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ZMag: Will Tears Ever Stop?
By John Gerassi
30/9/2001 5:03 pm Sun
Will Tears Ever Stop?
By John Gerassi
I can't help crying. As soon as I see a person on TV telling the heart-rendering
story of the tragic fate of their loved-one in the World Trade Center disaster, I
can't control my tears. But then I wonder why didn't I cry when our troops wiped
out some 5,000 poor people in Panama's El Chorillo neighborhood on the
excuse of looking for Noriega. Our leaders knew he was hiding elsewhere but
we destroyed El Chorillo because the folks living there were nationalists who
wanted the U.S. out of Panama completely.
Worse still, why didn't I cry when we killed two million Vietnamese, mostly
innocent peasants, in a war which its main architect, Defense Secretary Robert
McNamara, knew we could not win? When I went to give blood the other day, I
spotted a Cambodian doing the same, three up in the line, and that reminded
me: Why didn't I cry when we helped Pol Pot butcher another million by giving
him arms and money, because he was opposed to "our enemy" (who eventually
stopped the killing fields)?
To stay up but not cry that evening, I decided to go to a movie. I chose
Lumumba, at the Film Forum, and again I realized that I hadn't cried when our
government arranged for the murder of the Congo's only decent leader, to be
replaced by General Mobutu, a greedy, vicious, murdering dictator. Nor did I
cry when the CIA arranged for the overthrow of Indonesia's Sukarno, who had
fought the Japanese World War II invaders and established a free independent
country, and then replaced him by another General, Suharto, who had
collaborated with the Japanese and who proceeded to execute at least half a
million "Marxists" (in a country where, if folks had ever heard of Marx, it was at
I watched TV again last night and cried again at the picture of that wonderful
now-missing father playing with his two-month old child. Yet when I
remembered the slaughter of thousands of Salvadorans, so graphically
described in the Times by Ray Bonner, or the rape and murder of those
American nuns and lay sisters there, all perpetrated by CIA trained and paid
agents, I never shed a tear. I even cried when I heard how brave had been
Barbara Olson, wife of the Solicitor General, whose political views I detested.
But I didn't cry when the US invaded that wonderful tiny Caribbean nation of
Grenada and killed innocent citizens who hoped to get a better life by building a
tourist airfield, which my government called proof of a Russian base, but then
finished building once the island was secure in the US camp again.
Why didn't I cry when Ariel Sharon, today Israel's prime minister, planned, then
ordered, the massacre of two thousand poor Palestinians in the refugee camps
of Sabra and Shatila, the same Sharon who, with such other Irgun and Stern
Gang terrorists become prime ministers as Begin and Shamir, killed the wives
and children of British officers by blowing up the King David hotel where they
I guess one only cries only for one's own. But is that a reason to demand
vengeance on anyone who might disagree with us? That's what Americans
seem to want. Certainly our government does, and so too most of our media. Do
we really believe that we have a right to exploit the poor folk of the world for our
benefit, because we claim we are free and they are not?
So now we're going to go to war. We are certainly entitled to go after those who
killed so many of our innocent brothers and sisters. And we'll win, of course.
Against Bin Laden. Against Taliban. Against Iraq. Against whoever and
whatever. In the process we'll kill a few innocent children again. Children who
have no clothes for the coming winter. No houses to shelter them. And no
schools to learn why they are guilty, at two or four or six years old. Maybe
Evangelists Falwell and Robertson will claim their death is good because they
weren't Christians, and maybe some State Department spokesperson will tell the
world that they were so poor that they're now better off.
And then what? Will we now be able to run the world the way we want to? With
all the new legislation establishing massive surveillance of you and me, our
CEOs will certainly be pleased that the folks demonstrating against globalization
will now be cowed for ever. No more riots in Seattle, Quebec or Genoa. Peace
Until next time. Who will it be then? A child grown-up who survived our
massacre of his innocent parents in El Chorillo? A Nicaraguan girl who learned
that her doctor mother and father were murdered by a bunch of gangsters we
called democratic contras who read in the CIA handbook that the best way to
destroy the only government which was trying to give the country's poor a
better lot was to kill its teachers, health personnel, and government farm
workers? Or maybe it will be a bitter Chilean who is convinced that his whole
family was wiped out on order of Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
who could never tell the difference between a communist and a democratic
socialist or even a nationalist.
When will we Americans learn that as long as we keep trying to run the world
for the sake of the bottom line, we will suffer someone's revenge? No war will
ever stop terrorism as long as we use terror to have our way. So I stopped
crying because I stopped watching TV. I went for a walk. Just four houses from
mine. There, a crowd had congregated to lay flowers and lit candles in front of
our local firehouse. It was closed. It had been closed since Tuesday because
the firemen, a wonderful bunch of friendly guys who always greeted
neighborhood folks with smiles and good cheer, had rushed so fast to save the
victims of the first tower that they perished with them when it collapsed. And I
So I said to myself when I wrote this, don't send it; some of your students,
colleagues, neighbors will hate you, maybe even harm you. But then I put on
the TV again, and there was Secretary of State Powell telling me that it will be
okay to go to war against these children, these poor folks, these US-haters,
because we are civilized and they are not. So I decided to risk it. Maybe,
reading this, one more person will ask: Why are so many people in the world
ready to die to give us a taste of what we give them?