Homage to the 9/11 Victims and the WTC

by Thea Halo

The following was written on September 13, 2001.

From Greenwich Street looking towards where the WTC once stood

For those of you who are concerned and interested in what is happening in downtown NYC, I finally went back on Thursday to check on my loft. I live in Tribeca about 10 blocks from the Trade Center site. I had left my windows open when I left town, so I was concerned about smoke and debris. The drive back on Thursday afternoon was unobstructed, since the bridges and tunnels had only recently been reopened. At 21st Street, traffic was diverted away from the West Side Highway. At 14th Street, the streets were closed off to regular traffic. I parked my car on 8th Avenue and 18th Street and walked home, about two miles. 

At 14th Street there was a check-point where one had to show identification to prove he or she lived or worked below 14th Street. As I passed through Greenwich Village, smoke with an odor of burning rubber and plastics, began to fill the air. Passers-by commented that the fires must have resumed because the smoke had not reached so far uptown before. But a wind was blowing from the south, bringing the foul smelling smoke with it. 

Some restaurants were closed in Greenwich Village, but many were open for business. The sidewalk tables at the White Horse Tavern on 8th Avenue, about 1 1/2 miles from the site, were full of people eating an early dinner or having drinks. Signs in many restaurant windows invited police and fire fighters to come in for drinks and snacks. The most dramatic change that far downtown was the lack of car traffic on the streets, but the streets were still populated with people. Or perhaps the most dramatic change was that people looked each other in the eyes, bound together by a common feeling of loss. 

By Canal Street the people on the streets had diminished to only a few; an occasional group of relief workers wearing masks walking their way uptown away from the scene, or some stragglers pulling their luggage towards 14th Street. At Canal Street there was another check-point where again one had to show identification. Canal Street was lined with trucks and buses of various descriptions in which relief workers or other equipment had been transported. Further south, a street was lined with parked bulldozers. Another contained police vans and more buses, that had brought relief workers to the scene. The smoke had thickened considerably. On passing a relief worker who was loading a truck with water, soft drinks and masks, he asked if I wanted a mask. I had been holding my sweater over my nose to block out the thickening smoke. I gratefully accepted and continued to my street.

Walking down Greenwich Street below Canal, I could see the cloud of thick yellow smoke where the Trade Centers had once dominated the skyline and filled in the space between the buildings on either side of Greenwich Street. It was difficult to adjust to the empty space there. On my street, other trucks were parked on both sides. I am told they used my street to lay out bodies at one time during the rescue operations. Volunteers with masks hung out outside The Tribeca Grill, a neighborhood restaurant on my street that seemed to be open for the sole purpose of accommodating relief workers. Most of the relief workers that far south stood at check points or waited to be of use. I heard a great rumble and was told that part of the teetering wall of one of the buildings had finally come crashing down. Of course, the mood was somber. 

Upstairs my loft was full of smoke and a layer of dust from the disaster, covered everything. But the windows were still in tact and only a few papers had blown off the counter. I looked out of the windows to the empty smoke filled space that used to house the great rectangles of the World Trade Centers, and again the eerie knowledge that these two great monuments of our city were gone was difficult to grasp. 

I realized how much a part of us they had become over the years; how much they had dominated every visual aspect of the skyline and the downtown scene. They were the landmarks one told visitors to look for to get their bearings when they emerged from subways; the landmarks that would silently inform them which way was south, and consequently, which way was east or west. They were the landmarks on which one blamed the wind tunnel that blew diagonally uptown, so that on windy days one could actually be blown off one’s feet at 6th Avenue and White Street when taking the next step to cross the road. They were the landmarks from which Godzilla had dangled, and from which daredevils had performed their dare-devilish feats of bravery and skill. They were the landmarks that housed a diverse array of peoples in business, government, and the arts. Recently, artist’s studios had been offered at the Trade Center by one of the state or city arts counsels. I would like to think this last was meant as a thank-you to the many artists whose labors and love of lower Manhattan had brought the districts, now known as SoHo and Tribeca, back to life over the last thirty-five years. 

The Trade Centers were monuments of vast strength and proportion, dwarfing even the tallest surrounding skyscrapers, yet they appeared to be held up by the thinnest possible supports, like broad-backed spiders on needle-point legs. At times they disappeared in a cloud of mist, but always emerged again, gleaming with sparks of silver as the sun burned the mist away. They had always been there in the twenty-seven years I have lived in their grace. They were there on waking with their spiral antenna poking at a cobalt sky, or spearing gray, slumbering, clouds. And they were there at bedtime as the lights in thousands of their windows illuminated the night. 

What had begun forty years ago as the butt of jokes and criticism for the designers and financiers of these nondescript monuments to America’s financial domination, had somehow over the years become less like real estate, and more like old trusted friends; always there, always giving comfort that some things never change. With a capacity the size of small vertical cities, housing upward of 50,000 people, they became living, breathing entities at the edge of Manhattan; guardians that oversaw the whole of the island and outlying boroughs and states. And like parental figures, they had achieved a mysticism akin to the symbol of the flag still flying as bombs burst in the night. 

As I looked up from my debris encrusted windows to where the World Trade Centers once stood, I now saw only a cloud of yellow smoke rubbing its billowing haunches on a brilliant blue sky. It was difficult to imagine these friends would not emerge victorious this time as they had emerged from the mist so many times before. It was even more difficult to imagine that the remains of so many of their inhabitants, people from every spectrum of our great city, nation, and globe, who had breathed life each day into the halls and cubicles of these two great entities, were now inexorably mixed with the dust of their tragic demise. 

I offer my condolences to the multitude of people who tragically and needlessly lost family, friends, and co-workers to this senseless terror. And I offer my condolences to our great city for the demise of two beacons that had served as reminders to us and the world, of the extraordinary human capacity to achieve great feats, and that now remind us how fragile life is, and how tentative is our moment on the earth, even in the face of seeming strengths and apparent superhuman achievements.

As no other tragedy of recent times, this for me brings to mind John Donne’s famous Meditation XVII that “No man is an island entire to itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main …. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  

In demonstrating solidarity with Americans in this time of mourning, the world demonstrates the spirit of Donne’s sentiments that we are all “a part of the main.” I can only hope that in the days, weeks, and months ahead, when more talk of war whips the country into a frenzy of revenge, we can all remember that John Donne’s “every man”, knows no country of origin; no ethnic, racial, or religious separation. Perhaps heeding Donne’s sentiment can be the greatest homage one can pay to the victims of this sad event.

Photos by Thea Halo

Update: September 11, 2020.

Since writing the above article, the US has invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. None of those nations had anything to do with the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. World opinion has shifted since 9/11. Many nations believe the US had squandered the good will demonstrated after the attacks. The following is only a partial list of responses from nations voicing their disappointment and concern. 

By 9/11/2006, NBC News reported: “A Divided World Remembers Sept. 11, 2001”

PARIS — The nations of the world joined Monday in solemn remembrance of Sept. 11 — but for many, resentment of the United States flowed as readily as tears. 

“Critics say Americans have squandered the goodwill that prompted France’s Le Monde newspaper to proclaim “We are all Americans” that somber day after the attacks, and that the Iraq war and other U.S. policies have made the world less safe in the five years since.

“Le Monde itself wrote an editorial stating that “since Sept. 11, America has not, it’s true, been attacked on its territory, but the world has changed for the worse.” 

Extraordinary Ordinary People Helping to Repair this Broken World

By Thea Halo

Apparently, you don’t have to be a billionaire to help repair this broken world. We all know there are a multitude of medical workers, and those who work in the medical industry behind the scenes, who potentially sacrifice their own health to heal strangers. However, there are many other extraordinary ordinary people around the world who save lives, simply because they see a problem, and take it upon themselves to do what they can to help. 

Take Lou Xiaoying, who lived in poverty in China. Yet, when Lou Xiaoying found an abandoned baby on a garbage heap in 1972—one of the unwanted girl babies of China’s one child policy—she took the baby home, nursed her back to health, and raised her. Lou Xiaoying would go on to save and raise 30 Children and was still at it even at the ripe old age of 82, when she and her husband saved and raised their last child.1 

You’ll also find “Gino Strada, an Italian surgeon and humanitarian who left a lucrative career in medicine to serve as a war surgeon with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). Treating civilians and soldiers around the world, many in some of the most war-torn and remote places, Strada spent the last two decades performing surgeries in addition to setting up hospitals in a wide range of countries that include Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1994, Strada co-founded an organization called EMERGENCY, that now runs over 60 hospitals, clinics and first aid posts, all of which offer free medical and surgical assistance to victims of war, landmines and poverty. Strada has personally performed over 30,000 life-saving surgeries to people who would not otherwise have access to medical care.”2 

Then there are numerous others, such as barbers who have taken it upon themselves to give free hair cuts to the homeless and others in need, to help them regain a sense of self. Cory Gilmour, aka ‘Happy’ Gilmour, whose barbershop is in Downtown Santa Ana, and other barbers “open their arms to homeless people and any other needy folks who’d like a free haircut.…The first 100 to arrive also will get a free burger and a drink from Monster Energy, which is helping to sponsor the event.3 Brennon Jones, a Chester native who now lives in West Philadelphia, has given haircuts to more than 1,000 people who are homeless, and Steve Powell are among numerous others. Powell “knew there was more to life than floating… Powell said he had a dream in which hoards of angry, disheveled people approached a building. They were hopeless and battered when they walked in. But when they walked out, their spirits were lifted — and they had new haircuts.” Although Powell was not a barber, he decided to buy a mobile barbershop, which “provides free haircuts and cosmetic services to homeless people, students, veterans, senior citizens and low-income families in the Jacksonville area.”4 There are many others not mentioned here. Unfortunately, Juan Carlos de Orca’s story, among others, is an example of how government sometimes thwarts such selfless acts.5

Then there is Gregory Kloehn, who has “built some 50 tiny houses and distributed them to homeless people in West Oakland,” in what some call “acts of guerrilla philanthropy.”6

And of course, there were so many people who risked their own lives to save Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere. And there are those who now risk their careers and reputations to speak out for the human rights of the Palestinians. There were also people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the recently deceased Senator John Lewis, who fought for equal rights and got beaten and jailed for their efforts, but it didn’t stop them. Only death stopped Martin Luther King, Jr. We also have the longtime deceased, but not forgotten, Harriet Tubman, who was “Born into slavery in Maryland, … escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of family members and other slaves from the plantation system to freedom on this elaborate secret network of safe houses.”7 Tubman needn’t have continued after saving herself and her family, but she chose to continue to save so many more lives.

Yes, humans are sometimes the worse of Nature’s creations. But humans are also sometimes the best of Nature’s creations. Humans have the power and ability to make choices, and to prove there is something greater than one’s own selfish needs, as those listed above and so many others have proven. In fact, they have proven that the Christian proverb that ‘it is more blessed to give than receive,” not only helps the other, but it immeasurably helps the giver by making him or her an example, or a beacon of hope for all of humanity. It demonstrates that humans are capable of defying the more base instincts of nature to sit among the gods… to become immortal, in fact, because their names, and their deeds, will live on long past their physical form. Just check the internet and you’ll find the names and stories of those listed above, and so many other names and stories of otherwise ordinary people, who took the time to help repair this broken world. In other words, these extraordinary, ordinary people, might write on their tombstones:

I helped repair a broken world. 
Therefore I am, and always will be. 

  1. The Denver7 Team: https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/ordinary-people-who-stepped-up-to-help-others-and-became-extraordinary-heroes
  2. The Right Livlihood Foundation, Gino Strada Emergency, 2015 Italy. https://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/gino-strada-emergency/
  3. Theresa Walker, Barber reopens in Santa Ana, will give free haircuts for homeless people, The Orange County Register, May 29, 2020. 
  4. Paige Cushman, Little Rock (KATV), September 25th 2019.
  5. Ed Fuelner, The cosmetology cops, The Washington Times, Monday, January 15, 2018. Also see: Brittany Hunter, Haircuts for the Homeless: The Latest Public Menace. Foundation for Economic Education, Thursday, February 16, 2017. https://fee.org/articles/haircuts-for-the-homeless-the-latest-public-menace/
  6. Paul Lewis, Tiny houses: salvation for the homeless or a dead end?, The Guardian, March 23, 2017.
  7. Harriet Tubman Biography (c. 1820–1913) Biography, Jun 5, 2020. https://www.biography.com/activist/harriet-tubman

Can We Help Fix This Broken World?

A belated Earth Day Message, Part 4
by Thea Halo

Leaving an Eternal Legacy:

Many of us have heard the proposition of French philosopher, René Descartes: “I think therefore I am.” Descartes never intended thinking to become a mere dalliance, however. Descartes’s first maxim provided guides or touchstones that would lead to the performance of morally good actions. Socrates posited that there were two roads to immortality. One is through procreation. The other through performing great works. So, how would this epithet look on one’s tombstone, or on a plaque next to one’s name at the UN? 

I helped repair a broken world, 
therefore I am, and always will be.

There is no logical reason why people living on this abundant earth should be starving, or deprived of clean water to drink and to clean themselves. There is no reason why people can’t depend on getting proper health care when the need arises. And there is no reason why children around the world can’t get a proper education. Actually, there is one reason: lack of sufficient interest to solve these problems by those who have it in their power to do so. Or perhaps it has been a simple lack of vision by otherwise willing participants.

Let’s concentrate on the more broken communities of the world… broken in the sense that too many in small villages around the world don’t even have the bare essentials that most people take for granted.

Suggested Plan of Action:

The following suggestions are for the first phase of a project to repair the world. These projects would also give much needed training and employment to members of the communities helped, by putting local villagers to work on the projects:

  1. Drilling communal wells in each village around the world where there is no clean water available for miles, as the first stage to eventually pipe water into homes; 
  2. Constructing sewer systems in each village, and constructing communal toilets and showers as the first stage to eventually supplying homes with indoor plumbing;
  3. Constructing roads from village to village… even rudimentary roads for a start, so that villagers can transport their produce or other wares more efficiently in order to sell or trade; 
  4. Building schools in villages around the world, supplying them with teachers and books, and inspiring students to think outside the box to help their own communities: See the film: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019); https://www.netflix.com/TITLE/80200047
  5. 1.2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to electricity. Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser, who worked with MyShelter,1 devised a simple, yet effective device that brought light to homes that had no windows. He used plastic water bottles filled with water and bleach. By slipping a test tube with a small LED lightbulb into the bottle, which in turn is hooked up to a mini-solar panel, the bottle can still refract outside light during the day, then also used as a lightbulb at night.2
  6. Installing solar panels to bring electricity to rural villages, i.e. street lighting for a start, and later bringing electricity into homes;
  7. Constructing health facilities in villages that rural doctors can visit; 
  8. Set up a program for medical doctors to train gifted villagers in the rudimentary practice of medicine, where there is no resident medical doctor on site; 
  9. Helping villagers set up victory gardens, and supplying them with seeds and fencing to keep out predators. Perhaps a goat can also be given to each family for milk; 
  10. Teach and implement sustainable organic farming, irrigation techniques, and pest control;
  11. Supply free birth control and other indispensable medicines.
  12. Encourage wireless companies to supply free wifi and/or cell service;

Tens of Thousands of Villages Could be Helped.

According to one website, the cost to build a septic system in Africa, for example, varies widely from as little as $1,500 to upward of $4,000.3 Water Wells For Africa (WWFA)4 claims the average well in Malawi and Mozambique, for instance, would cost $8,000. Combined, that would mean each village would need only $12,000 for those two vital services if they were communal. Doubling that amount for two wells and two septic systems for a slightly larger village, and we still only need $24,000. If each village was allocated $100,000, which would also pay for a solar system, a schoolhouse, a health center, and other basics, almost 21,000 villages could be served. If only $50,000 is needed to accomplish these rudimentary improvements in each village, 42,000 villages could be served.

Who would pay for these projects? 

According to Forbes, after the Coronavirus outbreak, there were still around 2,095 billionaires in the world — their (known) total net worth exceeds $8 trillion dollars as of 3/18/2020. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that each billionaire pledged to give a measly 1/10 % of one billion dollars to a project that would help bring the poorest villages around the world the bare minimum of services that most of the world takes for granted, such as wells for clean water, sewer systems, schools, health centers, solar power, victory gardens, and rural roads from village to village. If each of those billionaires contributed just 1/10% of one billion dollars, i.e. one million dollars, the total would amount to a staggering $2,095,000,000. 

Are we our brothers’ keepers? 

All of the major religions preach generosity for one’s fellow humans. Yet without fail, except for the relative few, those who practice those religions fall far short of the message, or they believe the message only applies to their own ethnic or religious communities.

Christianity’s Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Judaism: The Obligation of Tzedakah: Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. Some sages have said that tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined, and that a person who does not perform tzedakah is equivalent to an idol worshipper. 

Islam: One of the five pillars of Islam, is the obligatory charity known as Zakaat. 

Hinduism: Dana (giving) is an important part of one’s dharma (religious duty).

Buddhism: Generosity (dàna or càga) is a glad willingness to share what one has with others. Generosity is the proactive (carita) aspect of the second precept to abstain from taking what belongs to others. In Buddhism, generosity is seen as a strategy to weaken greed, a way of helping others and a means of lessening the eic disparities in society. 

Perhaps it’s time for our world’s billionaires to take these religious precepts to heart and head to the bank.

  1. MyShelter was founder Illac Diaz, a Filipino native. 
  2. Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, These Plastic Bottles Full Of Water And Bleach Light Up Homes Without Electricity. Huffington Post, July 19,1917. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/plastic-bottles-electricity_n_596e64f4e4b0000eb1968bb5
  3. Bonface, What is the best sewerage strategy for Africa? Construction Review Online: by Africa for Africa, Feb 4, 2016. https://constructionreviewonline.com/2016/02/what-is-the-best-sewerage-strategy-for-africa/
  4. http://www.waterwellsforafrica.org/projects/

How to Create a Broken World

A Reminder of Cause and Effect for the Refugee Crisis
A belated Earth Day Message—Part 3
by Thea Halo

One of the most ludicrous consequences of the dire circumstances millions around the world find themselves in, is the outrage of wealthy Western nations that have their borders bombarded by refugees searching for safety and a better life. Do any of the leaders or inhabitants of those wealthy nations believe in, or understand cause and effect? Do any ask themselves why they allowed or participated in the bombing of other nations? Do any ask why they allow or acquiesce to conditions that incite violence in parts of the world, such as the years of sanctions after the 1990 bombing of Iraq that caused the death of half a million Iraqi children? Do they understand that the callous remarks of then US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, might cause rage and animosity when she calmly claimed on National TV—and broadcast to the world—that the deaths of those half million Iraqi children “was worth it”?1 Would any Western Nation take such a callous statement about the death of half a million of their own children in stride?

Did the nations that took part in, or acquiesced to the bombing and destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia believe that would mean the citizens of those countries would be happy to have their lives, homes, and countries destroyed, and they and their children would be content to sleep in a field somewhere and eat grass? In some nations, even grass is unavailable. And do they believe that starving and/or struggling against violence in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, with no change in sight would mean those citizens would be willing to simply give up while knowing there is a better life outside their own borders? When US legislators and the public decry the influx of ‘migrants,’—who should more accurately be referred to as refugees—do they ever ask why violent dictators are being propped up by the US in Latin America?

What did these leaders think would happen when cities and countries were destroyed? Or is it that they didn’t think past the moment? If these leaders are ignorant enough to allow the destruction of other countries, wouldn’t it be cheaper to quickly repair the damage to insure that citizens of those countries are not forced to flee to their countries to seek a safer life… countries that not only don’t want them, but decry the influx of refugees, as if the reason for the influx is some unforeseeable virus that has somehow developed from nowhere? In other words, wouldn’t it be more equitable to create an atmosphere in poorer and/or broken nations that make their citizens happy to stay in their own communities? Does it really take a rocket scientist to understand cause and effect—to understand that when a head of state is murdered and the country bombed, waring factions and/or criminals will often take over to fill the vacuum, which in turn often drives the population to flee for their lives?

These refugees didn’t spring from the earth. They sprang from the policies of those Western Nations that destroyed their homes, their countries, their infrastructures, and their lives. Afghanistan was attacked allegedly because the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden without first given proof of culpability. Bin Laden was later found in Pakistan. Iraq was attacked allegedly to rid the country of Saddam Hussein while conjuring up fake stories of Al-Qaeda, and weapons of mass destruction. Libya was attacked allegedly because of the policies of Muammar Gaddafi, who inherited one of the poorest nations2 in Africa and turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation, with a total adult literacy rate of 89.5% from 2008-2012.3 A release of Hillary Clinton’s emails “has revealed evidence that NATO’s plot to overthrow Gaddafi was fueled by first their desire to quash the gold-backed African currency, [that Gaddafi was sponsoring] and second the Libyan oil reserves.”4 Libya is now a failed state. Syria was attacked allegedly because of the policies of Bashar Hafez al-Assad. However, Assad’s Syria, although far from perfect, was the last secular state in the Middle East, and one of the countries the U.S. sent suspects to for U.S.’s deplorable rendition program after 9/11.5 Even more revealing: “Just as in Libya, … Mrs. Clinton championed the strategy of arming Islamist “rebels,” the Syrian “rebels” who ultimately received weapons included the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.”6

The fighting in Syria caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and sent millions of Syrians fleeing their broken homes and their broken lives. The accusation that chemical weapons were used by Assad on his own people seems absurd, since Assad was not only winning the war at the time, he was warned about crossing Obama’s ‘red line,’ the one thing that would cause the US to invade. 

Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, reported that “the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria; … Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles.” In an interview with Alternet.org “Hersh was asked about the then-US-Secretary-of-State’s [Hillary Clinton] role in the Benghazi Libya US consulate’s operation to collect weapons from Libyan stockpiles and send them through Turkey into Syria for a set-up sarin-gas attack, to be blamed on Assad in order to ‘justify’ the US invading Syria.”7

Conflicting reports on the number of deaths, and speculation as to who was responsible, should also give us pause. “The US claims that Sarin nerve gas killed more than 1,400 people in the attack last month that triggered Mr  Obama’s call for military action to punish and degrade the Assad regime.  British intelligence said that at least 350 people died in the attack, which was ‘highly likely’ to have been carried out by Assad.”8 9 

The fact that Obama chose not to enforce his ‘red line’ threat after chemical weapons were used in Syria, suggests that Obama knew something the rest of us did not know. And perhaps, at the last moment, Obama decided he didn’t want to further tarnish his pre-election anti-war legacy by being responsible for yet another failed state.

So let’s not pretend that these Middle Eastern countries were destroyed for righteous reasons. Would any of the leaders of those Western nations, including the US, that took part in, or acquiesced to the bombings, honestly claim that it would be righteous to bomb a home in their own country, while the whole family was still inside the home, because the parent was a tyrant? Is that really the way one saves a family, or the population of a nation from a tyrant, by killing them and destroying their homes, towns, and infrastructure? And how is starving 22 million innocent civilians in Yemen, and bombing their towns and schools, and a school bus full of children righteous?10 Would any of these Western nations acquiesce to these deplorable acts in their own countries, or acquiesce to another nation interfering in their elections—as the US has done in Latin America—to put despots in charge, despots whose policies make the population run for their lives?

Julian Borger wrote in The Guardian: “The United States interventions in Central America have ranged from creating and arming right-wing death squads to propping up some of history’s most bloody dictatorships. The United States has over and over again put its ideals before the lives and well-being of the various peoples living throughout Central America, and because of that, much of the history of Central America has been that of violence, civil wars, and revolts.”11 12

Concerning the influx of refugees, how many countries must Western nations destroy before they realize that they have made their own beds, then they refuse to lie in them? 

As British Somali poet Warsan Shire wrote in her perfect poem called ‘Home’: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”13

  1. May 12, 1996. Madeleine Albright. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0uvgHKZe8
  2. Garikai Chengu, Libya: From Africa’s Richest State Under Gaddafi, to Failed State After NATO Intervention. Global Research , October 19, 2014. https://www.globalresearch.ca/libya-from-africas-richest-state-under-gaddafi-to-failed-state-after-nato-intervention/5408740
  3. Unicef. https://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/laj_statistics.html
  4. Sheep Media, Hillary Emails Reveal NATO Killed Gaddafi to Stop Libyan Creation of Gold-Backed Currency. Global Research, June 13, 2017. https://www.globalresearch.ca/hillary-emails-reveal-nato-killed-gaddafi-to-stop-libyan-creation-of-gold-backed-currency/5594742
  5. Mehdi Hasan, Syria has made a curious transition from US ally to violator of human rights, The Guardian, February 12, 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/syria-us-ally-human-rights
  6. Andrew C. McCarthy, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Debacle: Arming Jihadists in Libya . . . and Syria, The National Review, August 2, 2016. https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/08/hillary-clinton-wikileaks-benghazi-scandal-arm-syrian-rebels-al-qaeda-isis-libya-turkey/
  7. Eric Zuesse, Hillary Clinton approved delivering Libya’s sarin gas to Syrian rebels: Seymour Hersh, Global Research, May 01, 2016. Strategic Culture Foundation 28 April 2016. https://freeukrainenow.org/2016/05/01/hillary-clinton-approved-delivering-libyas-sarin-gas-to-syrian-rebels-seymour-hersh/
  8. Sarin gas used in Syria massacre – evidence against Assad growing all the time, says David Cameron. Evening Standard, September 5, 2013. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/sarin-gas-used-in-syria-massacre-evidence-against-assad-growing-all-the-time-says-david-cameron-8800569.html
  9. Robert Parry, Consortium News, Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack? First published on April 6, 2014. https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/16/was-turkey-behind-syria-sarin-attack-2/
  10. Moustafa Bayoumi, US bombs are killing children in Yemen. Does anybody care? The Guardian, 25 Aug 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/us-bombs-yemen-children-humanitarian-disaster
  11. Website by Jason Rukavina (jruk@umich.edu) and Cyril Cordor (ccordor@umich.edu) for American Culture 213: Intro to Latina/o Studies, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  12. Julian Borger, The Guardian, Fleeing a hell the US helped create: why Central Americans journey north. December 19, 2018.
  13. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/home-433/

Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Do Humans Deserve This Beautiful Earth?
A belated Earth Day Message—Part 2
by Thea Halo

During this Coronavirus pandemic we’re reminded of the multitude of people working on the front lines around the world, risking their own lives every minute of every day to save strangers they don’t even know, and the multitude of others bringing food and services to fellow citizens. We must also acknowledge the scientists who spend their lives finding solutions for such crises, or work to find ways to improve our lives in general. Most of these scientific discoveries are now intrinsically woven into our daily lives.1 Tim Bernes Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web, for instance, has connected us in ways not even dreamed of in former times. Other scientists we will probably never hear about are working to give us a greater understanding of the world we inhabit and the greater universe in which we live.

However, one has to wonder if pandemics such as the Coronavirus are Nature’s way of telling us that as a species we have failed in our stewardship of the earth and the creatures that dwell upon it. We have failed to listen to the warnings of those scientists. We have failed to heed the repeated environmental disasters: the floods, the mudslides, the wildfires, the tornadoes, the hurricanes. So now perhaps we’ll listen to the sound of hundreds of thousands of coffins being slammed shut around the world.

Even then, the sound of that warning may only be temporary, just as the observance of all other warnings were temporary, or even ignored. As in the past, everything will go back to the old normal soon after this particular crises passes. After all, even as thousands and perhaps millions around the world died from air pollution, and the weather became more erratic made worse by human activities, we went back to the devastating normal that created those crises. In fact, in the midst of this deadly virus, we read: “White House poised to weaken coal plant mercury rule. The Trump administration is expected to withdraw justification underpinning Obama-era environmental regulation…”2 The Trump administration even decided to weaken the auto emissions standards,3 and withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the nuclear agreement with Iran. As late as April 02, 2020, in the midst of this deadly Coronavirus, Trump was still attempting to erase the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obama Care.4 It’s as if Trump thinks his penis will fall off if he doesn’t reverse all of Obama‘s initiatives.

How often must we read that certain species are going extinct because of the destruction to their habitat, because of poaching, or because some fool wants to hunt our most beautiful wild animals: lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, and elephants for sport. Think of that. For sport!!! We are wiping out some of the most beautiful creatures on earth for sport. Pangolins are being killed by the ton for their meat and scales, as are elephants and rhinos for their tusks. And people are eating bats. Can anyone claim that bats and pangolins were ever meant to be eaten by humans? Perhaps in the stone age or in desperately poor nations where the food source amounts to whatever one is able to find and kill, like eating rats and cats during world wars, and during periodic mass starvation as in China before the 1980s. However, for those nations that are responsible for most of the slaughters, i.e. those nations that create a market for these animals, such as China, that necessity no longer exists. Apparently, for some, old habits developed during times of famine or wars do not die easily. Consequently, there are too many who fail to realize or care, that each of those species has a purpose on this earth, such as helping to keep nature in balance. Or perhaps, they simply don’t care. Greed and immediate gratification takes precedence over conservation and the health of our planet. For the poorer nations where poachers rely on any means to support themselves and their families, we should ask why they are so desperate in a world where some have billions of dollars, while others don’t have clean water to drink?

“A study published … in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus.”5 In other words, the animals we kill off may have been the saviors of the human species. Nature always provides unless we choose to annihilate her creations.

If these pandemics only killed off those who are responsible for the devastation, at least we could believe there was justice in nature. However, that we are all at risk, and sometimes suffer the consequences of these deplorable crimes, perhaps Nature no longer gives a damn who is at fault. Perhaps Nature behaves—and perhaps rightly so—as if we are all at fault, because let’s face it, we all continue in our old ways out of convenience or because we haven’t figured out how to effectively stop using non-recyclable plastic containers, for instance… how to demand pesticides are no longer used on our produce and land… how to stop companies from polluting our air and waters… how to stop nations from killing off some of these precious animals… and how to stop the wars and the insane targeting of minorities in various societies.

If this pandemic can destroy businesses in such a short span of time, perhaps we can go on strike against the large corporations, banks, and nations that refuse to abide by conservation and environmental standards, and the standards of decency, to give them an economic pandemic they won’t forget.

This Coronavirus pandemic may be Nature’s WWIII. Global carbon monoxide emissions were down by at least 17% during this pandemic, so perhaps Nature has won, if only temporarily.6

That should give us a hint as to where to go from here if we want to avoid an even greater pandemic in future. Our first step should be to vote for those politicians who educate themselves and who listen to and fund our scientists. The Coronavirus pandemic has proven that we are all connected around the world—that we are one people, regardless of race, religion, national origins, or economic status. We are all subject to Nature’s rules and, in the end, Nature will have her way with us.

  1. https://www.history.com/news/11-innovations-that-changed-history. Also see: https://bestreviewof.com/top-10-scientific-discoveries-that-changed-the-way-we-live-our-lives/
  2. Brian Snyder/Reuters, Aljazeera, April 16, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/white-house-poised-weaken-coal-plant-mercury-rule-sources-200416153114099.html
  3. Nathan Rott and Jennifer Ludden, Trump Administration Weakens Auto Emissions Standards, NPR March 31, 2020 https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824431240/trump-administration-weakens-auto-emissions-rolling-back-key-climate-policy
  4. Nan Aron, Trump Wages War on the Affordable Care Act in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ms Magazine, April 2, 2020. https://msmagazine.com/2020/04/02/trump-administration-wages-war-on-the-affordable-care-act-in-the-midst-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  5. Matthew Cantor ‘Llamas are the real unicorns’: why they could be our secret weapon against coronavirus, The Guardian, May 17, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/16/llama-coronavirus-antibodies-study-benefits,
  6. Doyle Rice, USA Today, Coronavirus lockdowns have caused a whopping 17% drop in global carbon emissions. May 19, 2020.

The Crime of Breathing While Black

A belated Earth Day Message—Part 1
by Thea Halo

Perhaps the world has finally gone mad, and although the burning and looting of stores and buildings—that had nothing to do with George Floyd’s death—is rather mind boggling, the anger about the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd is not. That Police Officer, Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and actually watched his life drain from him, as bystanders told him Floyd is now bleeding from his nose, and finally not moving, is the most cold-blooded crime I have ever witnessed. Even the video of Eric Garner’s murder, although equally reprehensible and criminal, doesn’t compare in how deliberate, calm, and cold-blooded Floyd’s murder was. There was no struggle from Floyd. He had no chance to struggle. He was pinned firmly to the ground on his stomach, with his hands cuffed behind him, and Derek Chauvin’s knee and weight on his neck. We all know there are compassionate cops. These were not among them.

Why Derek Chauvin and his accomplices are not charged with first degree murder is beyond reason. For what crime was Floyd murdered? For allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Even if true, without an investigation, we have no way of knowing if he knew the bill was counterfeit. It could have been passed to him from an unknowing party. But even if Floyd knew the bill was counterfeit, does that really deserve a death sentence? As with Eric Garner’s murder, is selling loose cigarettes really a capital offense undeserving of a trial and a jury of one’s peers? Is it even worth a citation? Doesn’t selling loose cigarettes tell the police that this man is just trying to make a few cents, perhaps to buy food? In a civil society, the police would have asked Garner if he needed help, and directed him in how to seek help, instead of wrestling him to the ground and choking him to death.

Who are we as a country… as a people? How have we become so ruthless? How did those who are supposed to be entrusted to serve and protect become the people we must fear? How does Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old Black woman who is simply playing video games in her own home with her nephew, get shot dead by police through her second story window? How does an innocent Black woman, Breonna Taylor, who is sleeping in her own bed, get shot dead by police who break into the wrong home? How does Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man, get shot seven times by police during a traffic stop, while in a car with his fiancé and her four-year-old child? What kind of trauma must that child face, not to mention the trauma to Castile’s fiancé and his family?

How does a stupid White woman, who is breaking a local leash law with her dog, think it’s acceptable to threaten a Black man—who simply reminds her to follow the law—that she is calling the police to tell them an African American man is threatening her life?

How did we get so ignorant and cruel as a society? Where is this heading? And how is burning and looting our cities supposed to help? Unless it’s to remind us that in some cruel way we are all to blame for not demanding that our police are not chosen from the bottom of the barrel. That they are tested and trained properly to deal with every situation to determine which situations are actually life threatening enough to need force. Selling loose cigarettes on a street corner is not life threatening to anyone. Nor is sleeping in one’s bed. Nor is playing video games in one’s home. Even passing a counterfeit bill threatens the life of no one.

However, instead of burning businesses and looting, causing trauma to even more people, which in turn may cause more animosity, wouldn’t it be more of a tribute to George Floyd’s memory if each of those protestors marched peacefully and gave even one dollar to help fund after-school projects in Black communities, or bought musical instruments and books for gifted Black children? With so many protestors, hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been raised to honor the life of George Floyd and the many other Black Americans whose lives were cut short by police brutality. There are so many others not mentioned here. They are all equally tragic.

Witnessing Chauvin watch Floyd die as he presses his knee into Floyd’s neck, while ignoring Floyd’s pleas that he can’t breath, is beyond cruel. It is almost inhuman. I say almost because, although humans are the most brilliant, creative, innovative, and versatile creatures on earth, and have a great capacity for compassion and kindness, we have demonstrated that we are also some of the most diabolical creatures on earth. Most other creatures on earth kill to survive. Nature is cruel after all. Every creature must eat. But humans sometimes kill for sport. We kill for revenge. We kill out of depravity. We kill to even scores. We kill because of greed. We kill in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, by dropping bombs. We sometimes even hire others to do our killing for us. What a legacy we have left on this earth.