Zero Plus 374
"Terrorism & The Rabbit Hole"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, September 21--In Alice & Wonderland, the journey to a bizarre
world starts with Alice chasing a rabbit into its hole. Down she
tumbles, some say in a psychedelic dream, to land in a world of odd
creatures where she is not welcome, terrorized, and must find her way out of the
"Terror of Madness."
Today, I saw a similar rabbit hole.
It wasn't quite as glamorous as Alice's.
In fact, it was more sad than humorous, more troubling than revealing.
But its paradoxes were just as vivid, and its message just as potent as
author Lewis Carroll intended in 1865 when Alice in Wonderland was first published.
My granddaughter, Sarah, was asleep in
the stroller; her head lolled forward in complete serenity. Most children in New
York City learn at an early age how to take naps in a stroller--they limp
out, head sagged forward and to the side so it can rotate easily when you turn corners or hit
bumps. They look like rag dolls, impervious to screaming
sirens and loud noises from the bustling streets. Even a chained
rabbit doesn't wake them from their sidewalk slumber.
I had been walking all day
at a brisk speed, transporting the four-year-old to her tumbling class at
Chelsea Pier where she dons her tutu and walks on the balance beam, rolls
over the low-bar, does backward and foreword somersaults, and a host of
other coordination skills designed to build her confidence and spark her
We had gone to many places, computer
stores, Burlington Coat Factory, the doctor's office twice to get a booster
shot (the nurses had the day off, unfortunately for me), and, of course,
McDonald's for a Happy Meal, which, I think, was a ruse to get the toy
that McDonald's promises inside each non-nutritious meal they serve kids.
Sarah was snoozing from a thorough gym workout.
Her somnolence was helped by the fat in the McDonald's milkshake and fries. (She didn't eat
the McNuggets. Don't blame her, really, I don't.)
We were en route to pick up
her brother, Matt, 6, from his school. I assumed the
babysitting for the day as my wife and daughters, one of whom is Sarah's
and Matt's mother, were in Montana at my wife's
mother's funeral. I was "filling in" for G-Ma.
Whenever I walk around the city, I am
I like to shoot things.
Not with a gun, with my digital
Since pictures say a thousand
words, I've elected to pepper my stories on Vigilance versus Terrorism
with as many photos as possible. When I was a combat
correspondent in Vietnam, I carried a waterproof Nikonos with me. It
had no telescopic capacity, and I learned how to get up close and shove
the camera in people's faces to capture the ethos and pathos of war.
Part of me wanted to indemnify what I saw as the truth, for pictures just
record what is, without embellishment.
I've found the infinite eye of the
camera lens to be my punctuation to fact. Somehow I feel
comfortable knowing whatever I write has a real picture I took to back it
up. Plus, by looking for pictures my eyes are trained to
see every pore in the concrete, and to be alert to any struggling blade of
grass fighting its way through the maze of the city's choking steel and
So it was that I caught the rabbit
out of the corner of my eye.
The average passerby might have just
glanced at it with a pleasing gaze, for the rabbit was sitting on its
haunches holding a flourishing nest of flowers growing out of its tummy.
It was on the steps of an apartment building, a touch of nature amidst a
forest of bricks and mortar.
The gate to the apartment was shut,
so I respected the privacy and started shooting my picture over the
waist-high wrought-iron fence. I kept a watchful eye on
Sarah as I clicked picture after picture of the rabbit.
Most people passing by might
have thought I was a photographer capturing the rabbit's beauty.
It was a ceramic rabbit, colorful, blazed with pastel colors and cute
rabbit eyes. Everything looked normal except for one small but vital
The rabbit was a prisoner.
Behind the rabbit, where its
tail was, was a ring, Through the ring was a thick chain.
The chain was wrapped around the wrought iron and secured with a
I understood instantly what it
was--the owners of the rabbit didn't want someone to rip it off.
Things out on the street, or exposed to passersby, are vulnerable to being
extracted from their owners. For years there was a
metal chicken sculpture cemented near a tree on the way to our daughter's
apartment. It was rusted but very attractive, and secured by heavy
steel that made up its frame. When we walked past it, we
always said: "Look, here's the chicken."
One day, about a year ago, the only
remnant of the chicken was a steel spike sticking up from a chuck of
concrete. Someone had hack-sawed the chicken from its long-standing
roost. Obviously, the chicken belonged to someone, and, I'm
sure, had a fascinating story behind it. But now it was gone,
victimized by some chicken Terrorist. I felt bad because
the kids had "adopted" the chicken, and now we had to explain that someone
took it, and enter the realm of the human dark sides. It
So I was in full understanding
of the lock and chain securing the rabbit.
However, the paradox was that
the rabbit looked more like a prisoner than an art relic.
I'd never seen a chained rabbit
Looking at the rabbit as you
walked easterly, it appeared the rabbit was behind bars. The wrought
iron resembled a prison cell. Ominous lines shadowed its figure, as
though the rabbit had been "bad" and was being punished for committing
some "rabbit crime." The thick steel chain and bronze large
lock added more dread to the rabbit's plight. I thought
of Amnesty International, and what they might say about a rabbit being
held prisoner, however good the intentions of its owner.
I also thought of children.
What would a kid think about the thick chains around the rabbit?
Would they be looked at as one might view a lock on a door, or, as a leash
limiting the freedom of the rabbit? And for what reason?
Rabbits were free spirits, after all, with this exception, of course.
But, as I moved my camera
around to different angles, if you were walking westerly, you saw only a
happy rabbit with a bellyful of flowers. It was a delightful
sight, because the owners had obviously drawn sight lines and placed the
chains in such a way they were barely noticeable as you approached with
the sun at your back.
I thought of the two faces of
life--the Vigilant one and the Terroristic one.
Approaching one direction, all one saw was a happy, innocent, free-looking
ceramic rabbit offering a splash of color to the dull drab soot of the
city. But from the other view, you saw a rabbit in chains, a
prisoner of people's intentions to raid and pillage the innocent.
I thought of rabbit terrorism.
From one point of view, freedom existed without restraint. From the
other, there was none. Freedom, peace and harmony was all an
Part of me wished I had bolt cutters.
I had an urge to set the rabbit free, even though it was an inanimate
object, because chains and locks disturb me. I'd seen my
fill of human deprivation. I knew that any symbol of restraint was
an affront to freedom in general, even a ceramic rabbit.
Maybe it was the Terrorism of
thinking that someone somewhere thought they had a right to bind and
detain another human without just cause that set me off.
I knew that our laws were softening regarding the rights of people, and
that more and more were being "detained," shackled, and bolted down under
lock and key without certain rights of redress we once cherished in this
To me, that was the
breath of Terrorism exhaling its bile upon the citizenry.
On the other side of the
coin, I thought of Vigilance, and the need to protect the children, and
families, from the threat of harm.
symbolized the conflict.
From one point of
view, it was a "free rabbit." From another, it was a "prisoner."
I kept looking at
my lovely granddaughter in her serene slumber. I thought
of her rights to be free, and then I saw the chains of change ensnarling
her wrists. It bothered me that we were chipping
away at the fundamentalism of rights in the heat of Terrorism's embers.
I thought of the
waitress who called the government to report the three Middle Eastern men talking
in a coffee shop, and how swiftly the government came down on them.
I thought of Big Brotherism, and how it creeps into societies from within,
a cancer that no one sees coming until it is too late.
All that was
contained in the rabbit with the chains.
I finished taking
my pictures and walked toward the school where I was to pick up Matt.
I thought of the innocence of the children, unaware that in the bowels of
government radical changes were taking place without the public making a
peep, and if they peeped, they were castigated as being "pro-terrorists."
I thought of the
President asking for the right to wage war unilaterally on anyone who
didn't meet our demands, and wondered if the role for America as the
world's policeman was the right role, or one that would turn us into
Alice's Wonderland, a mish-mash of characters twisted by a supercilious
sense of righteousness that made no sense except to the Cheshire Cat who,
in his constant grin, reminded us all of our folly to be more "right" than
I had no answers.
But I had many
knew that all answers lie in the question--for without questioning
the rights of others to take away things that belonged to them--freedoms
for example---we were all becoming rabbits with thick chains
and big locks. We might look free, but we were shackled
to laws and regulations that skirted the Constitution, and found
exemptions in the same way the giant CEO's of major companies
found loopholes to justify the stealing of equity from their
see much difference in the reduction of rights of Americans
and the skimming of corporate funds, both weakened the institution
of shareholder rights, and my granddaughter and all children
have, or should have, the same equal rights as those who suppose
they have a right to weaken the Constitutional links.
too much in the rabbit, perhaps, but as I shot glances from
the camera lens to my granddaughter, I knew I had a job to do.
And that was to free the rabbit.
Go To September
20--"I Miss The Twin Towers!"
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