It’s a city I’ve been fascinated with since the film, Mary Poppins. I desperately wanted to go there, to see the place where a soot covered Rob Petrie cavorted on rooftops with a magical, singing nanny and her flying umbrella.
I was lucky. I got the chance to vacation there with family exactly three years ago. We spent a week in London with jaunts to Bath and Salisbury. It never rained once, we met the kindest people and everyday was a sublime history lesson.
It was such a wonderful experience, which is why it’s so eerie to realize that we walked on the Westminster Bridge. We road on a boat on The Thames that embarked from a pier beneath that bridge. We stood in the shadow of Big Ben, the exact same spot that saw so much carnage went down on what had started out for Londoners as a typical Wednesday afternoon in March.
We’re still in such denial about our barbarism these days. VVideo taped beheadings throwing homosexuals off tall buildings , placing infidels in small cages with hungry tigers barely make headlines. Reports of raping women, then stoning them to death for being the victim barely lasts one news cycle. Today’s media is nothing more than an extension of some weird polite society in which nothing unpleasant is ever discussed. It tiptoes around the “T” word. Of course it was terrorism. And the attacker’s actions should be considered as such, even if he’d been nothing than a fifth generation resident of Trenton, NJ and a so-so Presbyterian.
We used to use nouns and verbs in reporting news. These days? Screw “alternate media”, we’re well beyond that. We’re now into “alternate verbiage”. We’re so worried about offending the offender. Tell a soldier who fought in Korea or Vietnam that those were mere conflicts. Some might tell you they’d never go back to Incheon or that tiny village near the Mekong, but in many ways, parts of them never left. Everyone leaves a psychic footprint, in good times and bad, but in the midst of anything extremely traumatic, it becomes permantently imbedded in the bedrock.
Connections to places are strange things.
In 2000, I was a member of a popular morning radio show. We spent a week in New York covering the Grammies. I can remember heading back to the hotel after a show and the cab we shared drove close to the World Trade Center. We’d all been to New York before, so none of us were tourists at that point, yet as we passed, my fellow passengers and I admitted we’d never seen the world from a fixed position 110 stories high. We agreed that a visit would have to be on each of our “to do” lists, but since we had one full day left in New York, we’d have to do it next time. Sixteen months later, the Twin Towers were reduced to a twisted, smoldering heap.
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I felt like I do right now. I’m saddened by every tragic terrrorist attack, but it becomes even more personal when you live or work in a place that was bludgeoned by hate. Or perhaps you played there; attended a concert at a theater where the audience members were nothing more than human target practice. What if a few weeks you cheered on your team during a soccer match at a stadium targeted for mass tragedy.. Perhaps you vacationed a few miles from the scene, spent an hour in an airport that was bombed; maybe you knew someone who knew someone who was on a bus or train that was blown to bits.
I don’t understand what motivates us to use hate to justify anything. Why does hate seem more powerful?
I don’t know the answer, but perhaps I can offer how it happens,. According to Cherokee legend, a tribal elder was sitting with his grandson by the fire one night. He regaled the boy with stories of their people, of wars with enemies, won and lost. He then tried to explain to the biggest battle of all–an ancient one that’s fought within every human. The old man described it as a constant fight between two wolves, equal in size and passion but the exact opposite in what they represented. One is Evil and he embodies anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.
The other wolf represents Good. He encompassed joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The child contemplated the story briefly, then asked , “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather replied simply, “The one you feed.”