After a long time without drawing...
9-11 marked a before and after for the United States and the world. The 20-year anniversary of the unprecedented attack on USA soil marks also the 20 years of my arrival at Athens, Ohio. I got there on August 15 to start graduate school.
I had a luggage full of dreams and the USA looked like the place all those dreams would become true, but 2001 was a tragic year in many respects.
I had just moved to an on campus apartment after a few days in a students’ dorm. I had just started to get some furniture, mostly from the dumpsters. That was my first America-is-great moment. Couches, desks, chairs, TV sets, computers just sitting there with a FREE sign.
The only thing I was advised not to take from dumpsters was mattresses.
Everything was going well. I had just had phone and cable activated. Just in time to witness a horrible tragedy live on TV.
I had classes that morning and went to campus to see if I could gather more information. Everybody was shocked, angered, saddened, scared.
I remember some young American students crying, wondering out loud, “Why? Why do they hate us?” It was a legitimate question. I was there with a Fulbright Scholarship. My son and my ex-wife were on their way; this was the land of opportunity; the land of immigrants. However, it was also a silly question; a question that revealed a profound ignorance of the other side of the coin; of the contradictions of America as a land of conflicts; America a history of wars and forced migrations.
I understood why, and I was hoping they could right so many wrongs from the past this time.
I remember OU President Glidden’s email advising all foreigners, especially of Middle Eastern origin, religion or look, to abstain themselves from attending public places, especially bars or crowded places. He also advised foreigners to avoid any kind of argument, confrontation, or provocations. American was hurt and angry.
I remember seeing some of the Muslims I had met during orientation shaving their beards and wearing jeans and baseball caps. Those were tense months. My looks did not help much.
Time passed and things got relatively normal. Grad school passed without any major incidents. There were wars being fought inside and outside, and yet, the country could still move on.
9-11 also marked a before and after in conspiracy theories; some of them quite well founded.
It is now a fact that the war on terror was ill-conceived, there was no transparency, and it was lost.
Twenty years, thousands of lives, and trillion dollars later, the USA is not safer, the world is not safer, and terrorists are smoking the victory cigar.
Some people made and are still making a lot of money out of the ever-pending threat of a terrorist attack. Like some diseases, it looks like it works in some groups’ benefit that these threats are never conquered, defeated, or expunged.
I feel sorry for those who lost loved ones then and in the aftermath. I feel sorry for their sense of lost sacrifice. The world deserved better. Fallen soldiers deserved better. Our children deserve better.
However, we can sense the smell of that cigar everywhere in the world now. Terror is adopting different forms and sizes, but it seems to be working more coherently towards its barbaric ends. In the meantime, the so-called civilized world keeps sending mixed signals. Too much self-aggrandizement, too much self-righteousness, too much self-indulgence.
Every anniversary provides a stage for more platitudes, but little of import is done to really make the world a better, safer place.
Some people deserve a decent long life; others don’t. Those who don’t deserve it, are not limited to a religious or political ideology. The ubiquity of evil transcends age, race, gender, politics or religion. Unfortunately, the power to terminate it is in the hands of those interested in perpetuating it.
I ended up spending 7 years in the United States. Five of those years in Normal-Bloomington, Il. I can’t complain. Those were the best years of my life. I got the best academic training and the best cultural lessons. Two of my daughters were born there and they were always treated with nothing but respect and affection.
The USA is certainly a country of contradictions, but it is infinitely better than the ideologies that oppose it. Those ideologies have not made their countries or their people better, more modern, or more prosperous. They just seem to celebrate destruction, even if it means self-destruction.
The idea of the drawing came in one single shot. I worked only with No2 pencil.
The thought of the smoking buildings as cigars may not be too farfetched.
I'm sure there were more than one cigar smoked as a result of this tragedy and its aftermaths.