Mind Matters

by the Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 417
October 14, 2001


After September 11


Recognizing us as Americans, the green grocer called out to us his sorrow for the events of September 11, as we passed on the cobblestone street. The conductor, at the beginning of an evening concert, quieted the audience for a minute of silence in remembrance. Another city, another day—the large plate glass window in the office building was empty, except for the full-size newspaper page containing a poem expressing grief for the loss of life. And, in another city, the crudely lettered sign stuck in the iron fence demanded harsh retribution. All this my wife and I experienced in Germany more than a week after September 11.

I found myself deeply touched by the multiplicity of expressions (and I wondered—if such an event had taken place in Germany, would it would have garnered more than two nights of headlines here?).

Perhaps such shared sympathy across national boundaries will become more common as the need for international cooperation to combat the terrorism that threatens open, democratic, and civilized societies becomes more evident.

Perhaps our country is now edging away from the Lone Ranger, Rambo, Dirty Harry, we–don’t–need–anyone–else approach toward the world. The process has been slow. The attack on Pearl Harbor ended our two–ocean hibernation. The Marshall Plan and NATO, after the Second World War, kept us from retreating behind those oceans. The assassination of Kennedy removed our naiveté that, somehow, our ‘specialness’ made us immune from the removal–by–gun politics found in other nations. Now, the events of September 11 remove another layer of ‘invincibility.’

Another sign of the breakdown of traditional divisions among the peoples of the world was our presence in Germany for the opening of the new International University of Bremen. It was a delight to watch the 130 students from both near–by and far–flung nations become a chatting, laughing and swirling swarm on the road.

Then, there was the more mundane tie binding the world together. At the outset, in Germany, we took our American host family to a Chinese restaurant. On the last night in Europe, we stayed at a gasthaus, run by a fifteen–year German resident from north China and ate in a restaurant with the French name Papillion, but owned by Greeks and serving Greek food. A united nations in two restaurants.

I contemplate a corollary to Napoleon’s comment that an army marches on its stomach.

--Robert H. Tucker
14 October 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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