On Terrorism, Racism, And Lots Of Other Words Ending In “-ism” (supplement)

One more warning: this contains graphic descriptions of suffering. Do not continue unless you are prepared for that.

Those on the airplanes were in a compact space loaded with jet fuel; death was probably very quick and relatively painless upon impact. Contrast this with the thousands who spent their mornings trapped in a severely damaged burning building, burning to death, bleeding to death, dying of smoke inhalation, leaping from windows tens of stories above the ground to avoid these fates, becoming trapped, struggling fruitlessly until the collapse of the building some time later, being crushed by falling debris or, worse, slowly suffocating under the weight and in the dust of that debris. If I had to die in this attack and were given my choice of where to be, I would choose the plane in a heartbeat.

American Flag

Special thanks to free-market.net for use of the American flag graphic, which is located in their Liberty Image Gallery.

On Terrorism, Racism, And Lots Of Other Words Ending In “-ism”

I’m going to skip the first few paragraphs of this rambling, because we’ve all heard it a thousand times. A mere three days have elapsed since the “noteworthy incident”, to quote Tom Clancy, which occurred on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. In that time, we’ve heard of nothing else. We’ve all heard exactly what happened. We all know it’s a tragedy. We’re all aware that nearly everyone feels terrible for the families of the victims, and that something must be done. These things, while true and vitally important, need not be repeated. Please assume I said them here, and I can get on with saying something else.

Many people, though not all, say that this event is unbelievable, and that they never thought such a thing could happen. To these people, I say that it is NOT unbelievable that a terrorist strike could succeed in America, and that it is a reality of living in the real world. We’re not so different from the rest of the world. Terrible things happen, and yes, they can happen to us too. We’ve been far too complacent for far too long, and now I add my voice to those who have expressed the hope that this will be a wake-up call to America. We are not untouchable. We are not invulnerable. We must be as vigilant as any other nation; we are not so special. (1)

Another common reaction, among our politicians as well as our people, is talk of war. For these people, I have but one question: war with WHOM?! A nation cannot declare war on an unidentified enemy. If a nation had perpetrated such a crime, we would be willing and able to wipe them off the map, with or without the aid of the dozens of nations which have expressed outrage and grief equal to our own. Unfortunately, this crime was not perpetrated by a nation. No nation would act against another in this manner; it would be suicidal, in both a political and biological sense. We are dealing with a much more insidious enemy, one which cannot be defeated with air strikes and tanks and machine guns. We must fight our enemy on its own terms, and that means covertly. Now is the time for intelligence, cloak-and-dagger, and infiltration. We cannot merely choose a nation as a scapegoat and murder the innocent, or we will be no better than the enemy we seek to neutralize.

On a similar note, I’d like to express my outrage and disgust at the numerous acts of racism and violence against Arab-Americans over the past few days. This is UNACCEPTABLE. It is as vile, intolerable, and cowardly as the terrorist act that inspired it. In the America that I know, everyone is innocent until PROVEN guilty, regardless of where they’re from or what deity they worship. I am ashamed to be a citizen of the same country as the individuals perpetrating these crimes. Unlike the terrorism, these are not atrocities being committed against us by an unknown “them”. These atrocities we commit against ourselves. For a country claiming to be the greatest on Earth, when it comes down to the wire, we put up a damn poor showing.

I’d like express my sympathy and empathy for some of the victims that I think have not had their fair share of recognition. Following from my comments on racism, I would like to place first and foremost on my list the many thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent Arab-Americans who now find themselves made the targets of hatred by the uneducated, unintelligent, and just plain shameful among the citizens of this country. Many innocent people now find they must fear for their safety, harassed and threatened by their own fellow Americans. To them I offer my apologies, on behalf of those who have proven themselves too worthless to see the meaning of their own actions and chosen instead to strike blindly at the closest target. I’d also like to highlight the plight of the victims who were inside the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I have heard a great many people cite the few hundred individuals on the airplanes as the primary victims of this terrible event, overlooking the far greater suffering endured by the many THOUSANDS in the towers. I fear a more thorough explanation of my reasoning would be too graphic and in bad taste, so I shall leave it at that for now (2). Suffice it to say that I wish to speak up for these individuals and their families in particular among the victims.

Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to all of the nations and organizations who have shown support for the United States and her people in the past few days. I find it very telling that even countries traditionally at odds with the USA have spoken out against this act, and I hope that some peace treaties can be drafted and existing alliances strengthened as a result of recent events. I would hate to think that such things as have happened this week would pull the world together behind a common cause for a week or a month, only to return to its previous state of chaos immediately thereafter. Let’s not lose this opportunity to salvage something meaningful from the ashes.

Let us hope for a bloodless resolution to this conflict, increased vigilance and security here in America and world-wide, timely and effective aid for the surviving victims, and long-term improvements in world relations.

Sleep well and be safe, wherever you may live.

American Flag

Special thanks to free-market.net for use of the American flag graphic, which is located in their Liberty Image Gallery.

Footnotes:

  1. For more on the subject of complacency, have a look at my poem from about a year ago, Complacent You and I. In that work I mentioned a bloodless war; it would appear that Complacency has drawn first blood.
  2. If you really wish to know, examine the supplement to this rambling, but be warned: it is graphic, and not for the faint of heart.

On Solitude

I spend a lot of time by myself. I stand alone, and I have never found someone who is both able and willing to stand beside me in life. While this saddens me, there’s a wan kind of pride in it. No one has, no one can, no one will, and yet I endure. Like a silent monolith weathering the storm alone while all around humans and animals seek shelter in huts and caves, I remain standing, silent and stoic, when the clouds part.

Some people I know put a music reference at the end of each rant. I usually don’t, but this time one seems appropriate.

“I Am A Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel

Misery and Geekhood

My good mood has expired.

Sometimes I feel a primal scream rising inside me. A high-pitched shriek of frustration and anguish which, in my current suburban surroundings, would probably cause at least three neighbors to call the police or rush over in panic. Then again, since I don’t know my neighbors, they might just ignore it. I always suppress this shriek, but one day I will find somewhere isolated enough that I can let it out, rage at the sky about the torture of existence, and, hopefully, come back feeling much more serene without it inside me.

My life isn’t so terrible. On the whole, many many people, perhaps even most people, have worse lives with more problems than I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pitying myself in comparison to others. Oh, no. I am well aware that EVERYONE has good reason to be miserable.

This makes it worse.

You see, if I knew that somehow my own misery allowed others to live in peace and happiness, if I knew that my suffering lifted the burden from some other soul, at least I could feel that it had some purpose. As it is, I’m miserable, and so are you, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

DAMMIT, I WANT TO KNOW THINGS.

I’m having a bit of a fit right now. Unemployment and the resulting spending of savings are bad, but worse is the feeling of mentropy that I mentioned two ramblings ago. When I got a job, I stopped pursuing knowledge, I stopped LEARNING things, I stopped doing all the things that DEFINED me! I’ve wasted so much time, and it makes me very angry. I was once ahead of the game, I was 18 and knew more about computers than almost anyone I knew. Now I’m behind the curve. I stood still and the world went rushing past. I’m 21 and that 18-year-old that I once was could code CIRCLES around me. Among non-geeks, I’m a guru. Among geeks, I’m mediocre at best. I hate that feeling. I grew up one of the best. Now I find myself a member of a culture made UP of the best, in which I am unremarkable and insignificant. I’m a little fish in a big pond. I’m not going to claim that it’s not fair. Those folks who are remarkable and significant are smarter than me or more determined than me, and deserve whatever accolades they receive. I am angry because I have not performed to the same level.

I’ve wasted some portion of my potential.

I am angry.

I’m so mediocre a geek, I haven’t been able to find a job doing the only thing I’m good at, working with computers. Perhaps this isn’t a fair evaluation, as this is a bad time to be an unemployed professional geek. There are thousands of us out there right now. Two years ago I put up a resume online. I had zero professional experience and didn’t know what I was looking for. I immediately received several messages, via email and telephone, from interested employers and recruiters. I eventually found a job, which I kept for a year and a half, until cutbacks claimed it. I once again posted my resume on the ‘net. This time I got nothing. Not. A. Damn. Thing. As I said, there are thousands of us out there. Unemployed geeks. The valley is crawling with us.

With my savings dwindling, I’m facing a difficult problem. If I can make money in computers, I’ll have a very lucrative hobby. If I can’t, I’ll have an extremely expensive technology addiction and no marketable skills. And I’m up against several thousand other recently-laid-off geeks, many of whom are more skilled than I am.

Damn it. Damn it all.

What’s This? Me, In A Good Mood?

I am in an uncharacteristically good mood today. About three weeks ago I posted my last rambling, which was a rant about my life sucking. Although many things have not changed, a couple have, and more importantly, I’m able to look at some of the positive aspects of my life.

I realized recently that being unemployed has been good for me. I’m doing things now that I haven’t done in a long time. Getting around to things that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but never seemed to get to. I’ve read books, I’ve repaired my bicycle, I’ve actually sat down and coded some things, I’ve gone to the movies, I’ve gone to Ren Faire, I’ve spent time with people, and I’ve posted a rambling or two.

Mind you, I still need a job. Moreso now than when last I wrote. Money is running out at an alarming rate, and I need to get a job soon or I may have some problems. I’m going to start pursuing employment more actively tomorrow. (I would’ve started today, but A: it’s a federal holiday, so many places won’t be open, and 2: I was awake for 38 hours straight this weekend; I need today for recovery.) Wish me luck; in this job market, I’ll need it.

My programming has come along acceptably well. I think that part of my problem was that my resources were sub-par. I ditched the book I was using and picked up another one, which has many good reviews and seems to be heralded as the Windows Programming Bible.

Also contributing to my sudden and unexpected feeling of well-being is a conversation I had yesterday evening. A few months ago I inadvertantly created a deep rift between myself and someone in my family that I care about deeply. Last night we had a long conversation which had been brewing in my mind for a long time, and I think it went a long way towards closing that rift, or at least creating a bridge across it. This is a great relief. 🙂

Also, I spent yesterday at Ren Faire, which was a lot of fun, and a met some really cool people there. Hopefully I’ll be going back in a coupla weeks. I need to buy stuff there, too, which means that I need a job. It’ll be worth it, though.

Oh, well, off I go to a recruiter tomorrow with my resumes in hand and some decent-looking clothing on my back.