One year ago this week, the U.S. had the world's sympathy as we tried to pick ourselves up from terrorist attacks on our soil. For a brief moment, we were the victims of open hostility, and the world community saw us as vulnerable, hurt, even fragile. Bush went into hiding; the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center became daily media fodder; the stories of heroes and heroines spilled forth seemingly without end; and the country came together in ways that haven't been seen in generations.
But it didn't last long. It ended, in fact, when Bush — as if to resurrect some bad John Wayne character — shed our nation's shroud of vulnerability and assumed our all-too-familiar role of mighty aggressor.
We all remember the scenario. Bush called for Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." He swaggered through Ground Zero promising to rev up the U.S. military. And he delivered, by pummeling an impoverished nation with bombs. All — in case we've forgotten — without even getting the man most "wanted."
But when the bombs dropped, the world's sympathy stopped. Worse, it turned into disgust for a series of U.S. policies that glorified our militarism, paved the way for our corporate monopolies, and turned our back on the world's poor. In short, we were the world's bully once again.
The attacks against this country on September 11 of last year were indeed unconscionable acts of evil. It was senseless and completely unjustified slaughter.
At the same time, however, the symbolism of those hideous acts should give us reason to pause. The attacks of September 11 were against what the world perceives as the symbols of U.S. aggression — economic aggression, in the case of the World Trade Center, and military aggression, as illustrated by the Pentagon.
Tragically, U.S. foreign policy remains rooted in the dangerous notion that we are the leaders of the world community, rather than simply members of it. As the globe's self-appointed judge, juror and executioner, our country and its economic and military policies have run roughshod over countless cultures and discounted millions of people.
And while the exportation of U.S. culture certainly hasn't been all bad, it's the bad policies that plant seeds of hatred and distrust. It was the U.S., for example, that at one time curried favor with bin Laden, continues to prop up brutal regimes in the Middle East, discourages democracy in order to quench our thirst for oil, and paves the way for U.S. corporations to seek to monopolize the natural world.
It's not often that I find myself agreeing with Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, the right-leaning foreign-affairs columnist and cham-pion of U.S.-led economic globalization. But Friedman put it best in a recent column when he declared that "while evil people hate us for who we are, many good people dislike us for what we do."
And what is it we're doing? For starters, we're about to go to war with Iraq while ignoring much of the world community's vehement opposition to it. We're allowing our multinational corporations to control the world's food and water supplies. We're blocking worldwide efforts to address environmental threats that we're predominantly responsible for, such as global warming. And we continue to prop up, fund and arm repressive regimes throughout the world that allow unfettered corporate access to their country's raw materials and workforce.
It should be obvious why Secretary of State Colin Powell was greeted with a hearty round of boos recently when addressing the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development: Many good people in the world community don't like what we're doing.
If there's anything to be learned a year after the September 11 attacks, it's that aggression is no way to win friends or find peace. Bullying didn't work for bin Laden and his team of suicide pilots, and it won't work for the U.S. and foreign policies geared toward conquest and control.
To build a peaceful world, we must live peacefully with the world.
In brief: Watch out, Vermonters. The state's all-terrain-vehicle riders are looking to expand their pastime. A new group, the Vermont ATV Sportsmen's Association, has begun organizing to exert some political influence and increase the number of off-road trails available to riders. Here's what State Trooper Jere Johnson told the Associated Press recently about ATV riders: "Give these people a place to ride because, if you don't, they will continue to break the law." Sounds like blackmail to me . . . The Wall Street Journal recently published a front-page article on the dramatic increase in sales of recreational vehicles since September 11. Of Trent Tobias, the Journal wrote: "He says he and his wife had a long talk after the terrorist attacks, and one result is that they doubled their fleet of ATVs to four." . . . Despite the lull in media coverage, the fight over the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant isn't over. Lawyers from the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution and the Citizens Awareness Network have filed papers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding that the new owner of the plant, the Entergy Corporation, not be allowed to retain any of the money that's been set aside to cover the cost of cleaning up and closing the plant. The groups don't want Entergy to keep any cash left over after "decommissioning," because they feel it may entice the corporation to cut corners. They're also arguing that the money should go back to the ratepayers. Entergy strongly disagrees.