnight the first night, I walked down the street to a friends house where my bike had been kept since I left to go on the road back in May. There, some folks were talking about a meeting of activists which had just occurred, called in response to the attacks and the backlash against Arab and Middle Eastern folks and against civil liberties which was likely to follow. This was where I got the first clear picture of what actually happened, and it was a picture which motivated me immediately to action.
The next morning, I spent the last of my money getting myself and my bike back to Santa Cruz, eager to get to work confronting the racist and authoritarian backlash. I decided to get out this issue of the Alarm! and to start laying the groundwork for re-starting the local chapter of Anti-Racist Action. I was unable to find anyone at home at first to work with, so I logged on to the internet to gain more and updated information on what was happening. This was my first foray into any kind of media representation of the attacks, and it sucked me in as so many others around me had been sucked in. Lost in the labyrinth of information, my motivation to action dwindled. Here I was, reading generally critical reports about the attacks and the backlash from alternative news sites like Indymedia, A-Infos, CounterPunch, ZNet and AlterNet, but still I felt paralyzed in the face of such a maelstrom of information and varying analyses. I can only imagine the sense of paralysis felt by the majority of Americans being hypnotized by the likes of CNN and MSNBC and their endless repetitions of images of burning, collapsing buildings, dazed people on the ground and celebrating Palestinians—images which I have had the good fortune of having been spared. I broke out of my paralysis to get myself to a meeting of the Direct Action Network. There was some organizing for action here, but not as much as Id hoped. My next stop was to visit Hiya, where we laid plans for publishing this joint issue of the Cement Boat and the Alarm! Newspaper. I made a brief trip across town to get my computer and stopped at the vigil at the clock tower on the way back to Hiyas, where I found myself becoming immediately impatient at the already repetitious calls for prayer. After talking with friends for a few minutes, I took off and immediately set myself to the work of gathering information for articles over the internet. Again, I was caught in that labyrinth and did not find my way out before going to sleep.
So it has gone for the last several days, and I have finally made the decision to limit my time on the internet or reading the papers (Ive generally only read the Wall Street Journal, which has largely refrained from spouting the more sensationalistic drivel found in other mainstream papers). And I have solidified my commitment to making this publication a tool for all of those people who find themselves in the same predicament: all the people with dazed looks on their faces, lost in confusion about the reasons for what happened, lost in mourning at the sheer tragedy, lost in paralysis for the lack of any sensible course of action in their own lives. I hope here to make sense of the reasons for what happened, to critically engage the nature of the tragedy, and to suggest some clear courses of action in response to that tragedy (and I dont mean donating blood and money). Again, as I stated earlier, this is a departure from the ultimate vision of what the Alarm! will look like: we are generally loathe to be so forward in offering such heady analysis and suggestions for courses of action, trusting rather that folks armed with the truth and the tools for reflection and analysis will figure that out on their own. But the immediacy of the situation here calls for something a little more direct. Certainly, the flag-waving bigots poised to attack mosques and Arab-American institutions and individuals are not waiting for more information, more analysis or more suggestions for action, and neither are those politicians, law-enforcement and intelligence personnel who are eager to exploit the situation to further restrict our remaining freedoms. To fail to let this publication be the tool for urgent and immediate organizing to address these problems would be irresponsible. However, we do not presume to have all the answers regarding how best to address these problemsthese are only some suggestions. We ask foremost and above all that you, the reader, do not sacrifice your critical faculties or your scruples in deference to some vaguely-defined national tragedy, grave though it is.
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