I joined my neighbors the other night at the candlelight vigil in our town. It was a fine Indiana evening of the early fall, still and quiet and cool. For the moment at least, the F-16s had ceased roaring and booming overhead. We gathered at First and Main streets, in a little corner commons named for my uncle and his family, next door to the Roanoke Heritage Center, where four of my father's paintings hang alongside works of other local artists dating all the way back to the 1850s.
We held white candles, long and thin, and those who were of a mind to do so held little U.S. flags as well. We sang two songs, "God Bless America" and that other one. I cannot sing, but I hummed along, loudly and lustily as I could, to the first song. As is my custom, I remained mute during the other song, which is a hymn to the state and its wars.
In charge of our gathering was a local Methodist cleric, a newcomer to our town and a woman of advanced views. Shortly after arriving at her new charge, she tried substituting apple juice for the traditional Methodist grape juice at Communion. It didn't take. In her remarks at the vigil, she two or three times used the word "Shalom." The alienness of it was like a slap in the face. My sense of humor being irrepressible, however, I couldn't help but imagine some in the crowd asking each other, "What was that? 'Shazaam'?" As we were dispersing in the wake of her final and valedictory "Shalom," a member of her flock whispered to me, "That's one of her favorite words."
It seemed to me that, given the circumstances, if her views had been truly advanced or at least bold she would have dared use the Arabic variant of the word for Peace: "Salaam." But on second thought, "Shalom" was all too appropriate, not only for her, a convinced and thoroughly modern Judeo-Christian, but for the rest of us as well.
As early as the evening of September 11, I found a group of talking heads on the telescreen predicting, or even pronouncing, the demise of the "open society" in America. They actually sounded a little sad about it. As that "discussion arc" has developed in the ensuing days, almost all the talking heads who are participating in it have identified the same ideal model for America to imitate, and it is none other than that authoritarian state that has occupied Palestine since just before I was born. El Al's security procedures, the Israeli intelligence services, Israeli policies and attitudes in general: those things are what we are to substitute for the tattered, and now shattered, remnants of our "open society."
In passing I note that this has come to pass at the same time that many counter-terrorism "experts" on the telescreen in answer to the anchor's question, "Why do they hate us so?" are delivering interminable, complicated explanations without ever pronouncing the word "Israel." One "expert" responded to the question with a potted history of the Crusades; the name of America's New Model Army-State never crossed his lips.
But does anyone really believe that, if Harry Truman and his successors had pursued a consistent policy of neutrality toward the Levant, Muslim soldiers would have hijacked airliners and flown them into the Pentagon and into the World Trade Center? I defy anyone who can put his shoes on correctly to tell me he believes that.
For more than half a century, our rulers for reasons that have nothing to do with us or our interests but only with them and their interests have attached the fate of the American Empire ever more securely and inextricably to that of the Israeli Empire. It is not a case of the tail wagging the dog, though I myself have used that metaphor in the past. The mind of the dog or, rather, wolf is in New York, and it wags tails in both Washington and the Levant.
Now it is no longer enough that the United State should sustain Israel, sustain her at the cost of financing murder, committing murder, and entangling us Americans in an eternal blood feud with a large part of the Islamic world. Now the little housebroken employees of the great New York wolf tell us that America must go further: America must become Israel. Well, certainly they and their cold-eyed masters have done all they could to make that monstrous transmogrification inevitable.
May you all have "Shalom." But don't hold your breath.
September 16, 2001
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