Tag Archives: 9/11

Thoughts on the 9/11 Report

Well, I have done it. Purchased the “official” 9/11 report. And read it through, at least at this time on a cursory level. I will re-read it in detail, of course.

There are a few things that trouble me. They are as follows:

1. A war on terrorism will not succeed. That is because terrorism is the symptom, not the cause. The cause is a state of global affairs that gives rise to the belief that terrorism is, for many, a justifiable and perhaps the only viable alternative to advance their agenda to the point where it will be considered.

2. If we are to engage the problem of alternatives to terrorism for those who now employ it as their sole means of communication, we have to start looking hard at the fact that we are a single human family. National “rights”, and boundaries, really must have no meaning if we are to address, fairly and honestly, the grievances of one group of people versus another. The fact is, that as a human species, we are in effect a single family — albeit in some cases only distant cousins.

This makes EVERY war in effect a civil war. Brother against brother — for the majority of religions on this planet accept as one of their tenets some degree of universal brotherhood.

3. With respect to that universal brotherhood. The United States must make a statement to the world, and must lead the other “so-called” civilized nations in one very important point. We must accept Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Druidism, Wiccanism, Sufism, Voodoo, Santeria, Ba’hai, Sikhism, Confucianism, Atheism, and all the rest, as absolutely equally viable paths to that exclusively human (at least, human-claimed, for none of the other species that have evolved and existed for millions of years on this planet have found it necessary to indulge in the nuances of comparative theology) province, enlightenment. If we are capable of being enlightened (as we claim), then we need to accomplish it. That means returning spiritual truth where it belongs — to each and every individual.

4. We need to focus our resources not on exerting our influence through military might, or covert operation, or corporate interest, but through demonstration of our principles by enforcing them upon ourselves. Eliminate special interests. Eliminate preconceived biases. Restore (or, rather, considering our own systematic programs of terrorism that checker our own historical national agenda — vis a vis the Comanches, for exampl?) “justice for all.” Not justice that meets our needs or serves the expediency of the moment, but justice that punishes our friends when guilty, and praises our enemies when they are courageous and in the right.

5. Finally, we need to think long and hard about something that G.I. Gurdjieff once said, that was almost echoed in Obama’s recent speech at the Democratic convention: “As long as a single person is in prison, no one is free.” No matter what the reason — because prison population, like terrorism, is a symptom. And to address the cause, we cannot continue to just build more prisons and graveyards. Or schools that teach rigid ways of looking at the world. Or churches that preach hatred and xenophobia in the guise of building their own brand of “chosen people” to pit against the rest of the world.

Ah, I could go on.

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Poetry and War

OK, so projects such as Poets Against the War and Voices in Wartime are pretty good ideas. They tout such noble themes, ponder such meaningful quiestions like “The terrible beauty of the poetry is our guide, leading us to the deeper questions of the origins of war is it innate in human beings? Do the warlike societies succeed? What is the human experience of war? Can art illuminate politics? And, in turn, can the grim realities of war teach us about the delicate and important role of poetry?”

But there is a different point to be made here. How many poets REALLY give a damn about anything but their poetry? How much attention to events that do not directly affect their me-o-centric, angst-driven, destined to die young-and-leave-a-good-looking-corpse fueled by the twin beacons of Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas lives do they really pay? Sure, there are specific poets that when called upon to address a certain political issue gladly push pen to paper and come up with something that can be used to further a campaign speech or lengthen lines at a booksigning.

But where, pray tell, were all these poets BEFORE 9/11? What were they using their sprawling notebooks of pseudo-verse to accomplish, other than blocking the landlord’s passkey by laying them against the door, or bartering a few odd lines in exchange for a double espresso? The question I’d like to ask, rather than the mawing query quoted above is this: do we have no sense of history because we have no poetry, or do we have no poetry because we have no sense of history? Or even, do we have no history because we have no sense of poetry, or do we have no sense of poetry because we have no history?

How many poets fill copious overpriced Moleskin notebooks with their innermost, dankest most feral intuition on the dangers of their own all-to-human failings, but reject as inapplicable the advice given to young guitarists — if you want to play like Eric Clapton, don’t listen to Eric Clapton, listen to who Eric learned from — BB, Otis Rush, Freddie King, Robert Johnson — and rather than seek for their pop icon poet’s sources, seek to emulate only the most recent iteration of over-hyped style and end up as poor, weak, undisciplined and sloppy hacks who don’t even have the imagination to imagine their own potential?

How many poets, I wonder, who channeled the inner turmoil of their apathy and the nation’s sleepwalking into projects like those mentioned above, have ever written, not about the War on Terror, but the War on The Things That Make Terrorism Seem Like The Only Option?

Where in this feeble, grasping, quip-throwing, cliche-burning circle of “Show, Don’t Tell” has anyone bothered to change their own reality?
There is a commercial on television lately that really makes me mad. If only because it is so truthful in the message in conveys about the current situation — ostensibly about politics, but ABSOLUTELY pertinent to the arts. To any artist — or to anyone who even thinks about themselves as an artist (or writer, or painter, or what have you, bearing in mind that the most true definition of a REAL POET is a writer with a day job). The commercial goes like this:

A bunch of people are in a communal lockerroom. A faucet is running. People look at it running, comment on how horrible it is, look askance at the flowing tap, shrug their shoulders. They do nothing. Then, in the midst of the milling crowd surrounding the offending faucet, a person enters, calmly, and in a quick motion turns off the tap, then goes about their business. The complaining, wondering, apathetic, bitching, kvetching, confused, and otherwise useless masses are amazed.

Of course, the commercial is about voting.

But it is really about ART. Like the grunge movement, which was obviously very able to acutely document the evil, dark, and wrongness that everyone with half a brain could begin to grok, but obviously unable to come to any kind of consensus (collectively or individually) on how to proceed to solve that wrongness, the arts are a self-aggrandizing, self-promoting, self-serving, self-absorbed pursuit of self-pleasure.

No wonder we have no FUCKING culture. We’ve been satisfied with canned tuna — Andy Warhol, Britney Spears, Thomas Kincaide, Jessica Simpson, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Wham, Madonna, wow the list goes on — for so long that not only can we not fish, but we don’t know anyone still alive whose willing to teach us how.

Bah. Enough ranting. Go to sleep now, John.

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9/11 Remembered

Another nine eleven comes and slips through afternoon;
not a single house on my block flies a flag or sings a tune.
There seems to be no notice or remembrance of the day
that two years back began the work to take our souls away.

Another nine eleven day and no lines have been drawn;
just like the game of chess, I guess, life moves slow for its pawns.
There isn’t any patriotic rhetoric on CNN or Fox,
no reminders of the war still on that risks the ballot box.

Another nine eleven here and our alert is high,
expecting that the enemy will be seen in our sky.
There isn’t an eye watching the manuevers on the ground,
where politicians scramble to the apathetic sound.

11 SEP 2003

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Oh Bard, Come Sing: the official Welsh meters

Oh Bard, release your sacred song
to heal these hurts and ways gone wrong! (cyhydedd fer)

Let loose thy harp strings, filled with untamed woe;
go deeply, cut to the heart –
For it is there our wounds start. (englyn penfyr)

Release from our lost stronghold
the strength of our hidden soul –
Let it our hearts console. (englyn milwr)

With words forged of the land and sea and sky,
let fly at disbelief;
Give to us no pause for grief,
Without giving, too, relief. (englyn unodl union)

Cleanse our souls with balanced hand,
so we may form a true land;
Purge our unspoken fears and mingled hate
That we may understand (englyn unodl crwca))
our place in this living world:
the grain of sand, and the pearl,
that connects us true and sure
to wisdom’s pure, hidden pool. (englyn proest dalgron)

Bard, give us light, burn us through
until we each have had enough;
for in great darkness we have trod
and now must seek the morning. (englyn lledfbroest)

Give rise to winds and change this weather,
teach us hope, that we can never
let loose of this life’s bright tether –
tell us this gloom won’t last forever. (englyn proest gadwynog)

Softly, let your song uncoil
and fill our eyes with salt tears;
anoint our heroes with oil,
and give them praise through the years. (aydl gywydd)

Gently, play your harp anon,
and give us dreams to build on;
Let there be Music and song
to give us back what is gone: (cywydd deuair hirion)
a rousing tune,
of earth and moon,
to guide us all
from this great fall
and with its song
help us belong. (cywydd deuair fyrion)

If we are young, or aged with years,
if simple, elegant or wise,
far or near, to each one sing
of peace, and harmony give voice,
that our life’s spirit may rejoice,
and see beauty in all things. (cywydd llosgyrnog)

For dark the night
that finds us here,
and none too clear
the path ahead –
Our rage now builds
against cruel fate
and will not wait
for dawn’s bright tread. (rhupunt)

Teach us of patience through this gloom,
our minds are filled with pending doom;
with no compass we cannot steer,
so dark fear rules our broken hearts. (byr a thoddiad)

Remind us of our human need,
to reach out, healing those that bleed;
and our gifts divine,
let us intertwine –
pour your wine;
our souls, feed. (clogyrnach)

For in these dark days, we must all think
that together, we shall stand or sink;
and in these hours, here upon the brink,
there is not time to guess, or to blink –
we must find a well and share this drink,
reach out in brotherhood and relink. (cyhydedd naw ban)

So Bard, speak out strong
your healing in song!
Correct us if wrong
and give us aid.
Sing us your refrain
of joy and of pain,
and help us contain
what fear has made. (cyhydedd hir)

For we must not hide from the coming day,
locked away, far from the living earth;
The whole of humanity must be joined,
and each value the coin of rebirth. (toddaid)

And in your song, Bard, let us be cleansed;
let us see truth anew through your lens.
Help us to seek balance among new friends,
and work as a whole to make amends. (gwadodyn)

For each is to blame for this darkness –
each sees in themselves not a weakness,
but thinks they are chosen, blessed and more,
and justice is left out by the door.
Each border and boundary marks us,
and gives us each excuses for war. (gwaydodyn hir)

So comfort us not with worn, false pretense,
but send us our disenfranchised ones hence,
let us hear their voiced rebel dissent,
and remind us of truths, self-evident –
for we have come too far along this path
using ignorance as our sole defense. (hir a thoddaid)

Then sing ye, Bard, hold back naught –
show us what our seed hath wrought;
this silence will inform us not
of the heart’s cause we forgot.
Show mercy to those who fought;
Give thanks to those who peace brought.
We listen! We who are now caught
and lost in this evil plot. (cyrch a chwta)

We need to hear
where we have strayed;
We are afraid –
you must be strong.
Now, from our fear,
where dreams die hard,
we beg thee, Bard:
release thy song! (tawddgyrch cadwynog)

16 SEP 2001

My last poem of the day reminded me, in its rallying cry to the world’s poets and singers, of a piece that I wrote shortly after the 9/11 tragedy. I am a Druid by religion, a Musician by vocation, a Philosopher by inclination, and a Bard by sheer determination.

While I am far from a reconstructionist (meaning I do not think it practicable or useful to reconstruct the practices of an earlier culture in order to merely mimic the way that that culture approached their spirituality), there are a number of things about the Celtic peoples of the past that to me are very powerful. Primary among these things is that the poets of the Celtic peoples had real influence and a kind of power to direct the culture. People who were able to connect with the spirit of the world and distill that experience in verse, narrative or other poetic means were revered and treasured. I am saddened that in our culture today this is not also the case. But I am hopeful that this too shall pass.

After the tragedy of September 11, I thought it was high time that the bards began to assert their rightful place in helping the healing process, in directing our future evolution, and in guiding those who sought after truth and wisdom. I composed a poem of twenty-four stanzas, with each stanza using a different one of the twenty four “official” Welsh bardic meters, that I hoped would offer some small start in that process. It certainly has focused my attention. I hope that it finds you, singers of songs, and dreamers of dreams, well and in good spirits.

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The Price of Freedom

That sad September in Two Thousand One
when from our eyes a veil of sleep was torn,
we in this land of truth and freedom born
were drawn to battle; now, it seems they’ve won.

For that day gave free reign the iron fist
that slumbered in the dark rooms of this land;
and in protection’s name, this evil planned
to blur the code by which this place exists.

We cannot be a true and equal shore
at which the huddled masses seek succor
if upon liberty we close the door;

If we discriminate because of faith,
or ask of others what we will not do,
we are them; America is no more.

19 DEC 2002

As a preface, I would like to say that my family has fought in every conflict this country has ever engaged in, from the French-and-Indian War to the Operation Desert Storm. We are among the Daughters of the American Revolution, an ancestor of mine was married to General McClellan (Civil War), a cousin was a Brigadier General in charge of Marine forces in Korea. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam … I am the descendant of a long line of pro-Americans. Both sides of my family came to this country seeking opportunity, equality and freedom. Some to escape the feudal hierarchy (from Germany in 1741), some to find relief from starvation (from Ireland in 1886), some for religious freedom (from Switzerland in 1891). This is MY country, in other words. And some of the things that we are doing, as a nation, right now, piss me off.

Like THIS (thanks to for the link): Mass Arrests of Muslims in LA

Can you say “Japanese Internment Camps”? Can you say “Indian Reservations”? Can you say “McCarthyism”? I thought you could. FUCK our perceived “manifest destiny”. We are a STUPID people, sometimes not worthy of our concept.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— from The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus [1849-1887])

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