by Matthew Dorrell
The American flags that are waved so frequently on television look different lately. The easy confidence with which they are usually brandished has been replaced by obvious determination accompanied by fear and uncertainty, often with anger.
The concept of "horror", long tossed about as if it were a two-cent word appropriate for tragedies as mundane as a rise in the price of gasoline, or as trivial as a Hollywood divorce, has been recreated as a tangible thing, delivered as obviously and unequivocally as a punch in the stomach. I have seen nearly a hundred planes hit the World Trade Center in the last week, and the same feeling of horror is present every time. A feeling of nausea which is not easily dispelled remains with me.
I first heard about the attacks from the mailman, who I wanted to believe was wrong, confused or exaggerating, but the reporter on the radio shared the same story. They shared the same incredulous tone of voice - that tone that countless people adopted for days, one that said "I can't believe I'm telling you this, or that it is true. But I am. It is."
As that incredulous tone quickly became harder-edged, much of the media coverage has focussed on the apparent sophistication of the terrorist attacks. The image of an organized group of terrorists, capable of inflicting such catastrophic damage is indeed frightening, but I find the single-minded hatred they possess much more disturbing than the efficiency with which it was articulated.
The war that the US government assures the world is coming, and that many of the people who wave its flag angrily urge as the only answer, seems to be a response that it is doomed from the outset. Wars are conducted against large groups - a race, a religion, or a people - but it is a far smaller group of criminals responsible for the terrorist attacks. Certainly it will be a much larger group that will end up suffering, the vast majority of them no more guilty than those who died in the World Trade Center.
That the world is marching toward war, seems at times as inevitable as watching the World Trade Center crumble for the hundredth time. I do understand the United States' need to act. I understand the incredible strength of will required to avoid a war. However, even if there are no credible alternatives yet, war cannot be chosen by default.