The VigilanceVoice
Monday -- April 8, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 209

"G-Pa, You're Too Big And Fat!"
Terrorism and the 9-11-20 Formula
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 8--War is breaking out all over.  People are dying.  Bodies are being paraded as symbols of violence between people fighting for their rights to a homeland.  Nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction are being built by Terrorists who plan on using them as the means of blackmail against anyone who threatens their security, or as a form of jihad or revenge against "western oppression."
       In the midst of this frightening battle, I'm torn between writing deep inquisitions into the darkening of the human soul by Terrorism's shadow, or writing about being "too big and fat."
       In some ways, the difference between the two is miniscule, in other terms, they are non sequitor, unrelated, examples of gluttony of the safe self versus the crying of the oppressed child who starves for a morsel of food in a war-ravaged state of rubble so far away I can't even imagine such a scene.
      I compare the two issues carefully.   I want everything I think--no matter how mundane--to be related in some degree to winning the war against Terrorism.  I stretch my imagination to make such connections, and some may think my forays into the seeming wastelands of banality utterly pointless.
      However, Emotional Terrorism can tear at one's self worth just as powerfully as the threat of a suicide bomber walking into one's home or business can ravage one's Physical well-being.    Terrorism is nothing more than the Fear and Intimidation of some enemy either within or without waiting to attack when you least expect it, driving you into a state of Complacency where you surrender yourself as a "victim" of its shadow, feeling helpless to fight it because it never takes a distinct form, or stands and fights.  It just hits and runs, coward that it is.
      I believe the chemistry of the human mind has for far too long been subjugated to Terrorism and the current thrust of Terrorism on the world scene is a lesson for all humanity to learn to live with it in new and mature ways--or, be consumed by its insidious power.
      That came to light for me the other evening when my wife and I were babysitting our two lovely grandchildren, Matt and Sarah, ages 5 and three respectively.
      Matt weighs an ounce or two over  40 pounds.   He's a small-boned young lad with a quick wit and bold way about him that allows him to speak his mind without the fear I was raised with that "children are to be seen not heard."  In today's climate--at least in America--children are given incredible forums to express opinions and viewpoints, and their wills are not generally suppressed by adults but rather nurtured to degrees that I often find, from my own training as a child, excessive.
      However, I accept the right my daughter and her husband have to sit down with the kids and gently ask them, "Tell me about your feelings?  Are you feeling good or bad over this issue?   What is it that is making you feel sad?  Why don't you want to put these shoes on? Why don't you want to go to the park?  Why don't you want to eat your dinner?"
      It took me quite a while to accept the tactic of the new generation of parents that guides them to massage the emotional feelings of their children.   I'm more inclined to demand the child be obedient--"Put on those clothes, don't argue with me!"  "Eat your dinner, people in Poland are starving?"   "I don't care if you feel sad, that's your choice.  But when I'm here, pretend you're happy!"
       I have learned tolerance with my grandchildren, and find it a lot of hard work, but then ultimately rewarding.   You know when children speak that they are telling you how they honestly feel at that moment because their emotions have not been repressed, but rather cultivated.   In a way, the new parenting approach is laying a foundation with such children to help them de-Terrorize themselves by feeling publicly.  I learned to stuff my true feelings, never express them because there wasn't a parental forum for such expression.  I had to live with my bogeymen.  My grandchildren throw theirs out in the middle of the family room and dance around them.  
       Saturday night was one more example of their boldness to "say what they think rather than think about what they are saying."  At least that was Matt's agenda.
       It was getting late, almost bedtime, and we flicked on the television after playing a game of dinosaur checkers, where instead of the black and red round checkers, the board was composed of various species of dinosaurs.  When you got a "king" instead of a double chip, you replaced your dinosaur for a T-Rex, which could move backwards or forwards.   All "taken" pieces were tossed into the lava pit of a volcano that was part of  the set.
      Sarah and Matt were curled up with G-Ma in the big, overstuffed chair, and I was tired and was lying on the couch (a futon) that pulls out to become a bed at night.   We were watching a travelogue on Alaska, enjoying the scenes of the wildlife and pristine country of Alaska when Matt leapt out of G-Ma's lap and curled up on the couch next to me.
      There is strange feeling of maternity when a small child curls up against you.  You become its shelter, its safety, its security.   You hold innocence in your arms.   I felt quite proud that Matt chose to snuggle up against me as we watched the show and commented on the eagles and bears and glaciers that were being shown.
      My 270 pounds and six-foot-four-inch frame consumed the vast majority of the couch.  Matt was on the edge, secured by my arm around him so he wouldn't slide off the edge.   We lay there for perhaps fifteen minutes or so in peace and serenity.  I was admiring my sense of protection over the small, loving child when he rolled off the couch, stood and looked at me and exclaimed:  "G-Pa, you're too big and fat.  There's no room for me on the couch!"
       He didn't say it mean spirited, or with any vengeance.  It was just a fact--a truth expressed without fear of reprisal.  
       Years ago I might have taken offense, but in today's more permissive, and ultimately, more healthy environment where children are trained to express their feelings, I just smiled at him.
       "Then, let's pull the couch out and make a bed.  There will be more room for both of us."
       "Good idea, G-Pa!"  Matt smiled.
       Like a poppa and bear cub curling up for the night, he helped me pull the futon couch/bed combination from the wall, and convert it into a spacious bed.   He ran and got a pile of pillows from the bedroom and we propped ourselves up to watch the remainder of the show in the new "cave."
      I thought about Matt's open-minded training.   In many parts of the world children are fed the belief systems of their parents.   They are trained from birth to believe a certain way, to narrow their viewpoints and to conform any free will with that of their elders.
      I recently read the Viewpoints in the April 8 Time Magazine written by psychiatrists in both Israel and Palestine regarding the Terrorism of life in a war-torn country.   The Palestinian doctor, Eyad Sarraj, founder of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, cited how a child grows up to be a suicide bomber.  His thesis was a child is trained to seek revenge for the shame or pain inflicted upon Palestinians by Israeli forces occupying "their" land.  
     In corresponding Viewpoint article, psychiatrist Ilan Kutz and Sue Kutz in Israel talk about how Israelis are trapped between vigilance and numbness--constantly ready for  the next attack, yet almost immune to it.   Children don't gather for school events as they once did, and often parents will tackle anyone with dark skin wearing a heavy coat thinking they are a suicide bomber.
     The children in those countries aren't worried about how much space their G-Pa takes up on the couch.   They fret over whether they're going to live or die.
     I told my story about the couch incident to a group of people I meet with on occasion.   They laughed.  One of them came up to me after the meeting and told me I had the 9-11-20 syndrome.   I asked her what that was.  She replied:  "We use it in Weight Watchers.  After Nine-Eleven most people gorged themselves with food to handle the trauma.   The average gain is about twenty unwanted pounds.   So, all you have to do is go to Weight Watchers and take the 9-11-20 Plan.  Then you and your grandson will fit on the couch."
      It seemed absurd to me that we here in America have no idea what Terrorism is really all about. To us, it's eating more to handle the trauma.  Here I am  concerned about fitting on the couch with my grandson, my friends are concerned about losing the 9-11-20 weight.   But, who is worrying about the children of Israel and Palestine?
     I realized from the incident about another layer of Terrorism.   Its pressures drive one to be numb or strap on a bomb.   In Israel, the therapists reporting in Time mentioned how one television station broadcast a split screen show of both a soccer game and a recent Terrorist attack, so the people watching the game wouldn't miss any of the important plays while viewing "another mass of destruction."
     I understand such moral numbness.  In Vietnam, children would run at our positions with satchel charges on their backs.   You had to shoot.   If you didn't you and your buddies died.    It was a sad, pitiable loss.   None of the children had any innocence.  War stripped them of it, as a child molester strips an innocent child of its sexual innocence or an abusive parent strips a child naked of self worth.   Sometimes I awake  in the middle of the night, sweat beaded on my face,  looking  into the blank, emotionless eyes of  Vietnamese children as we marched through their villages.   I see the hate and revenge not-so-hidden in the black pools staring at me.  I see the void of innocence war sucks from the marrow of "children of the stones" and how it turns them either into instruments of retaliation or numb zombies waiting for their face-off with death.
     My lesson with war's ugliness has taught me Terrorism is a matter of teaching.   A child need not be brought up with a steady diet of hate, revenge, fear, intimidation, retaliation.  These are not digestible emotions for children.  They corrupt their virtue before it blossoms, stain their souls, rip out the roots of adolescence.
     Even here in America, with limited threats of Terrorism, a great number of children are trained to be suicide bombers.   They are told by their parents of oppression, of how others have abused them, their grandparents, their culture, their ethnicity.  They grow up believing "others are their enemy," just as the Palestinian or Israeli grows up fearing the other is bent on their demise.
      Equally wrong are those who demean others before children, who cite another ethnicity as a lesser one, or not as worthy as, and build walls of separation and hatred between one's skin color or religious beliefs.    There is little difference between these prejudicial and bigoted Parents of Terrorism and those in Israel or Palestine who teach their children to feed on hate, or fear and glorify the destruction of the "enemy."
      Terrorism feeds on children through abuse. Then there are those here in America and other civilized parts of the world who demean a child by not recognizing his or her feelings. They shut the child down. They make the child obey like a dog, and extol the virtues of being "seen not heard."   They offer the child little insight into his or her own feelings and issues of human values are rarely discussed because such parents are either too busy, or believe their "inner secrets" are not the privy of public communication.    Children and parents become strangers--and the cry:  "You don't know who I am," is shouted angrily by the offspring.  Their cry is a bleat of a lamb caught between a hunger to be loved inside but trapped in the emptiness of no real communication.
     I was glad my grandson told me I was too big and too fat.  I am.   I need to lose twenty, maybe thirty pounds.   
     But, what I need to lose most of all is to lose the "fat" of any attitude of Complacency which might interfere with my daily struggle to promote Vigilance.  I need to remember that the battle for Vigilance begins with the vow a Parent of Vigilance takes-- in my case, it's a Grandparent of Vigilance Pledge.   I need to remember the Pledge of Vigilance is about eliminating, not propagating, a child's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency, and replacing these Terroristic child-rearing deceptions with Courage, Conviction and Action.
     It means that a child should not be brought up on with so he or she seeks revenge to assuage the shame of his or her parents or heritage or bigotry or prejudice--but rather should be given the necessary tools to find the Courage to fight the shame and anger of the past, to forage a new world rather than repair an old one--to have the right to deny his parents' bigotry and prejudice without reprisal.
     Vigilance more than Terrorism will cause  this evolution of a child to have the right to choose to live in the shadow of Terrorism or the sunlight of Vigilance.    But it will only occur when all who care make a vow to all the children of the world--that they might grow to become more Courageous than Fearful, more Convicted than Intimidated, more prone to Action than Complacency.
     Now, I have to go and work out at the gym.   Vigilance is not easy!

       Semper Vigilantes.

 Go To April 7--The Hunt For Sean Connery

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