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Slogging to Windward
by Chuck Merrell 

October 2001

Almost instantly in the minutes following the diabolical events at the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, we became a nation immersed in grief for the victims, in mourning with the families of these innocents, and convinced that we stood before a world most of which, we assumed, was in shock.

As the story began to unfold, those who weren’t totally paralyzed—who could still think a bit—started to form questions: “How could this happen here in the land of nice?” “What did we do to deserve this?” “Why do they hate us so much?” “How could the perpetrators, whoever they were, believe strongly enough in their twisted cause to carry out such a demented plan by instantly killing six or seven thousand people, and worse expect ultimate good to come from these acts?”

It occurred to me in my own thoughts that the answer to this general line of questioning probably could be found by looking into history and I remembered the words of George Santayana who said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

My next visualization was of the Holocaust in which the Nazi’s during World War II, who with the tacit approval and assistance of the German People killed thousands of innocents every day for years, all in the name of their cause and for the supposed betterment of the “Fatherland”. 

In August a friend of mine visited Germany and reported back: “My host got very embarrassed for me when this 80-odd year old ex Waffen SS man (really!), started bending my ear about how unjustly the Germans had been treated after the war. He pointed out that the SS were the crème de la crème ("die Beste!") and had had a bad press, and anyway what if they did kill a few Jews? The British did the same to the Boers, and even invented concentration camps. My German is rudimentary, but the message came across loud and clear! Nazism is far from a dead issue in Germany.” Astounding!

I recently saw a program on PBS about Stalin and his reign of terror in the form of his many political “purges”. What Uncle Joe did is a matter of record: 20 million dead over the course of his stay in power, in fact, he’s been quoted as saying something to the effect: “If I kill a thousand people, it’s a tragedy. If I kill 20 million, it’s a statistic.” Now, here’s the real kicker to this story: The producers of the documentary stood outside a museum exhibit in Russia which graphically detailed, up to and including the display of several hundred human skulls each sporting either a single bullet hole or evidence of lethal blunt force trauma. They conducted an “exit” poll. The question asked as the visitors to this horrific display left the building was; “Do you still think that Stalin was a good leader?” The overwhelming majority said, “Yes”. Astounding!

So to wrap up with my answers to the previous list of questions: 

How could this happen here? 

It’s because that “here” is one of the few places in the world (up until September eleventh) that operates under the delusion that people are better than they are, should be given the benefit of the doubt and that the bad guys always get their comeuppance.

What did we do to deserve this?

Not only did we let down our guard, we didn’t have a guard in the first place. But then too, we didn’t deserve it either.

Why do they hate us so much?

There are, or course, jealousies involved and also complaints about how we have conducted foreign policy and our mistakes in that department, past and present. Keep in mind, though, that we usually try to protect our interests in balance with what we believe to be right (or at least we say we do, which means that we are more or less aware of the difference).

To their credit (for duplicity), in their new quest for domination, they have added in the factor of religion, which is meant to confuse the issue not only in the minds of their adherents but also people like us who believe in freedom of religion and who are also presumptuous to the point of stamping “In God We Trust” on our money. Given this wholesale policy of acceptance, we tend to excuse and temper our judgment of those devout souls who do things in the name of their God for the greater good. Hell, the IRS doesn’t even make them pay taxes. Maybe it’s because the money bears the slogan . . . 

Even our own homegrown fascists such as the Reverend Jerry Falwell like to take advantage of and hide behind this mushy, iffy, questionable point of view. Bottom line though, the terrorists who shamelessly classify their crimes under the heading of “holy war”, and figures like Falwell, or outfits like the KKK, hates everybody who does not support their goals, beliefs and/or share their evil, distorted, aberrant view of right and wrong.

What can we do?

First, we must remember the past, every day and more often if necessary. But even as I say it, I know that if you happen to be reading this in 2040, not only will I have been gone for a long time, but also there will be some person on the street somewhere, maybe in the Middle East, maybe in Utah, who will believe, and so state if asked that September 11, 2001 was A-OK! 

Second, we and our government must use the technology we have available to us in all its forms including the media to develop effective ways to thwart and expose these vermin in the execution of their heinous programs now and in the future, i.e. make the practice of terrorism too expensive for the perps. 

Even more important keep in mind that other than the narcissistic monsters in our midst, we’re pretty much all the same, and fundamentally want the same things—peace, happiness and prosperity.

The grieved mother standing in front of her bombed out home in Afghanistan, holding a picture of her dead son, is suffering the same pain as a wife standing at ground zero in New York City hoping for a miracle and showing a picture of her husband to any passerby who will pause and look.

Next column: Back to boats. 


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