September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Satyagraha: A Moment of Truth
September 11, 2006, San Antonio, TX
Good evening! And thank you all for coming.|
On September 11, 2001, Mr. Bush sat in a Florida classroom not knowing what to do. You've all seen the video.
That video is all the more disturbing to me because at that moment, my sister-in-law was still alive. United Airlines Flight 93 was still in the air, and the most powerful man on earth, did nothing, because he did not know what to do.
But the passengers on Flight 93 certainly knew what to do. They took the most democratic action they possibly could - they VOTED! They voted to try to stop the terrorists while they still had a chance, and then they proceeded to act on that vote.
I'm here today to tell you about my personal experiences as a September 11th family member, and as an outraged and inspired citizen of the United States.
Five years ago today I returned home to learn that my little brother's wife, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, had been a victim of that day's terrible events.
Lauren was one of your own, a Texas girl. She graduated from Stratford High School in Houston and from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985. She and Jack met at UT.
Lauren was a petite woman with a lot of big plans. Of all people, she would not have wanted others killed in her name.
Peaceful Tomorrows is a nonpartisan group of September 11 family members and friends who have chosen to turn our grief into action for peace. The group began forming just two months after the attacks. It has a long list of international peace missions, and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Our position is that our grief is not a cause for war, it is not an excuse to abridge our civil rights and it is not a reason to persecute immigrants.
NOT IN OUR NAME!!!
As we know, Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
David Potori, one of the founding members of Peaceful Tomorrows, has made this statement:
"Today let us remember the suffering of our families on September 11th - which was well documented - but let us also remember the families who have suffered in the name of September 11th: Afghan families, Iraqi families, British families, Italian families, and all of the other military families and civilians whose suffering has NOT been well documented. Let us remember those who return to Dover Air Force base in coffins in the middle of the night so we can't see them. Those who sit forgotten in veterans hospitals. Those who will be victimized for the rest of their lives by images of terrorism and violence, and war as a result of our country's wrong choices after September 11th."
Now I'd like to tell you about what happened to another Peaceful Tomorrows family member.
My friend's son was investigated as a terrorist. The investigation was post-mortem, because his remains were found at the World Trade Center. He died there while on duty as a police recruit/trainee trying to save victims of the 9/11 attack.
But since Salman was Muslim, his grieving family endured an investigation of him as a perpetrator instead of recognition of him as the hero that he was. It took months for the family just to get official notice of his death.
Salman was perhaps the first subject of racial profiling that occurred specifically because of September 11th.
Salman was eventually cleared of all charges, and acknowledged for his heroic role. Last year I met his mother, Talat, in Washington DC and she told me his story. Talat and I were part of a Peaceful Tomorrows delegation at the capital lobbying for changes to the USA Patriot Act.
As you know, based on the fallacious argument that reducing our liberty will increase our security, a whole host of civil rights abuses has been instituted, most notably the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is significant among all federal legislation in that it was passed as a direct reaction to 9/11. As such, we at Peaceful Tomorrows feel that it was legislation done in the name of the families of Sept 11 victims, and so our voices should be given special attention whenever congress reviews it. We are alarmed about the willingness of our government to sacrifice true liberty for false security.
Well, as a result of that very same Patriot Act, I can now be investigated as a terrorist. That is because I have associated with a person known to have been part of an official FBI investigation. But I need not have even spent more than an hour with Talat to earn this privilege. Under the USA Patriot Act, all I need to have done is to have exchanged pleasantries, given directions or sat next to her in public.
What's more, by handing Talat my cell phone to share a conversation with a joint acquaintance, I gave the FBI reason to record the source and destination of all calls made to and from all my telephone lines, including calls to my family, friends and doctors.
The fact is that under the USA Patriot Act, all the FBI needs to do to include you in an investigation is to send an agent to a judge with a simple affidavit affirming that there is a good reason to investigate you. The judge cannot ask the reason. The agent need not offer it. The judge cannot reject the warrant, or send it back for any revision.
The FBI can go farther than you may imagine with these warrants. They can search your home and take anything they want and replace it with fakes, without telling the local authorities. They can go to any institution and get copies of all your financial and other personal records, including health records that your own family cannot see without HIPA authorization. They can "trap and trace" any phone you use, including pay phones and those at work or any friends' houses.
Have they used this power on me? I don't know. Because none of this has to be disclosed to you, due to an automatic gag order on all Patriot Act warranted investigations.
In short, there are no checks and balances. Just broad, invasive powers by the federal government to conduct costly research which only adds hay to the terrorist search haystack.
Ironically, our government has already acknowledged that too much hay in the haystack was one of the biggest problems in predicting the 9/11 attacks.
But apparently we aren't supposed to talk about predicting the attacks. That's what my little brother Jack did, and he paid for it. You see, Jack had the audacity to state in a 2002 Time magazine interview that he did not agree with Condoleezza Rice that "no one could have predicted that they'd use planes as missiles".
That statement earned Jack special attention by the FBI - a van was parked outside his front door for over a week. When he questioned them about their presence he was told that the FBI was there for his "own protection", since "some people" may object to his remarks.
Patrick Henry said, "The US Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
And yet the same people who so cavalierly abridge our civil rights in the name of Sept 11 don't stop there. Their ideology has been expanded into our moral rights as well.
They seek, for example, to invade our right to love whom we chose and how we chose, without the government peeping into our bedroom windows.
My friend Victoria told me, "Many Americans don't realize that many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals and Transsexuals also lost their family members on that day. But they were denied information and benefits. And still today, they fight to be recognized as families. On September 11, let's also remember those victims who could not live freely because of homophobia and their families who continue to suffer this injustice even more so today."
. . . .
If my sister-in-law Lauren were alive today she would surely be at an event like this one. But she's not here now, and you are. You are here because, like Lauren and the other passengers on Flight 93, you knew what to do. You knew that today was a day to make your voices heard for peace and justice.
Today we celebrate a moment of truth. My personal moment of truth was the morning I woke up in early 2004 and realized that all the negative fallout from September 11th wasn't going to end unless people did something to change things. And I knew that no matter how much I didn't want it to, that meant me. I had to make it change. I had to do the things I was harping about. I had to be an example for my children, lest they too become complacent and disillusioned and lose all hope.
So I set about doing things I had never done before. I volunteered at a campaign office. I walked precincts in neighborhoods I wouldn't dare even drive through. I organized a tabling at a college I had never seen in another state. I placed signs and mailed letters and started an email network. I even called strangers all over the nation in advance of the presidential primaries.
Within a few months my husband and I became the county leaders of our political party. We, who had just moved from out of state, didn't live in town, didn't attend a local church, didn't work locally and didn't really know anyone. Suddenly we were leaders in our community, and, in our red state, not very popular ones at that!
You know that exercise where you list all the positives in your life that have come about as a result of something that's weighing you down? Well, bear with me, because here's my list.
I've made so many new friends. Back at the turn of the century when my husband and I decided I would leave the world of northern California high tech employment to become a stay at home mom in the rural Midwest, US states weren't defined as "red" or "blue". Remember those days? And so we didn't think that making friends of like political minds would matter that much.
But now I know how terribly important it is to interact daily with people who care about such things as preserving our democracy. Now I have dozens of new friends who make all the difference between physical & social isolation and personal connectedness to me. I might never have found those people in my state under other conditions.
I've learned lots of new skills. I never planned to become politically active, but now I speak in public, approach total strangers and march in parades. I've learned new social skills and new ways of looking at the world. I'm better at using the Internet, and I can make nice-looking yard signs and posters and decorate floats with the best of them.
I've acquired a Renewed Sense of Patriotism. Every day I do something patriotic like write a letter, call a legislator, research a topic, or encourage others to act. The American flag flies in front of my house and a sign stands by my front door that says "Peace is Patriotic". I never knew how intensely protective of our democracy I was until I was faced with a systematic effort to dismantle it.
I'm in Better health. Sometime in the winter of 2000, I began to have sleeping problems. I'd wake up in the middle of the night not just restless, but angry. First, I was angry about the election, then about the Kyoto treaty, then about the usurping of 9/11. And it just got worse from there. Soon I was angry and exhausted all day long. It was a classic case of anger fatigue, and it lasted for years.
But I didn't ask my doctor for a prescription to fix the problem. My solution was to act. Because Action is the best antidote to despair. Now, I sleep better!
I have learned a great deal in this work. I have learned more about foreign cultures, history, religion, science, geography and government than I ever thought I cared to know, all because of the effect of Sept 11th in these areas. This has improved my understanding of world events, my conversational skills and even my ability to help my children with their homework.
My children are smarter too! I am proud to say that my daughters know more about American government than all their classmates combined. They would not get this knowledge had they not been exposed to many dinner table discussions, meetings, marches and trips to Washington DC.
My children are now more sophisticated consumers of the media, deeper thinkers, and more questioning individuals than they would otherwise have been.
I have a renewed sense of community. Being new to our area, I lacked a sense of group belonging. I now constantly participate in events where people are speaking out against injustice. These people are my political soul mates; my community. YOU are my community!
Our home has better landscaping. The property I live on suffers from over 100 years of neglect and excessive planting. It all used to be so daunting to address. Now I set my mind on certain things and perform the hacking, trimming, clipping, mowing and hauling away with enhanced vigor. If I can't remove an offensive shrub from Washington, at least I can get rid of one from my own back yard.
In all this, I've found that I am appreciated. People across the spectrum relate to my concerns, from taxi drivers to retirees, from elementary school teachers to college students. I even recently got a call from an 82-year-old farmer, a registered Republican, who enjoyed my letter to the editor so much he had sent copies of it to his friends and congressional representatives!
I have important work to do. I have a cause to work for, indeed, several causes. I never realized how much I was needed by the world. There is no end to the ways I can help make things better. Sadly, it appears there will be work to stem the tide of regression for years to come.
As one of my many new-found friends, says, "We are inspired to become greater than we ever imagined ourselves to be. We are part of a humanity graduating from an old era and old ways that would certainly have destroyed the world. We are in the process of lifting the world to a grand and awesome new era. Even those who are tied to their wealth and fear are a part of the evolution of all of us." So today I'm asking you to act too.
Many things you know you can do. You know to contact your congressional representatives on issues that matter. Issues like the FAB act, which stands for Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting, and will give back to the United States the balanced perspective that our national media used to be required to have. Maybe if we can get enough people to support this act, our news outlets will start telling us the truth.
You also know that you must vote for our democracy to work. You know that not only must you always vote, but you must get others to do so as well. And now you know, just like those passengers who voted on Flight 93, that more than ever, your lives and the lives of your children really do depend on the outcome of your vote.
And speaking of voting, if a concern for free and fair elections sparks your interest, then by all means, please work on that!
You know also that engaging in political debate isn't just a luxury or a right, it's an obligation. Particularly now, when our government isn't telling us the truth, and the mainstream media has been an accessory to the lies by parroting them instead of challenging them. To paraphrase Gandhi, we must BE THE MEDIA WE WANT TO SEE in the United States of America. So speak out, loudly and often, about world affairs. You owe it to your fellow Americans to enlighten them.
You see, as Plato said 2000 years ago:
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
Think about that. I saw a sign once that said "Complacency is a Weapon of Mass Destruction." We cannot afford to be complacent! Or too busy, or too concerned about what others think.
We must act as if the change we desire depends on it. Because it does. What else can you do to promote peace and justice?
You can put signs in your yard, on your person, and yes, even on your cars. Make your opinion heard! Last year I bought a brand new car for the first time in my life, and for the first time in my life, I put a bumper sticker on it. It says: War is NOT Pro-Life.
You can wear buttons, simple buttons that say things like "Think! It's Patriotic". Buttons start conversations! I have met many a now good friend through my buttons, bumper stickers and yard signs.
One of the most powerful things you can do is write letters to the editor. You can send these to all kinds of newspapers, not just local ones. Remember, even state and national papers will print your letter. In fact, many national papers actually prefer letters from the South and Midwest.
A letter to the editor from an everyday citizen, that's you, has 6 TIMES the influence as a statement by a public official? 6 Times!! So go out and use your influence!
You can also post your flag at half mast, as I have in mourning for our democracy, or even upside down, as the international symbol of a ship in distress. Make people ask questions!
You can work for a political campaign, or offer to make a peace presentation at your child's school or social club.
Last year I happened to rent a movie called "Paper Clips". It's a great documentary about the power of teaching tolerance to children - I highly recommend it. I was so moved by this movie I purchased an extra copy, and the book, for the local public school and then found a teacher who would show it in class.
That sixth grade class and I had a good discussion about diversity, but I'll never forget the 12-year-old who came up to me at the end. He said he is going to enlist in the army when he graduates -- 6 years from now-- so he could go fight in the Iraq War. His plan is to spread the word about tolerance and diversity and thereby help turn the Middle East around.
Amazing, isn't it?
My brother Mark told me, "If we want peaceful tomorrows it means we have to be better world citizens - better in understanding and respecting the rights of other cultures and nations. In civics class they taught us how to be good citizens of our own country. It's time to expand our teaching of good citizenry to include being a good citizen in the rest of the world."
So go out and help children learn to become those good citizens of the world!
You can also become a more active member in the progressive change group of your choice.
I'm proud to say that I have twice worked with American Friends and Peaceful Tomorrows in setting up the Eyes Wide Open exhibit. Maybe you've heard about this. It's a simple display of empty boots and shoes as a memorial to military and civilian war deaths. It's an awesome exhibit. If you ever get a chance to see it or work on it, I strongly urge you to do so.
My point is, we all need to ACT to create change, and we need to act often. We need to ask ourselves, what have I done to promote peace and justice today?
As my friend Steve says, "Action gets us out beyond ourselves. The pain can be enormous and even be more than we think we can bear. But when we use it to connect ourselves with the world beyond us, it gives a grander meaning. The kind that helps us with personal healing and wakens us to the fact that we are not isolated. We are a part of something huge, a world society. And that larger self needs healing too."
Whatever you choose to do is fine. Just act. Follow your own truth-force. Find your own "gentle way to shake the world" as Gandhi would say.
Just remember, you also have the right NOT to remain silent.
Albert Einstein said:
"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
You can also pray. But I hope that's not all you do. You can do so much more.
After all, I was taught in church that "when you sing, you pray twice." So let's all keep singing, loud and long and openly and freely. As long as we still can.
I'm going to end tonight with a quote from my little brother Jack, because his great personal loss is what ultimately brought me here:
Last spring he was asked by a reporter whether he thought our government had made life safer for us since September 11. His reply was:
"The Constitution of the U.S. begins with the words 'We the People' not 'We the government' meaning that we the people are the only ones who can make our lives safer, whether by voting in competent non-partisan representatives and presidents, or by taking more direct action. Action, just like the passengers and crew did on United Flight 93."
And so I say to you: If we truly want to commemorate the sacrifice of the Sept 11 victims, and to honor the spirit of Satyagraha, we have no other choice than to ACT to create peace and justice in the world.
For further information contact:
1443 S. St. Mary's, San Antonio, Texas 78210
(210) 224-HOPE or 224-4673 FAX (210) 222-1097