Tuesday, September 25, 2001  [!]

Strange little milestones. I've gotten to the point where my immediate waking thought is not about "things are different now. They're dangerous." It takes a few moments of waking consciousness for that to enter in.

Disaster almanac lists different kinds of disasters that occurred On This Day in.... September 11 hasn't been updated yet in the almanac. You can search by all, or search by earthquake, fires, or transportation.

speaking of earthquakes (well, it's topical for California), Looka! pointed to a site describing how to survive in a collapsed building. The information is provided by those who've climbed through wreckage of earthquakes and other disasters—they've seen who survives and who got squashed. It's surprising news: Being under doorways, climbing under desks, will get you killed if the building collapses. Instead, look for pockets *next* to objects.

Getting scared all over again In the last two weeks, I've been finding myself of two minds, especially when it comes to looking at the failings of U.S. foreign policy. In this Salon piece, There is no alternative to war, David Rieff argues that the blame-the-foreign-policy perspective misses the point; the goal of terrorism isn't to get better US foreign policy, but to eradicate Western modernity.

Because if the attacks, however reprehensible, are rooted in bad American actions, then it is still possible to believe that terrorism is a reactive phenomenon that would be vastly diminished if the United States started to behave differently, if it was more "even-handed" in the Israel-Palestine dispute, if it lifted the embargo against Iraq, stopped supporting emirs and sheikhs, and so on. By this account, the way for the United States to fight terrorism is to mend its ways, morally and geopolitically -- and not to lash out at the terrorists, which, it is confidently asserted, will only breed more terrorists. Those holding this view tended to focus most fervently in their writings and pronouncements on the evil being done to Muslim immigrants in America, for it buttressed the case that the United States badly needed to put its own house in order.

But while grimly judgmental about America, this view is comparatively optimistic about the future, assuming, that is, that the United States starts behaving better. That is perhaps its deepest attraction. In effect, those holding it can pretend that nothing changed on Sept. 11, 2001; in other words, that the event, however tragic, was epiphenomenal. Unsurprisingly, those who believe this version of what has happened tend to talk not of the future but of the past -- Sabra and Shatila, the Gulf War, the Iraqi embargo, the dirty wars in Central America. For them, the World Trade Center attack changed nothing, and they can go on as before.

The alternative view, to which I happen to subscribe, is that the destruction of the World Trade Center was one of those rare events that symbolically marks a new and much bleaker era. [read more]