Re: some U.S. observations and notes

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sun Dec 16 2001 - 18:19:36 MST

From: Samantha Atkins <>, Sat, 15 Dec 2001

>Thank you a lot for this post. It is very valuable to have a
>perspective on what is happening here from outside. Especially from
>someone who both knows the US as only a citizen can and has been
>away long enough to note the differences more starkly since 911 than
>those who have been here throughout the fallout from this tragedy.

Thank you for saying this. You're the first one who has noted that I
have an unusual perspective on the last months.

While I was in the States the last weeks, I met a Belgian scientist
who has been living in the U.S. for the last few years, and we are
now exchanging observations of the U.S. since September 11: him as a
nonAmerican but living in the U.S. during the last few years, and
me, as an American, but living outside of the U.S. during the last
few years. I would bet a large sum of money that what he and I will
both learn are some new appreciations for important things American
and important things nonAmerican.

>A few comments on sections are below.

>> Finally, I observed a transformation in America, that frankly scared
>> me. It's there now, and is trickling outside. Fear, suspicions,
>> sometimes paranoia. Boundaries and borders are being heavily
>> fortified, civil rights are being trampled right and left, and for
>> the most part, I didn't hear people complaining about that (the one
>> exception was the the ~1000 people who are held in jails with no due
>> process for 'suspicious terrorist activity'). In human history's
>> most wretched times, people were labeled and then burned,
>> quartered, persecuted, and I see this kind of fear-based labelling
>> on people appearing again. I couldn't escape the feeling that the
>> place where I was born and lived for most of my life (the U.S.) has
>> gone a little bit insane.

>Yes. This really freaks me out. Most of the population seems to be
>giving in to fear and to be successfully manipulated by the powers
>that be to go along with whatever is proposed as long as the magic
>wand of "stopping terrorism" is waved.

'War on Terrorism' is a very easy umbrella for the U.S. and other
governments to do what they do best, which is to find as many ways
as possible to restrict and control our lives. It's the politician's
livelihood, after all to find ways to make a living for themselves.

However, in this case, the fears are so strong, that it looks to me
that U.S. folks are willingly handing over the most basic rights built
into the U.S. Constitution (which came from even more basic
principles 2000 years ago). That's what worries me. If the
government of the free-est country on Earth can do that with the
full support that it is currently receiving from its citizens (other
world governments of less-free countries are now following along
easily), then what can we say about the future of humans on this

>> Before I moved out of the U.S. ~4 years ago, I was, in a small way, a
>> pacifist, believing that one doesn't answer violence with yet again
>> more violence. I also believe that any group's rampant unhappiness
>> or disrest has an element of truth embedded, and it must be
>> addressed in a civil way, or the violent cycle will continue. The
>> events since September 11, and my U.S. observations the last weeks,
>> have polarized me (unexpectedly) much more as a pacifist, and I know
>> now that the U.S. is not a good fit as an environment for me to live
>> (or to raise a kid).

>Before 911 I wasn't a pacifist. Now I am becoming a staunch
>believer in non-violence, at all levels right down to speech and
>thought. Why? Because I do not believe there is escape from
>terrorism without escaping from the automatic reaching for violence
>whenever sufficiently provoked or threatened.

Fear. This emotion is as strong or stronger then love, and I don't
think that a human can react externally to danger in a healthy way
until they understand much better how they react internally to
danger. When the fear begins, clearly something major is
threatening. A normal psychological response is to shut down,
barricade ourselves behind a wall of beliefs which grip us until the
fear-wall disappears or we remove it.

To handle fear... How might one do that? Have you noticed that a way
to handle fear is to simply go into it? Well, it's not simple, and
actually, it might be the most difficult thing to do when we're
afraid. It is so easy to sabotage our lives by cooking up a
collection of phobias where we convince ourselves of various
'facts'. Once we let go of the anxiety and neurotic fear, we have a
strength and balance for how to deal with it, even when the danger
still exists.

In a group scale, I believe that we do the same thing. If
something is dangerous, the wrong thing to do is to barricade
ourselves behind a wall of unreasonable fears, and respond as
barbarians to barbaric acts. Instead, drop the phobias, so that we
have a strength and balance for how to deal with it.

One way that I handle my own fears is to support and cultivate
acceptance of 'Otherness'. It should be easy to do for Americans
because American 'culture' is comprised of a huge mix of other
cultures. I was born in Hawaii, my father was born in Latvia and my
mother's family came from Greece and Germany. When I was in New
Orleans two weeks ago, I met locals there who spoke only French for
several generations, and I spent evenings in music clubs listening
to music that was emerged from Africans/AmericanIndians/Spanish
music. The music was the best I had ever heard in my life, and the
invigorating chaotic mix of cultures I encountered there woke up
parts of me I wasn't aware of. It's part of being alive, and in the
best way.

Here in front of Americans' eyes is evidence that the variety that
other cultures brings to the U.S. has hugely enriched our lives.
Americans and American culture is born from 'Otherness', so denying
it, is a little like psychologically cutting off pieces of our body.
The paranoic attitudes that I saw and heard about and witnessed
during the last weeks looked to me like Americans are in the process
of cutting off integral parts of themselves, in their approach to
handle their fears.

>If I accepted the premise of violence being a healthy tool right now
>I would be arming myself to the teeth and digging in, frankly. I
>also feel that it is very important to remove the seed of xenophobia
>and of dividing the world into us vs. them if we are to have a
>future, much less a happy and viable one.



Amara Graps, PhD email:
Computational Physics vita:
Multiplex Answers URL:
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." --Anais Nin

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