Where eagles fly

The chickens have come home to roost. But these birds had teeth. And with them, they bit deep into the American psyche. They had long silver wing spans that sliced through our prideful postures and woke us from our cozy somnolence. And they had claws that plucked us, dazed and bleeding, out of our myopic isolation and into a frightening new world of terror and lost innocence.

Endlessly repeated, the images of destruction segue into scenes of the weary diggers, hands slowly grubbing through the wreckage, hoping without hope to discover an evanescent breath still lingering beneath the dusty tomb where thousands lay. The story has a title now -- "Attack on America" -- and even a musical soundtrack. It's the latest miniseries for a nation that is used to watching history unfold from the safety of its couches and dens. Only now, no room is safe.

A stunned and uncomprehending citizenry wonders how this could happen. How can anyone hate us so much to sacrifice so many lives, including their own, to further some dim and confusing political agenda? Having spent decades satisfying our glut of recreational pursuits and gazing only inward -- our attention span short, our diets profligate and unyielding -- we stagger in disbelief, oblivious to the last 50 years of American repression abroad.

All the brutal dictators we've propped up, the selfish regimes we've strengthened -- in Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iran, Saudi Arabia. All the suffering our leaders have meted out in our name, or in which they've been complicit -- in Iraq, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Cambodia, Angola, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine. Terror? Surely not us! Why, we believe only in peace and democracy. No, my dear American brethren. The sad truth is we, too, have blood on our hands. We've made many enemies on the farm. The only real question is, why have the chickens waited so long?

Make no mistake, there is no excuse for what these mad fowl have done. There never can be for brutality in any form, whether it's a vicious attack upon innocent civilians with flying bombs, or the slow bleeding to death of the voiceless and powerless through savage economic and political policies. But our people have never been known for thoughtful ruminations upon the complexities of international relations. We're the Oprah nation, concerned only with our feelings. And now we feel angry and want to lash out.

So, sound the tocsins of war! Bomb the barnyard! Overrun the hen house! Root the chickens out! The old, familiar cants return: us vs. them; good vs. evil; God is on our side. The flags unfurl. The candles glow. The patriotic songs are sung. The aging warriors return to the scene, arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, united in rage, clamoring for righteous retribution. The alarms are rung. The fever grows. An inept and intellectually stunted president talks in clich?d and unsophisticated half-sentences: "They can run ... they cannot hide ... "

Ah, but they can, Mr. President, they can! They've been doing so all along, and will continue to do so. Go ahead and bomb Afghanistan back to the stone age; it hasn't very far to go anyhow. But they'll turn up somewhere else, you see. In Germany, or Canada, or East Africa, or maybe even the small towns of Florida's golden coasts. Where else will your bombs have to fall then?

And they won't be chickens next time. They'll be weasels, burrowing under cities in subways and tunnels, waiting for rush hour to unleash their vials of deadly pathogens. They'll be sharks, swimming patiently at sea, until the time is right to poison the coasts with lethal, toxic chemicals. They'll be foxes, skipping across the borders at night, armed with nuclear devices which they'll calmly detonate beneath the shadow of the Capitol dome.

No, Mr. President. Put away the tools of war. They will only sow more of the same. Haven't hundreds of years of human misery -- in Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans -- taught us anything at all? The cycle of violence is an endless loop. By all means, locate the guilty and try to right this horrible wrong. But do it patiently. Be restrained. Use only legitimate and appropriate means.

Remember: If we want justice, we must practice being just. If we want peace, we must be peaceful. If we want help from the community of nations, we must help the poor and ignorant out of their poverty and darkness. There is no "them" and "us" anymore. There is only "we," inhabiting only one planet. And the chicken and the eagle have only one option left in this new and perilous age. In the end, they must both become doves. All else is madness.

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