2001-09-22 / Letters

Why It Happened

Why It Happened

Dear Editor:

What happened to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a horrifying, frightening tragedy. We all agree on that. Many of us want to express our opinion about why it might have happened, but we are afraid that if we do, we will be called anti-Semitic, or pro-terrorist, or something or other. I think there are questions we need to ask ourselves, and the most important one is: What could we, as Americans, have done to make them so angry that they would lash out with such violence?

No stranger to violence, I was born near the borders of Northern Ireland, on the free state side. I saw plenty of discrimination against the free state Irish by the people of the North. I know how the Irish were portrayed as terrorists when all they were doing was trying to stay alive in their own homes. I lived in fear the first 17 years of my life and saw relatives and friends disappear till I emigrated to America in 1954. I can still hear my uncle Tom telling me, "One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist."

Sadly, nothing much has changed over there. Only last week we witnessed the police in the North battering people with their nightsticks when all they were doing was trying to send their children to school in their own community. The only difference from the same situation in Alabama in the early sixties was the color of the children’s skin. Who would ever believe such prejudice would exist anywhere on this beautiful earth in the year 2001? To see the horror on the children’s faces as they watched their mothers being bludgeoned with police batons was heartbreaking but nothing new in Ireland. The Irish have struggled for eight hundred years against British tyranny. Millions of Irish have been slaughtered by the British. During the potato famine in the 1840s, three million people were starved to death. Only recently have the British begun to admit that during the years of the famine the Irish tenant farmers were growing enough corn, wheat, and potatoes to feed eighteen million people, but most of it was shipped to England. In 1851, when the famine was over, there were only six million people in Ireland.

What has all this to do with what happened here last week in the World Trade Center? Maybe nothing, or maybe plenty, it depends on how you look at it. Again, I would like to ask: What have we done to someone to make them so mad at us? From what I’ve seen and read about the terrorist groups, they feel that America has taken sides in the struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Are we cowed into not wanting to talk about it because we fear the Jewish people will brand us anti-Semitic? I believe we have an obligation to speak out and ask questions. Is this a sensitive subject? You bet it is. But I would rather get it out in the open than listen to whispering about it in private. If this is even a small part of why some Arabs are angry at us, then we as Americans have an obligation to at least try to convince our government to do something about bringing the two sides to the table to settle their dispute once and for all. What happened to the Camp David Accord and to Resolution 242 in the United Nations? Why can't the major powers unite and help bridge the differences between sides? Give peace a chance. Let's try it like we’ve never tried it before. War is not the solution. There are no winners in war. World War III could be the end of civilization. If we must fight, let’s fight for peace. Our lives depend on it.

JOHN BAXTER


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