AFTER SEPT. 11, A CHRISTMAS GIFT OF INTEGRITY
by Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- Spurred by President Bush and America's corporations = which tell us it's patriotic to buy during this recession, and that we must=
return to our daily activities, 270 million Americans are dribbling into s= tores to buy whatever the advertising agencies say we need to express our C= hristmas cheer. If we buy enough and go into even more debt we will be happ= ier people and will have defeated terrorism.
I am a generous gift-giver, whether giving material possessions or time= and energy. But this year, like most Americans, I'm still in mourning and = can't return to the way things were. With about a week before Christmas I'm= still depressed, angry, and just not feeling recovered enough from the eve= nts of Sept. 11 to proclaim my love of humanity with a desire to wrap it in= boxes. Nevertheless, I do have gifts I would like to see given, even if no= ne of them are available in stores, catalogues, or the Internet.
Millions of dollars have been made by corporations that have exploited = the Sept. 11 tragedy by wrapping patriotism around every product from can o= peners to cars. The best Christmas gift might be to stop buying anything th= at exploits our sudden re-patriotism. We could anonymously donate the money= we saved to a charity or to a family that may not have such a good Christm= as season.
That seems to be far more patriotic, and more in the spirit that should= be America, than becoming involved in a subconscious war of escalation to = prove that by material possessions we're more patriotic than our neighbor.=
Every Christmas season, I see politicians trailed by tv cameras go into = the cold and pretend they care about theimpoverished, unemployed, and hungr= y. If they cared aboutAmerica's underclass, they'd work on legislation to g= uaranteethere will be fewer Americans in these categories next Christmas.=
The events of Sept. 11 have directly left more than 150,000persons unemp= loyed as numerous businesses have been forced toclose or significantly redu= ce their operations. But, about 2.5million Americans are now unemployed. Th= e bailed-out airlines,with their million-dollar executive class managers, h= ave added atleast 40,000 workers to those unemployed rolls.
Wouldn't it be a wonderful gift to the people of this country if every = CEO who has knelt before the god of greed by trading the jobs and lives of = American workers for a few sheckles ofcorporate profits would be laid off w= ith no "golden parachutes?" Let them be as uncertain of their own lives as = they caused former employees to be of theirs. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has constantly told us that in th= is time of crisis the government must restrict our liberties and civil righ= ts in order to preserve our freedom. The American revolutionaries, during a= time of extreme terror after pledging their lives, honors, and sacred fort= unes to create a nation formed in the spirit of free expression and liberty= , would be appalled.
Mr. Ashcroft, a lawyer, and his allies believe their achievements must b= e undone to "protect" America. I would like to send him a framed copy of th= e original writing of Benjamin Franklin who told us in simple, easy-to-unde= rstand words that "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a litt= le temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Every year, the American Red Cross responds to about 60,000 disasters,= from apartment fires to multi-state floods. Less than two hours after the = Sept. 11 disaster began, the Red Cross moved into the three crash sites and= simultaneously into airports in 26 states where passengers were stranded f= or up to a week. This was before even one penny was collected in donations.=
More than 50,000 on-site volunteers and staff from throughout the natio= n have set up shelters, provided around-the-clock assistance to rescue, rec= overy, and demolition personnel, helped more than 30,000 families, made mor= e than 160,000 mental health contacts,served more than 11 million meals, an= d distributed or committed about $192 million in direct relief to victims a= nd their families.
The Red Cross has done more for the victims and emergency workers than = all other agencies combined. A decade from now, it will still be on-site as= sisting victims, their families, and recovery personnel.
But, under stresses never before imagined, not everything ran smoothly,= and the Red Cross's own public relations mission didn't keep the public fu= lly informed of what was happening and why. For a special gift, I wish the = politicians and media would retract their claws. Let the Red Cross continue= to do its job without having to dodge the barbs shot by snipers who never = worked a disaster, let alone contributed. so others can do their jobs.
Ch= anukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and Christmas all occur within a month of each o= ther. For a few days a year we proclaim messages of love, peace, and joy. P= erhaps our own gift to humanity could be to actually start practicing what = we say.
But first we need a cleansing. As much as I deplore terrorism and killin= g, as much as I believe that it's greater courage to turn the other cheek t= han to meet violence with violence, I would hope that God would give mankin= d a brief moment, a special gift, to rise up with the vengeance of the heav= ens against those who claim to act in His name for the destruction of life.=
Walt Brasch's latest book is "The Joyof Sax: America During the Bill Cli= nton Era," available at bookstores and on-line book stores.