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The events of September 11 intruded on the lives of young and old alike. A German website offers a collection of stories from Martin Auer's "Strange War" to help children understand what they've seen and heard.

Auer and his publishers, Beltz & Gelberg, have agreed to provide these texts on the internet and to permit downloading free of charge. Language versions include English, Spanish, French, Russian, German, Danish, Estonian, Chinese, Czech, Italian, Armenian, Croatian, Serbian, Japanese, and others.

Here's a sample"

Martin Auer, The strange people from Planet Hortus

Projective “memory” may soon morph what actually happened, as it did in this 1981 painting I saw in Toronto in 1985:

Cathedral & spinning window

Libby Hague’s “Cathedral & Spinning Window”
fictitiously explodes St. Paul’s under Blitz
on the conference room wall opposite you
in the validation course on Migration Strategy
& no one notices or remarks. Later, you write
this poem for a speculative posterity. Observer,
read this over my shoulder: try to imagine
a firey red sky & expressionistic rose window
cast laterally into the Blitz’ night, bemusing
historicists, but amazing everyone else.
Bill Costley
[13 APR 85 Grenadier Rm., Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Toronto Centre]


11 September 2001

Mike Dyar


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Lion historians

American flags are sprouting everywhere, turning the pastel city into a red, white, and blue panorama. Some fly at half staff; some cover bay windows like drapes. Little ones flutter at the end of antennas, transforming ancient Toyotas into official-looking limousines. Here and there, lacking true stars and stripes, someone has tied a striped ribbon around a tree trunk or pasted a newspaper cutout beside their front door.

It reminds me of Civil War accounts, when patriotic Union sympathizers draped their doorways with tri-colored buntings and society ladies wore red, white, and blue sashes over their evening gowns. On the double-whammy Fourth of July in 1864, Mark Twain tells us, “the whole city was swathed in a waving drapery of flags — scarcely a house could be found which lacked this kind of decoration.” Montgomery above Pacific “was no longer a street of compactly built houses, but simply a quivering cloud of gaudy red and white stripes, which shut out from view almost everything but itself.”

At the beginning of the conflict, its citizens’ loyalties were evenly split between North and South, but San Francisco soon made up for its initial ambivalence. Overt Secessionists were hustled off to Alcatraz or run out of town. Copperhead newspapers that criticized the federal curtailment of civil liberties found it difficult to publish. After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, an angry mob trashed the offices of the Democratic Press, whose editor, Beriah Brown, was believed to be an active rebel leader. (The paper’s repute remained so ill that 50 years later, in his account of San Francisco Civil War journalism, John P. Young could not bring himself to mention its name.)

The result? Our image of this once-divided city, with its strong undercurrent of opposition to the War Between the States, became unidimensional. One side of the equation — one position, occupied by thousands of people — completely disappeared from the story. It’s like the old African proverb, “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

Fast forward to the present. A new kind of war fever is seizing the city by the bay and the rest of the United States, one that springs from a genuine sense of loss and vulnerability, one that desperately wants to make the pain go away.

Here and elsewhere, critics are speaking out, fearful of the course their country has embarked on. In San Francisco, at last Monday’s memorial service, another dissident Brown — the Reverend Amos — asked an embarrassing question: “America, is there anything you did to set up this climate?” His remarks went largely unreported, except for a mention by Matier & Ross that the “blistering attack” had “set a lot of people’s teeth on edge.”

In all likelihood, the pastor of the Third Baptist Church was not speaking just for himself, but for many people in his congregation. In all likelihood, he was familiar with the statement issued by the Black Radical Congress shortly after the attack, which deplored the violence but added that “we as Black people have lots of experience with the horrors of terrorism in the U.S., as it has too frequently been directed against us.” But the passionate critique fell into a pit of silence.

 A pesky website called ZNet.org was harder to muzzle. For several years ZNet has posted thoughtful progressive articles on a variety of subjects. After September 11, it immediately became a clearinghouse for explorations of the attacks and possible courses of action by observers like Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. Until September 19, that is, when the website was shut down.

Editor Michael Albert explained in an email that the site’s provider in Washington State, “very congenial and nice people who have worked very hard for us during the lifetime of our operations … report being very hard hit by yesterday’s virus attack. They report that of 200 machines in one of their buildings, ZNet’s was by far the hardest hit, they think because of its very high use level at the time.”

The damage turned out to be reparable, and the site resumed operation the next day. But the incident was like a tree falling in an empty forest. Except for a flurry of emailed messages, there was no evidence that anything had happened to one of the most active sources of information about America’s involvement in the Middle East. In fact, except for the continuous series of emailed messages, there was no evidence that the site even existed. I’ve never seen it mentioned in the mainstream media. Have you?

So what’s the problem, if the “wrong” side of an issue disappears?

The problem is that it doesn’t. Critiques and criticisms like these arise from unsolved problems. Ignore or suppress them, and the problems remain, nasty lumps that spoil the smooth carpet of civil relationships.

They’ve already started to bump up in unexpected places. Take the headline plastered across the front page of the September 20 Examiner: INFINITE JUSTICE. The lead story outlined the new venture undertaken by the U.S. government. But the rest of the page dripped with the irony of the present situation: “Hate Crime Hits Home for Noe Valley Family: City merchant has been under constant attack for being Arab American.” “Nation Confronts Economic Reality: A million jobs gone before the terrorism, analysts predict million more lost by 2002.” “Cabs Sit Idle, Drivers Suffer.”

Infinite justice. Tell that to the lions.

Betsey Culp