July 21, 2003

A Moment To Reflect

So I was downstairs, on line at the deli to get lunch, reading the closed caption of president Bush's press conference, or at least the part that I caught while I waited for my sandwich. He was calling out Iran and Syria for their connections to terrorism at that particular time, and it got me to thinking about what a long trip it's been from that day and today. You know which day I'm talking about. It started in New York City, blazed across half the world to Afghanistan, rolled right through to the only real quagmire we have seen since Vietnam(the U.N.), then broke through Iraq with the swift hand of vengeance. We've come a long way in these two short years, and the real danger is only facing us now; the gate guards are dead, now we assault the fortress of our enemies. We're taking it to their house, and the stakes will rise considerably. Afghanistan was backlash; they were the man holding the gun when the eyes of America turned east. Iraq, on the other hand, was the figurehead; our old enemy Saddam, today's face of evil in America. While both of them played key roles in the army of islamic fundamentalism, deep down we all realize that these countries are but the limbs of the beast; cutting them off buys us time, but alone they are not victories. To walk away now would gain us nothing but a delay from the day of reckoning. I count my blessings each day that Bush "stole" the election, that the supreme court awarded him the presidency. Had Gore been president when 9/11 happened, this would be a much different world today, and we would all be much worse for the wear.

The eyes of our nation turn now to Syria, to Iran. We climb ever closer to the top of the terrorist mountain, where Saudi Arabia sits, watching in fear. They pledge their allegiance and swear their cooperation, doing their damndest to delay that final day of reckoning when the U.S. finally admits the truth; Saudi Arabia has been at the heart of it all from the beginning. Our government knows this; there are many level-headed and well informed people out there who see them for what they really are; the source of this new enemy of freedom. But there are a great number more who cannot accept it, will not admit it until they hold a bloody dagger over the bodies of dead Americans. Lucky for us, our President, our leader knows that we cannot wait for that day to come. We continue to fight, although not always with the force of tanks and men of arms, we continue to inch closer to the belly of the beast.

It has been a long journey indeed, full of fear, uncertainty, anger and rage. It parallels a journey I took myself, just days after the defining moment of my generation. When the planes hit, I was in upstate New York at college. After assuring the safety of my father, who's office is located in the closest building to the trade center that is still standing today, I decided it would be best to head home for the weekend, and enjoy the company of the family that I damn near lost that day. A trip to our summer camp in Saratoga to bring some things home for winter, and I was on my way. A strange place to start a strange journey. Saratoga; where Washington won the Revolutionary War. I drove through that historical town, and looked around me at the quaint little summer excursion, who's only claim to fame these days is a horse racing track. In the center of the town there is a park, and in front of that park sits a statue of a man riding a horse. The horses two front legs are raised in air, because the man died in battle. His name has long since worn away from the base of that statue. In that very town, by the hand of this unnamed man and others like him, America was won. It was the first of many long, hard battles, all of which could've changed the course of history as we know it. But it all started in that small town called Saratoga, where an army of barefoot men held out a winter, outmanned and outgunned, and won themselves the freedom to decide their own destiny.

And from there I headed south. Down I went, parallel to the Hudson River, where the British planned to attack in 1812. Further and further south I drove through history, passed the old factory towns where cannons and ammunition were made for the Civil War. Over the river where the barges carried materials to be sent to Europe for the first Great War. Passed the county where my great uncle called home, after being shot down, rescued, sunk, rescued again, only to be captured and released so that he could be shot down and rescued once more in World War II.

Further south I went, passing the exit to another highway, which would lead you to the home of John F. Kennedy if you took it far enough. South and south I go, only to arrive at the Whitestone Bridge, where I found fear. 100 miles an hour the cars careened over that bridge, engine blaring at 5500 RPMs. Some sped in fear; fear of a bomb, of another attack on an easy target such as a bridge. Others, sped away in disgust, refusing to look up at the shattered skyline of New York City, where a steady pile of black smoke still leaked away into the afternoon sky. You could smell the destruction from that bridge. You could smell the charred and burning building, the rotten stench of innocent human flesh melting away into ash and bone. At the crest of this bridge, I found uncertainty, as I finally looked up and gazed at the wounded city. Would it ever be the same? Would the city recover? I looked long and hard at that billowing smoke, which is where I found anger. You tried to kill my father, you sons of bitches. A 2 year old boy down the block is growing up with a picture instead of a dad. The girl nextdoor to him moved to in with grandma, orphaned by your sickening religion. It was thoughts of those children, of their scars, their uncertain future, that finally brought me to rage. A terrible thing, rage, as I will never look at an Arab the same again. The rest of my life, I will see them as the enemy, the same way my grandfather looks at the Japanese. I can reason and rationalize all I want, the feeling in the pit of my stomach will not change, my eyes will continue to glow red behind the hazel when a black turban comes into their scope. I have become a true racist, and that will never change; it was branded on my very soul, up on the bridge that day at 100 miles an hour.

160 miles I had travelled, from the birthplace of our nation to the worst assault it has ever beared. And from there, only one thing to do; head to the east. So east I went, onto the Long Island Expressway, to my home, where I found my mother. Not my father, for he had already come and gone, spending 18 hours a day in Manhattan, assessing, organizing, cleaning up his building on West Street. On went the television, and that is where I found victory.

Thousands of men and women, just like my dad, just like the orphaned girl's late fireman father, headed west. In they went, an army of heroes; regular men and women just like you and I. They carried their weapons: Water. Food. Blankets. Flashlights. Shovels and cranes, asbestos masks and dump trucks, sawzalls and the jaws of life. Off they went into Manhattan, to save lives. To restore power and light. To restore order. To clean up the mess left for us by the depraved minions of religious zealots and murderers. And it was then that I knew we would emerge victorious. There was no fear in these people; sadness, uncertainty, anger and rage abounded, but there was no fear.

My journey that day ended where our latest journey as a nation had begun. In the shadow of smoke, where the rubble still burned. And a long trip it was, down the alley of history, right into the center of our nation's greatest wound. There will forever be a scar on New York City; if you have seen the design for the building to be erected there, you can see the shape of it. A curved and surreal structure; a modern painting in the heart of a gothic gallery. A building who's sole shape and design revolved around not casting a shadow on that day at that time for the rest of history. A scar on the face of a city so rich in history that it will be spoken of until the end of humanity. Rome. Athens. New York City.

From there I have ridden a passenger, George Bush our pilot, in a journey for freedom. History is made around us, each day, each passing week, not 2 years from that terrible day. A new millenia, a new, globalized world, and a new enemy to freedom everywhere. We have landed now in enemy territory. We took the Afghanistan outpost, marched through the screaming enemies of freedom in the U.N.. We crushed the guards at the gate in Iraq, where we hold our position and wait. Wait for something, for anything. A sign of some sort, it seems, or a provocation. We stand in the middle of Mesopotamia, glaring all around us, waiting for someone to test the rage of our country which has only barely been tapped to this day. We wait for Iran to fall from within. We wait for Syria to make a mistake; to reveal their hand and give us reason to exact vengeance on them as well. We wait for the proof we know exists, the final piece of the puzzle that undeniably proves Saudi Arabia to be the belly of the terrorist beast. Guns drawn, teeth clinched in rage, we wait. What a long journey it has been.

And yet, it has only just begun. Our destination lies somewhere, in the cradle of humanity; in a putrid desert unfit for human inhabitants, where crazed bearded men sit reading some evil tomb which teaches them to hate. To hate their own wives; to martyr their children in the name of a God who doesn't exist. Or perhaps he does, and he chooses to punish and torture these people, who live in poverty with no hope of escape. Still they believe the words of an insane ghost called Mohammed, who refuses to allow them to grow and prosper as a people. But their days in that squalid wasteland lay numbered, because of men like the fireman down the block; because of men like my father; like my neighbor, who floats on a ship outside of Iraq this day; his newborn son growing a bit older without knowing his own father, as the battle rages on. Each numbered day, George Bush leads us, inch by inch, toward the belly of the beast.

We pull the unwilling behind us, protecting them as best we can, although they proclaim their hatred for us and their love for the enemy; the same enemy who wishes nothing more than their destruction. The day is fast approaching when this trip will be over, and victory is certain. Victory is visible in the heart and soul of our City, where men and women continue to dig, to rebuild. It is visible in the flags that adorn our streets, and in the eyes of our soldiers who remain longer than they should in the wasteland of Iraq. It is audible in the flaring tones of anger that come from the Iraqi council, who are only now taking their first steps toward democracy. Toward freedom. There is no fear, because there is nothing to fear. Victory is all around us. We will win this war on terror, of that much I am sure.

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