A few weeks ago, some buildings fell down, crushing thousands of people to death. They say the dust is only clearing now.

Yes: a distant skyline that I have never known has dramatically changed shape, in the careless course of a single searing hour. And like some horrible inverse of the Berlin Wall, these falling pieces of steel and concrete have torn asunder our highest standards, our inner sense of security.

I wish I could believe that the dust is clearing. For the broken skies of New York, that much may be true: there has been wind and rain and time enough to erase the grit, the smell, the dreadful smoke. But those are all just artefacts, ripples where the boulder hit the sea. The real damage... is underneath.

From my reclusive position just beyond the United States, I have watched a country implode into itself. Arabs, Israelis, and their various look-alikes are being abused or killed, by those who call themselves, cough, "Real Americans". No one questions the President -- at the moment when questions are more relevant and important than ever before. Not because he's an idiot, but because we need informed, rational discussion when we're about to decide if we should perpetuate acts of mass destruction around people who have the present misfortunate of living in Afghanistan. Civil Liberties are going down in flames. Newspapers are firing columnists for voicing any dissenting opinion at all. And wherever you look, there's an American Flag! ...or six, draped over everything. The fences. The cars. The grim-faced people. Retaliation. Revenge. It crawls from their mouths like a dirty thing, and I wonder, where were these people six months ago? Has so much intolerance and blatant racism been floating this close the surface, waiting? And what can I even say about the patriotism?

I have no doubt that the majority of Americans are not bent this way. They're probably in a state of deep confusion and remorse, many times more vivid than my own. But with the hatred and hypocrisy present, from the lunatic fringe on up through the heads of state -- this rhetoric is coming from everywhere. It's not unified, but right now it sure is louder than dissent. The masses are listening. And surprise, surprise: it could so easily happen here.

Would Canadians take the destruction of one of our precious financial monuments (along with untold thousands of... innocent lives) with more rationality and understanding, and less militant patriotism? Less unbridled, restless hatred? Would we be willing to look for the cause of the crime, not just the criminal's hideout?

I'd tell you we would, if I believed it to be true. But some of the popular reaction (on both sides of the billion-dollar border) has so stunned me, my worldview now is dark with disbelief. There's enough going on right here, in semi-peaceful British Columbia, that I can see the deadly potential staring me right in the face. Let us not dwell on the evil that could rise around us, rather, let us pray for continuing recovery south of the border. Widely ignored by the popular press, spontaneous peace demonstrations are breaking out across America. People are coming to terms with the awful loss, terms which perhaps don't involve more violent death. Hot tempers are flaming out. Of course they are shocked, angry, hurt beyond belief. But now there's also hope, of a fashion...

Stop. Go back and look at words I underlined a few paragraphs above us. "Abused or Killed". I mean that people actually died because of the colour their skin, or the type of headgear they wore. Here, in North America, at the hands of common citizens. This week.

When we look back on the conflicts we have fought long ago, or hear of some distant atrocity on the news over dinner, we shake our heads in polite bewilderment. "Can you imagine?" we say, glancing out the window at our perfect skyline.

I can imagine. Take a breath and STOP THIS NOW.


October 5 2001