A discussion on America
by Stephen K. Hess

It is a very difficult day to be an American. We have experienced relatively unfettered growth, virtually free from European and any other influence, for almost two hundred years, to become a political, cultural, and economic force unlikely to be rivaled. Countries such as Vietnam, Rwanda, and Germany have suffered despots and regimes acting under religious and utopian pretenses, sometimes with intentions of prosperity, only to be cast down into poverty when aggrandisement became too violent for the rest of the world to stand idly by. It is difficult to fathom how any person or organization could effect this kind of damage given our advanced technologies and deep love for the protection of our way of life. On the morning of September 11th, lower Manhattan was transformed from a bustling metropolis into a war zone not unlike third world cities that have been plastered on our television screens in past decades. Yes, being an American, in the sense that America is a veritable and unwavering world power, has had its foundations shaken.

But to assume that this is the only difficult thing about being an American these days would be a grave mistake. As events unfolded on Tuesday, I was shocked and appalled to see on my television the destruction taking place in Manhattan and at the Pentagon. My thoughts, like most peoples, immediately went to Osama bin Laden. He has made clear his absolute hatred of the United States and its principles, and has been implicated in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Only time and investigation will reveal which terrorist organization is behind this travesty. It may very well be revealed that bin Laden had nothing to do with the attacks and that it may be a domestic organization or Algerians, although this is looking less and less likely as evidence is uncovered. My thoughts were alternated between hoping that the death toll conjectured by ABC News would be far too high and what type of revenge President Bush would visit upon bin Laden. Yes, my thoughts were of exacting revenge thru violence. Because my office was closed, I drove up the street to get some tacos and was waited on by a middle-eastern looking gentleman complete with turban. Later that evening, while talking about the events with a friend who is a manager at a Wal-Mart in York, PA, I learned that around 10am on Tuesday, there was a rush to purchase guns in his store. Luckily, he had the sense of mind to lock up all the guns in a stockroom. Then it hit me: vigilante citizens were looking to exact revenge on members of the race of any possible terrorists announced by the media. My thoughts drifted to the anti-Japanese sentiment that ran rampant after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I remembered the counter person at Taco Bell from earlier and hurriedly scoured my memory for any ill-will I could have subconciously harbored towards him. None was found. I am not a racist. I do not subscribe to a mob mentality. Racism? Mob mentality? Do these sorts of things still exist? I think I have been spoiled by living near Philadelphia. Can anyone afford to be part of a mob? Can anyone afford to be racist? In this, the greatest and most civilized country in the world, there are people who would call themselves Americans who are willing to place their American principles, their American ideals, their American example, and their American pride on hiatus in order to scratch some specious patriotic itch. Ignoring this itch is paramount. This itch is why it's difficult to be an American today.

This does not by any means suggest that whoever is responsible must get away. I sincerely hope that the our armed services find the bastard and kill him Braveheart-style, even though this may involving bombing with minimal civilian casualties. In fact, that may not be brutal enough. I wish upon anyone involved unimaginable pain and anguish which increases exponentially with every body found in the wreckage. While the punishment will in all probability not be this brutal, the authorities will find their man. We as Americans should let the authorities do their job. No American who takes out their frustrations on another, based on skin color, race, nationality, preferred headwear, or superficial criteria will not be doing this country or its citizens any good.

There is an Indian man who owns and operates a gas station near my parents house. It is unlikely that India had anything to do with this event and I have never given him more than a casual "hello", but I fear for him. He wears a turban and some citizens of York (particularly from the southern regions), who are not exactly known for the breadth and depth of their cultural experience, may mistake him for being Afghani or Arabic. I fear that his gas station will be boycotted for this reason. I fear that his shop windows may be shattered for how he dresses. He may be an American citizen and I fear that another American citizen, who happens to have an itch and whose skin happens to be white, wishes to obstruct his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Granted, he may not be a citizen of this great country of ours, and some would argue his rights are limited. This is the itch that must not be scratched. You call yourselves Americans so hopefully you agree with the Constitution and have at least respect for the Bill of Rights. You call yourselves Americans yet you are willing to deny others their unalienable rights, be they American citizens or from a foreign land. The Constitution of the United States was written by Americans with Americans in mind, but its principles clearly apply to the whole of humanity. Any American who takes up arms against another innocent human not even remotely affiliated with these events or any terrorist organization is no longer an American but a savage who takes his or her freedoms for granted and is no better than the swine who started this whole mess.

Most Americans have learned about the holocaust but clearly some haven't learned a damn thing from it. Adolf Hitler was attempting to rid Europe of homosexual men and practitioners of Judaism, so he rounded them up and sent them off to camps where they were systematically slaughtered. Although the Americans who showed up at Wal-Mart at 10am with tempers flaring, and full of fire and brimstone, may not realize it, they are attempting to exact this twisted brand of revenge. They are attempting to punish a race for the unproven acts of individuals. The terrible tragedies that have befallen the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not committed by an entire race of people and punishment therefore should not target an entire race of people. Eradication of the individuals responsible is the order. Manhattan may be a war zone, but there is no reason to expand this to include mosques, temples, cab drivers, and middle-eastern businesses. Virtually all of these people are innocent and the ones who are guilty will receive their sentence.

Peace is not an attainable end if the means include unmitigated action, falsely accusing those of like ethnicity, or punishing a people who in all probability like their leaders less than you do and are far removed from the source. As much as I would like proactive measures towards stopping violence while retaining our privacy, a swift and decisive reactive course is usually the only one available to us without trampling on peoples rights. Everyone's rights. Humanities Rights. Americans talk about "innocent until proven guilty". Why not afford this same privilege to others who aren't from our country? It seems reasonable enough, doesn't it? Has the Indian guy running the gas station personally attacked someone else? Have the mosque visitors shown you the plans to hijack a 767? Americans always boast about what a great country this is, so why not preach this sentiment in these trying times? Americans always claim they're made of sterner stuff and that's what makes them so great, so why not, instead of wrapping ourselves in the Stars and Stripes while infringing on others and proclaiming it patriotism, evangelize and practice what's good about America? Stand up to oppression. Afford others the same opportunities and rights that you have been afforded. Fight tyranny at its source. Take these virtues and salute them. Hang them in every classroom and run them up every flagpole. Then you will find the itch disappearing all by itself.