Skip to comments.Sick with fear and worry (long vanity)
Posted on 09/05/2003 1:22:29 AM PDT by tictoc
I am depressed and despondent.
I have a morbid attachment to the war between militant Islam and the rest of the world, and I worry especially about Israel.
The more I read, the worse I feel, and yet I can't stop.
September 11, 2001, is seared in my mind with a vividness nothing can erase.
The week before, I had worked as a simultaneous interpreter at an international conference of structural engineers in Germany. Speakers from around the world presented papers on the latest trends in skyscraper construction.
One of them was Leslie E. Robertson, the engineer in charge of the structural design for the World Trade Center during the 1960s. Following his talk on engineering innovations in building projects in China, he took questions from the floor. One person asked him about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and expressed surprise that the tower had held up so well in spite of the extensive damage at lower levels.
With quiet confidence, Mr. Robertson replied that the WTC had been designed with a substantial reserve of strength to withstand assaults on its integrity. Specifically, he said that its designers had built it so that it would survive the impact of what was then the largest commercial aircraft in the world, a Boeing 707 jetliner.
His words, translated by me into German, were transmitted by wireless infrared to scores of German speakers in the audience listening through their portable headsets, some of whom nodded in assent.
That was on September 7. I was in a funk after the conference. One of the organizers had approached me at the end and expressed his dissatisfaction with my performance, something that had never happened to me before. There was something about his anger that was inexplicable. It seemed out of proportion to any reasonable complaint. My colleague defended me but the man was implacable. Something seemed to be in the air, something that was making people edgy and aggressive.
Four days later, I switched on the computer and was hit by the news from New York and Washington on the Internet. I stayed glued to the computer while the news bulletins from National Public Radio came tumbling out of the radio.
The world had changed in one day and would never be the same again. Fear and grief, but fear more than grief, were palpable all around. I told myself that the expressions of barely hidden triumph and satisfaction that I saw on the faces of some Muslim immigrants were a figment of my imagination.
Later, as news came in from places such as Lebanon, Pakistan and the West Bank, it became clear that many people were rejoicing.
I could not comprehend this joy then and still cannot today.
On September 11, in a way then still more intuitive than fact-based, I suddenly felt the immense hatred emanating from Islam. The knowledge, for those willing to examine it, had been there all the time, but like most I had chosen to ignore it.
And just as quickly, I understood that the country of Israel would become the focal point of anger not only for Muslims, but also for many in the West for whom the temptation to throw a sacrificial offering to the wolf pack was simply too great.
I lost friends, close friends, because they suddenly revealed to me the depth of their contempt for Israel, for Jews, and for Americans. Muslims, I heard from them, had been oppressed by the West, their legitimate grievances unheard, worst of which was the establishment of Israel on land stolen from Muslims. I began to withdraw into myself.
Then I discovered a countercurrent to the tide of resentment and hate. Accustomed to logging on to the New York Times and feeling frustrated at the rampant political correctness, I found a robust sense of pride in the accomplishments of the western world on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Writers like Peggy Noonan gave me reassurance and hope that we would defend our civilization.
Later, I found blogs such as Steven Den Beste's USS Clueless, and shortly afterward - via John Shelley's Journal - I discovered Free Republic. Words cannot describe the relief I felt at finding a community of kindred spirits.
And yet, I wondered why we had to meet in cyberspace. Wasn't this proof of our isolation, individually, in the places where we lived and worked?
Meanwhile, the campaign of hatred against Israel grew to a fever pitch. The embattled minority of Israel's defenders in Europe grew smaller, its voices drowned out by twisted anger.
I began to research Islam and its history. For the longest time, the attitude of respect for other religions and peoples, taught to me from an early age, held me back from passing judgment. I went out of my way to find writers with Arab Muslim names advocating peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world including Israel. They were few in number, and most appeared to be apostate in reality if not by admission. In all this time I found only one who argued a Koranic interpretation to defend Israel's right to exist in peace as a homeland for the Jews.
In contrast to this trickle of reason, the vast numbers of Muslim clerics and intellectuals preaching hate were overwhelming.
It became impossible to avoid the truth staring me in the face. In all the countries with a Muslim majority, with the recent exception of Turkey, religious and ethnic minorities were oppressed. The fabled Muslim "tolerance" for "people of the book" was a myth masking brutality and exploitation. There had been a period in history when life in Muslim-ruled places was better, on balance, than in Christian Europe, but that period was long past.
Islam - a political ideology as much as a religion - seems constitutionally unable to accept an equal footing with other religions and political systems. One of the most glaring examples is the continuing plight of Eastern Christians. The extinction of Lebanon as the only Christian-ruled nation in the Middle East is forever a blot on the conscience of the West, which stood by and allowed it to happen. Jews and Christians are dhimmi, second-class citizens expected to know their place and submit.
Any harm, any injustice done by non-Muslims to Muslims, no matter how slight, must be avenged. There is no concept of forgiveness, no willingness to examine self-critically the wrongs done by Muslims to others.
In the town in Germany where I live, entire neighborhoods were Jewish before the Nazis attained power. Their houses - those that still stand after the bombing in World War II - are now inhabited by people who have little knowledge of this history.
The vibrant Jewish communities, in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, were destroyed by the Holocaust. Those murdered by the Nazis - Jews; resisting Christians; labor unionists; Gypsies; retarded children; homosexuals; ordinary men who told a Hitler joke within earshot of a spy - have left behind holes in society, gaps in the air that should have been inhabited by them as they went about their business.
Never again, was the motto. Never again another Holocaust. But that is the threat confronting the five million Jews in Israel. An Islamic Jihad official calls for the nuclear devastation of Israel, with the concurrent death of the Palestinian Arabs accepted so that the "brothers" can retake the empty land. One of the most powerful men in Iran promises that the Islamic bomb can annihilate Israel, with large numbers of Muslims still alive in the Middle East following a nuclear exchange.
Even at this minute, I am certain that Islamists within the government of Pakistan are hard at work trying to divert a nuclear device so that it can be placed on a ship bound for Jaffa harbor. And one large nuclear bomb is all it would take to accomplish their object.
Ron Rosenbaum wrote in the New York Observer that the motto has been amended to "Never again. And if again, not us alone." The comfort this gives me - knowing that many more millions of Arabs can be destroyed by an already-dead Israel - is exactly zero.
And if, by some improbable combination of luck, intelligence work and pre-emptive strikes, a nuclear holocaust can be averted, the future for Israel is still bleak. I look at Ariel Sharon's care-worn face as he shoulders the burden of leading his nation, threading the shrinking eye of the needle, trying to get from this day to the next, and the day after that.
I listen to the words of President Bush and Condi Rice, decent human beings who care for Jews and for Israel but who must put the interests of the United States first. Already they are backsliding from the President's 24 June 2002 speech. The task confronting them as we occupy Iraq and move forward in attempting to pacify the Muslim world by force of arms, money and persuasion is so large, there may one day be no political capital left to spend on supporting a tiny foreign nation.
In a perverse way, the destruction of Israel may even galvanize the Europeans; dead Jews are good for shedding tears of anger.
Never having lived permanently in Israel, I must rely on what present and former Israelis tell me. And that is that the pressure of always having to be on guard, always having to demonstrate superior strength against the onslaught of Arab hatred, may be impossible to sustain forever.
I feel that I am living half in the present, half in some not-yet realized but unbearable future. And I don't know how I will be able to go on when that future becomes reality.
Mr. Robertson, from what I read, was despondent after September 11. It appears he blamed himself and second-guessed what he might have done differently to make the WTC towers hold up. He immersed himself in the clean-up efforts at Ground Zero, contributing his expertise, and I hope that this hard work has helped him to exorcise the demons of unjustified guilt.
Myself, I am becoming paralyzed with worry and fear and finding it hard to think straight. My work and livelihood is severely impacted because of all the time I spend obsessively reading, discussing and thinking - looking for a "way out" but not finding one. I wonder if my vocal defense of Israel, on the Internet and in personal encounters, is doing good. I wonder if it is time to start thinking about a "reverse Exodus". But maybe there will be a miracle? Maybe there is something we can say or do to change the Muslims' minds? Maybe-
And round and round I go. This is extremely unhealthy. Anyone who wants to call me a whining crybaby, go ahead, I don't care. If you can say a small prayer for me, please do. And please pray for the lives of innocents everywhere.
You have to learn to control all of it or it will eat you up inside and before long the outside will show it!
God bless you and prayers to you
You aren't "a whining crybaby" whatsoever, IMHO.
A man (or woman) would have to be made of stone -- or, if a Democrat, have a head made of stone -- not to have been transformed, now and forevermore, by the events of 9/11; and (more recently) by the ongoing slaughter of blameless Jewish toddlers and other non-combatants, in Israel. These are horrific times; and they will, in all but the soulless, occasion feelings of genuine horror.
As an American and a Jew, I, too, have lost more than one (formerly) close and dear friend, over the past two years-plus, re: the twin issues of America's war vs. terrorism, and Israel's battle for simple survival. I've heard people whom I once considered sober and rational, overall -- their liberal political leanings notwithstanding -- blithely parrot rancidly anti-Semitic memes, and then (attempt to) defend same with the loutish canard: "... I'm not anti-Semitic; I'm anti-Zionist." I've listened, stunned speechless, as (putative) grownups I'd known for decades suddenly began whinnying intellectually incoherent jibber-jabber about "empire" this and "blood for oil" that and yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.
The far left, in this country -- and, increasingly, that's all there is to the left any longer, really; just its (formerly) most whacked-out, (former) fringe element -- has, IMHO, been driven barking mad by the very notion of no longer being in a position of total and unchallenged political power. They can no longer even attempt civil, reasoned debate in defense of their various positions. Everything is fascist! and nazi! and evilevilevil; a comic book view of life, where everyone is either a SuperFriend, or else a charter member of the Legion of Doom -- no middle ground, no exceptions.
(Just a few weeks back, in fact: I had a man with whom I'd been friends since the early '60s, in grade school, shock me with the bland assertion that -- in voting conservative -- I was [and still am] "supprting the cause of true evil in this world." This is, mind you, a college-educated man, with multiple degrees, and thirteen published books to his credit... and he's bleating sheeplespeak at me, for heaven's sake!)
All I can suggest, ultimately -- and this is cold, scant comfort, I know -- is: be strong. Be true... to your principles, and to yourself. Seek out whatever emotional comfort you can, in the presence of the politically and intellectually like-minded.
I can't imagine that things won't get darker, still, before they (eventually; hopefully) get lighter... but: the most important battles, I genuinely believe, are the ones demanding the most from us, in whatever coin of hardship or sacrifice ends up being the assessed cost.
A final, personal aside -- and please don't take this badly; I mean this only in the kindest, most solicitous sense -- if you're feeling gravely, profoundly depressed: please, PLEASE seek out and talk to a professional. I've suffered from chronic depression, myself, for over three decades... and, believe me: Zoloft saved my life, all right...? :)
Chin up. You're among kindred spirits, here.
I've been there myself for much of the past two years. I'm still on the net too much, but this past spring I realized I just couldn't take the 24-hour news channels anymore, they were either putting me into defense mode with all the Breaking News alerts, or whipping me into a frenzy with all the shouting. So I turned them off, most of the time.
I also try to read more humor while here on FR, it really does help.
You would probably do well to have a little less "input" while you process all the other stuff. There's such a thing as being overstimulated. Take a break and make sure that, for a little while, you read or watch nothing that isn't fluffy and innocuous.
Excellent description. The world HAS gone crazy.
I've heard Islam described as 'spiritual communism.' How can any organization, let alone a religion thrive by promoting hatred? If they ever prevailed by such a path, what kind of society would they build? One 'ruled' by hatred? Haven't we had that since the beginning of time?
Ironically, the jews and muslims have a similar view of the nature of god, namely as a majestic, powerful, yet distant being.
It was Jesus, unique among all the world's religions, who introduced the notion that god has the heart of a parent toward his children. That being the case, it's only logical that god would only desire his children love one another.
Some christians believe that god will intervene in some final "last days" strategy and save us all. Personally, I believe it's up to the children to bring the other children around.
Is love more powerful than hatred? Here is the final test for mankind to find out. If not, all is lost.
As a practical matter, then, I think religious leaders and scholars, must get together and work to find common ground. There should be an unending conference of religious scholars toward this end. Islamic scholars should be invited to discuss with christian, jewish, buddhist and others. The results should be published and insights gained taken back and shared with congregations. This obviously cannot be done by force or motivated by hatred.
Only through interreligious dialogue will the bridges of understanding begin to emerge. We simply cannot bomb the entire Islamic world into submission. We have to reach out.
In conclusion, what I'm saying is that I believe the problem is ultimately ideological in nature. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all agree that there is only one God. If moslems and jews and christians would pray together, I'm sure God would gladly answer with a vision that would transform humanity.
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