by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
September 26, 2001
TWO PLANS FOR THE END OF DAYS
SEATTLE -- Now here are my plans, both of them. 1) The obvious plan. We have been hit. This is war. We will find out who was behind the terrorists and we will bomb them back even further into the Stone Age than they already are.
No idea when this plan will come to fruition, but it will take a long, long time. It will also be very expensive and will kill a great many people, ours and theirs. But it will not kill them all.
The certain result, one of the few, is this: Afghan boys now aged 10 will become, in 15 years, the most ferocious suicidal terrorists the world has ever known. They will hit us again, with whatever weapon is handy in the future. We will decide that we have been hit. That this is war. We will find out, etc., etc. Repeat ad infinitum et ad nauseam.
2) The other plan. We have been hit. This is war, sort of. No one is quite sure. But we do find out who hit us, and instead of war we make ... peace. We do the unthinkable: we return good for evil. We send them not money but food, water, medicine, clothing, and idealistic young Americans sometimes known as the Peace Corps.
There will be a brief pause at this point while everyone takes a deep breath.
When Jesus - for Whom, by the way, we will not seek converts as a condition of our help - said that we should bless those who curse us, He did not necessarily mean that we should stop at blessing alone. People need things to eat, water to drink, shelter. And love. The result of this (comparatively inexpensive) plan: Afghan boys now aged 10 will, in15 years, be raising crops and children and prayers to Allah to bless the United States of America.
Reader, I am not an idiot. The most superficial acquaintance with human malevolence and stupidity will suggest that Plan Two will be met first with incredulity and then with brays of contempt. That is no reason for hiding it under a bushel.
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, notes $2 billion in American aid to Egypt does not seem to have bought us much good will among the Egyptian people. So what else is new? We normal folk are less impressed with the statistics of high finance than the investment mavens.
Tell me that the European country with the largest investment in the American economy is Holland and I will be mildly surprised that the wooden shoes-and-tulips crowd has that kind of scratch, but it leaves me emotionally untouched.
If, however, my house is on fire and Dutch volunteers show up to help me put it out and salvage what can be saved, my gratitude will not be measurable in numbers, only in the incalculable movements of the heartand mind.
W.H.Auden eventually refused to tolerate in his collections one of the most famous of his poems, "1st September 1939." But one version contained lines that not even the author can eradicate from memory, for they haunt it:
When will we ever know
The apparent answer, derived from a glance at the day's news: Never.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofComparative Literature at Princeton University.