Monday -- April
8, 2002—Ground Zero
"G-Pa, You're Too Big And Fat!"
Terrorism and the 9-11-20 Formula
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
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
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!"
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
bomber. His thesis was a child is trained to seek revenge for
the shame or pain inflicted upon Palestinians by Israeli forces occupying
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
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
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
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
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
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
Now, I have to go and work out at the gym.
Vigilance is not easy!
To April 7--The Hunt For Sean Connery