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God bless America.
Comfort her mourning citizens
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EQUALITY

…a reflection on the September 11th
terrorist attacks on the United States
 
The Korean War Educator website is devoted to disseminating information about the Korean War only. Rarely does Lynnita Brown (creator of The Korean War Educator), leave this educational track to present a viewpoint on a matter outside the scope of the Korean War. However, on September 11, 2001, the United States--the country in which the Korean War Educator is based--was attacked by terrorists. Because of the violent nature of the attacks, we feel compelled to veer off the subject of the Korean War for just a few moments to publicly express our sorrow over the fact that thousands of our fellow countrymen and women were murdered on that fateful day in American history.

Consequently, this page of The Korean War Educator is devoted to the memory of those who died as a result of the cowardly attacks on September 11th. Like so many citizens of this wonderful country, we have asked ourselves, "Why?" "Why would anyone want to harm this nation of peace-loving people?" Our electronic mailboxes have been clogged with comments from veterans and members of the general public. Television networks and radio stations broadcast viewpoints of journalists, statesmen, military leaders, and average citizens. Daily and weekly newspapers carry articles discussing that one recurring question……….WHY?

The one and only commentary that The Korean War Educator website will carry on the subject is an editorial written by Gabriel Omo-Osagie, a native of Nigeria who now lives in Champaign, Illinois. Gabe’s editorial appeared in the Sunday, September 30, 2001 issue of The News-Gazette daily newspaper on page B-3. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author because Lynnita Brown feels the editorial provides a strong and valid reason why America and the principles for which her people stand came under violent attack on September 11th.


WHAT MAKES THE UNITED STATES UNIQUE? EQUALITY

by Gabriel Omo-Osagie

"There is something uniquely American in the American personality. Walking down the streets of Europe, Africa or Asia, it is easy to tell who is American and who is not. Even though in the United States one might think of oneself as being radically different from one another—as the Rev. Jesse Jackson is from David Duke—the question is what trait makes the American stand out? What is it that makes this trait so obvious to the world, in spite of what many consider the inequalities of different races that exist in this nation?

To examine this, one needs to remember the Jeffersonian creed—right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The average man on the street probably does not remember that creed. But, more importantly, somewhere along the way he has internalized this notion, and he believes in it absolutely. It is important to note that not many cultures in this world can digest the notion of equality, especially when coupled with the freedom and right to pursue individual happiness in any manner that does not violate the rights of others. In most other societies, it is easy to intellectually comprehend this theory, reminding oneself that John Locke talked about this in his discussion of the origin of government. In the United States, you don’t even have to think about this.

Here, it is easy to believe that you are equal to Bill Gates and that you have the same rights and liberties as President Bush.  These people have nothing on you. Gates probably had toast and eggs for breakfast, has a microwave in his house, drives a car, has a telephone and TV set hooked up to cable or a satellite dish. You most likely have the same. He goes on yearly vacations, and you do the same.
How does this affect the notion of being an American? It fosters that idea of equality. It makes it easier to believe that there is nothing exclusive in America. Everybody basically has the ability to enjoy the same pleasures and vices.

In other parts of the world, this is not quite so. You are born into a state in life, and chances are, you will die in this same state. The problem with this is that other cultures accept this way of life. The pleasures that exist are, for lack of a better word, rationed.

In most parts of the world, the rich are rich because they are connected in some way to the government. The people relish government-bestowed wealth. Nobody dreams because dreams don’t come true. There is no Horatio Alger story, like that of a man in Champaign who has worked in the local newspaper office and now bestrides the business community like a colossus.

The main consequence of this inability to rise from a given station in life leads to hopelessness, and compounding this hopelessness is the frustration that development and success are defined by standards set by the West in general and by the United States in particular.

Yet all those who hate America and are wealthy count their wealth in U.S. dollars. Those who cheered the bombing of the World Trade Center wore blue-jeans. I am sure that when they got thirsty after running around chanting "Down with USA," they quenched their thirst with a Coke.

As human beings, we need someone to blame for our problems. Of course, the No. 1 whipping boy is America. They say America wants to dominate the Middle East so that she can take over their oil fields, forgetting that oil without America and the West would just have been a nuisance in the ground. It is America and the West that gave oil its value.

One must remember that America’s biggest export is her popular culture—her music, her art, her permissiveness, her belief that tomorrow will always be better than today, one’s right to seek pleasure the way one defines it, the hedonism, that lack of restraint, the culture that gives us Madonna, Michael Jackson, Liberace and RuPaul.

Americans are not ashamed of them, and they are big enough to tolerate them, even though the Rev. Jerry Fallwell and Patrick Buchanan live within these same borders.

This hedonism is simply admired the world over. I don’t believe the mullahs have tamed and subdued all immoral tendencies and that they have vanquished the tyrannies of the flesh. The only thing they have done is to restrict pleasure by allowing only themselves and those close to them to partake.

Think about this: A couple of the World Trade Center suicide bombers spent their last night in a strip joint enjoying that uniquely American pleasure of lap dancing and running up enormous tabs of alcohol. How religious!

The world views Americans with misplaced jealousy and deadly envy. It is hard to comprehend in most other cultures that no one man is supreme. All agree that the U.S. Constitution is numero uno. One cannot overthrow the government and neither can one suspend the Constitution. The freedom that exists has attracted the most creative and brightest people from all over the world. Furthermore, there has never been a society like this.

They say we love money and worship at the altar of materialism. But that is why we are who we are. American culture is productive and, because of this, Americans have become rich and raised the world’s standard of living. Americans work for money and money is one thing everyone can attain in our system.

If you are good at anything, you get rich and suddenly you are at the upper echelon of society. You can also succeed in another way. Polish your human capital and you might one day, in spite of being the son of a poor alcoholic father from the poorest state of the union, become president of the United States without firing a single shot. Try to accomplish this anywhere else.

These things make people mad. And yet the world is a better place because of it. Tell me, if you come from a country like this, don’t you think you deserve the swagger with which you walk?"


We Will Make Them Proud

by Hon. Charles W. McCoy, Jr.

When in June, 1969, I reported to Hotel Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, one of my close friends, Lieutenant Bob Fisher, was already in country serving as a forward artillery observer for an infantry company. Soon Bob was wounded and evacuated to a hospital. Although his injuries were severe enough to warrant a transfer stateside, Bob chose to rejoin his combat unit following recovery.

The day Bob reported back for duty our commanding officer assigned him to a job with the guns rather than in the field with the infantry. All agreed Bob had earned the less risky assignment.

Wishing to share a proper goodbye with friends at his old unit, Bob spent the night at infantry headquarters. Around midnight the enemy lobbed a barrage of heavy 120 millimeter mortars at us, many landing in the infantry’s position.

As Bob rushed for cover, shrapnel from an exploding round struck him in the back. Bob’s comrades courageously carried him through the deadly mortar fire to a nearby medical station where a doctor tried mightily to save his life.

Early the next morning our commanding officer told me Bob had been killed during the night and asked me to go identify his body. Nothing in my years on Earth had prepared me for the shock of seeing Bob’s lifeless body.

Seething with anger, much as all Americans felt after September 11, I reeled at the thought of a shadowy enemy killing my friend and leaving me powerless to immediately strike back at the killers. Aching with the deepest sorrow, I wept tears that do not fully comfort. And later, alone, I faced a nagging fear that Bob’s fate could some day be mine.

Like many Americans recently, I did not at first appreciate the seriousness of my emotional wounds, but when they did not heal quickly I realized I was up against something that could do me lasting harm. Anger alone could be forgotten. Sorrow by itself would eventually subside. Fear could not alone conquer me. But the three together might prove too much. Back then we called it "battle fatigue." Today many Americans remain fatigued by September 11.

The day after Bob died our unit held a memorial service in the dust and grit of our firing position. I spoke up that day, and later wrote Bob’s parents a letter. I did something constructive to help others, as Americans have done in the days and weeks following September 11.

While I could not forget the horrifying images accompanying Bob’s death, I did not intentionally replay the memories over and over in my mind. Rather than retreating from fear, I confronted it by sharpening my awareness of potential dangers, acting to minimize them as best I could, and considering how I might react when and if frightening possibilities became terrifying realities. Feeling angry, I expressed it in ways that did not further hurt me or others, and I didn’t let fear turn into hate.

Americans today are coping as I did in Vietnam, as veterans have coped on every battlefield of the nation’s wars. But today, the battlefield is at home as well as abroad, and the soldiers dress in uniforms and civilian clothes too.

With time, my anger, sorrow and fear subsided, not individually one-by-one, but altogether, inch by painful inch. And, at some point, I cannot recall exactly when, I emerged stronger, wiser, more resolute than ever before. I see that same transformation happening with all Americans today. The change in thinking that saved my life in the many battles I later fought in Vietnam will surely save the nation against all future perils at home and abroad.

Many years ago, in a place nearly as remote from home as Afghanistan, I discovered the road beyond anger, sorrow and fear. Today I travel it again, this time united with every American, knowing for sure the road leads to healing and victory. We are coping, and coping well.

We now celebrate Veteran’s Day with a deepened appreciation of the sacrifices made by our military and civilian war heroes to preserve freedom and our precious way of life. As in past wars, we will fight and win the difficult battles ahead. And we will make Bob Fisher and the thousands like him proud, including those who perished on the hallowed battlefield we now call Ground Zero.

We will cope, and we will make them proud.

Hon. Charles W. McCoy, Jr.
Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court
Author of Why Didn’t I Think of That? -
Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness (Prentice Hall, January 2002)
Professor, Pepperdine School of Law
mccusa@earthlink.net
(909) 482-1066
429 Macalester, Claremont, CA 91711

 

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