In the wake of tragedy, I've fallen in love -- with my country and my fellow Americans.
Last night I found an American flag T-shirt, given to me years ago by a relative. I've never worn the shirt because it always seemed so quaint, so hokey. But I'm going to wear it tomorrow.
When I read the accounts of the remarkably brave passengers on that flight doomed to destruction in a remote Pennsylvania field, I want to hug and thank every single one of them. They truly are heroes.
When I see the bravery of the rescue workers, putting their own lives on the line -- some losing them -- just to help strangers, I remember why we stand to salute our flag.
Even news reporters -- and people in my profession are rarely called "honorable" -- have covered this story with dignity and sensitivity. They've kept all of us informed without forgetting our common humanity and horror. I'm proud of every single one of them.
But mostly, when I read the names of the dead, the only names we know right now, I want to put my arms around their families and raise my fist to the enemy. It just isn't right. Like the San Francisco Examiner
's simple, poignant headline on Wednesday, "BASTARDS!" I want to scream at these perpetrators.
Though I'm a lifelong pacifist and opponent of the death penalty, I want to personally pull the trigger in a firing squad, I want to drop the bomb on the enemy. I want to shoot now and ask questions later. I want the swiftest, harshest punishment for anyone who even had thoughts of helping these evil men commit this unthinkable act. I want medieval justice -- I want someone's head on a spike. How dare they use our people as weapons against us!? How dare they kill innocent Americans quietly working at their desks!?
But then I read those names again. Doug Stone, Wilson and Darlene Flagg, Joe Lopez, Lisa Frost -- names as American-sounding as any I've ever heard. Ruben Ornedo, Dora Menchaca, Yenench Betru, Mark Bingham, Lauren Grandcolas -- these are all "American" names too. Alona Abraham, Touvri Bolourchi, Dorothy Dearaujo, Tim Ward, James Roux -- these people might have been our neighbors, might have thumped melons in the grocery store with us, might have coached our children's soccer teams. Carolyn Beug, James and Mary Trentini, Kris Bishundat, Daniel Caballero, Patrick Dunn, Jamie Fallon, Matthew Flocco, Daniel Getzfred, Martin Panik, Joseph Pycior Jr., Allan Schlegel, Dianah Ratchford. There are many more names that should be here and thousands more that we don't even know yet.
My point here is simple. In our haste for revenge, let's not turn knives on ourselves. There is no "American" identity, no "American" look. Not one of us is any more or less "American" than any other. That's what makes us so lovable. We are everyone. We come from everywhere. We look like people all over the world. We have names derived from every nation. My own name is of mixed ancestry, as are the names of most of my friends. In our bloodthirst, let's not victimize any more Americans.
In America we assimilate and congregate. Yes, assimilate. We open our arms to welcome and hug neighbors we joke about being "fresh off the boat." If those of us not of Arab descent are shocked and angry at this week's attacks, those of Arab descent are that much more shocked and angry. Unlike many of us, they also feel shame for their heritage and, some, for their religion. They too have lost loved ones. They too are scared. They too feel vulnerable.
How much stronger can we be against our enemy if we welcome all of our brothers into the fight? Consider the most basic of facts: Many of the Arab Americans now being targeted in instances of racist backlash left their homelands so that they could become Americans. They abandoned all that was familiar so that they could join with us. Now is not the time to harm our own countrymen, now is the time to unite against the enemy.