Wednesday--October 16, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 399
Christopher "Terrorist?" Columbus:
The Sniper of 1492...Or...2002?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 16 -- On October 12, 1492, some claim the father of all
snipers landed in El Salvador and launched a history of Terrorism upon the
indigenous people that has wormed its way through history to include the
recent sniper attacks around Washington D.C. The father of all
snipers, these pundits claim, is none other than Christopher Columbus, the
esteemed pioneer who founded the Americas.
in San Salvador
It was 510 years ago, just about 14
generations past, that Columbus made his first of four journeys to the
"New World," in an eighty-foot boat--a miraculous achievement since he was
trying to find Asia, not discover America.
He was met by peace-loving,
non-violent natives, the Taino people. According to an article
in the New Yorker's Oct. 14th edition by Elizabeth Kolber, the natives
were so unaware of weapons they cut themselves feeling the sharp edge of
swords. He wrote in his log the following:
"They do not bear arms, nor do they know
them, for I showed them swords, and out of ignorance, they took them by
the edge and cut themselves." Their innocence led to near
In a subsequent bloodbath, over a third of
the peaceful population was killed, launching in many historians view, a
reign of Terror that has gestated through 14 generations and birthed a
sniper, who, like Columbus and his men, now attacks the unarmed innocent,
peace-loving civilians of the suburbs of Washington D.C. Killing for
killing's sake ruled the land five centuries ago, and it rules a giant
ring around Washington D.C. as our country prepares to wage war on Iraq.
It must have been just as perplexing to the Taino
people when Columbus's troops whacked off their ears, or indiscriminately
killed villagers as it is to the people around Washington D.C. who are
chosen at random to be targets--for no other reason than to induce pure
The current sense of helplessness among the
general "indigenous" population of suburban Washington D.C. is summed up
in what 50-year-old businessman, Zuhair Massoud, told a New York Times
reporter yesterday about seeing the latest victim lying in a pool of blood
as her husband knelt beside her minutes after the sniper took his 11th
victim. "How can you predict what
this guy is going to do?," he said. "When it comes to this kind of
terrorism how do you fight it?"
Five hundred and ten years ago the indigenous
people of El Salvador had the same question about Columbus. How do
you fight Terrorism?
My older daughter tried. She and a small
band of other "internationals" stood up to the Beast of Terrorism.
A decade ago she packed
her bags and headed for El Salvador to protest the 500th Anniversary of
Columbus's arrival and enslavement of the indigenous people of that land.
She made her way through what is called the "Jesuit Underground," a
network of peaceful protestors who find refuge through and with another in
a country known, at the time, for brutal killings and tortures of anyone
who opposed the militant regime that controlled the country.
She ended up living with a group from the
village of Nueva Esperanza (New Hope). The villagers had been
displaced from their land, and 500 of them were forced to hide in the
basement of a church for five years while government troops hunted them,
seeking to kill them so they wouldn't lay claim on land stolen from them.
In a final act of defiance, the villagers
decided to perform a "land take," where they roosted on their land and
employed an ancient privilege of reacquiring land by "squatting on it."
My daughter and a handful of other "peaceful
protestors," some from the United Nations, lived with the villagers to
avoid their slaughter by the military. Witnesses cause
Terrorists to shy from indiscriminate killing. And killing witnesses
brings the wrath of the international community upon the criminals.
The "guardians" were Soldiers of Vigilance standing belly-to-belly,
nose-to-nose, against the Beast of Terror.
in San Salvador
On the day of the land-take the villagers
were surrounded by the military. Machine guns were
leveled at them. Via bullhorns, they were told to disperse
of be killed. A Jesuit priest led the land-take.
To stave off a confrontation, he began to say Mass.
The Catholic military held back, observing the reverence of
the ceremony as they prowled the circle of villagers, waiting
for the Mass to end.
Five of the six foreign observes
were snatched by the El Salvadorian police and loaded in trucks,
then taken to a prison. The police tried to grab
my daughter and jerk her away from the safety of the circle,
but the village women formed a human knot around her, defying
the military, protecting our daughter with their bodies.
The formed a Circle of Vigilance.
The Jesuit priest,
Steve Kelly, offered one of the longest Masses in history to
wear down the military. There was an unwritten rule not
to kill people during a religious ceremony. It was bad Karma.
Eventually, the military gave up and left as the Mass went on
and on, a spiritual filibuster that probably saved many lives
that day, including our daughter's.
Those arrested were deported.
They were called "terrorists." The newspapers
alleged they were plotting against the government, fabrications
of course, but sufficient enough for them be placed on airplanes
as personas non grata and told never to come back to
A few years later the United
Nations honored the village people who stood up to the military
and risked their lives to face Terrorism. It was a small
battle, probably not recorded in history. But it proved
what people could do when they banded together, and became Sentinels
This past Monday,
October 13, my wife and I went to the Columbus Day Parade in
New York City. It was also "Italian Day,"
with flags from Italy flying in honor of Columbus who was born
scare at Columbus Day Parade draws news crews
Terrorism wasn't far
away. At the beginning of the parade, a bomb scare forced
the crowds away from a vehicle while bomb-squad technicians
and bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the area. It ended up a
Police lined the streets
as they do at every parade, but the presence of the bomb dogs
and flack jackets and SWAT teams weaved the web of Terror-threat
through all who cheered and watched. Our older daughter,
the El Salvador protestor, now a mother of three, preferred
her children not go to the parade with us--not in protest to
it necessarily, but out of a concern for the children's safety.
She is Vigilant about not exposing her brood to crowds where
something might happen and put them at risk. She also
isn't a Columbus fan.
In another aspect of Terror-Reaction,
Mayor Bloomberg boycotted the parade. He had invited
two of the cast members of the HBO mafia-show, The Sopranos,
to march with him. Italian-American protestors who
prefer to white-wash the past image of "Italian crime"
went to court to bar The Soprano cast members
from marching with the mayor. In retaliation,
Bloomberg had lunch with the actors, opting out of the
I thought it ironic that
Columbus, known for his Terrorization of the indigenous people,
would be the centerpiece of the parade while actors representing
a television show would be banned. While washing
their hands of one set of celluloid blood, they parade officials
wiped them on a bloody historic towel of indigenous blood.
I wondered what Columbus would have thought of it all.
I understand there is good
and bad about conquerors. In many respects, Columbus
was a brave sailor. He made four Great Voyages to the
New World, despite poor maps, bad calculations and no viable
information. He was also a terrible navigator
who, according to history, ended up finding the New World more
through "dead reckoning" than though astute navigation
and accurate cartography.
And while his "invasion"
of a peaceful land and the turmoil and bloodshed he brought
to bear upon it might taint the pages of history, he indeed
paved a path for civilization's advance that ultimately led
to the Declaration of Independence and the formation of the
United States of America.
Ironically, our threatening
of Iraq is viewed by many as a "Columbus Invasion"
of the Middle East. America is being called by many
nations the "Imperialistic Beast," hungry to consume
the oil fields and natural resources of the Middle East just
as Columbus was eager to tap into the gold of the New World.
(His deal with the king and queen of Spain was that he received
10 percent of all the booty from the New World. He never
got it, and died on May 20, 1506 still fighting for his rights.)
Further, America's willingness
to kill and maim to get what it wants from Saddam Hussein likens
us to many as modern day Columbus-like Terrorists.
With our "super technology" and unlimited financial
resources, we are the Goliath and Iraq the David.
But David has more than a few rocks in his sling. He's
got the power of biochemical warfare, and, some suggest, the
rudiments of nuclear capacity.
According to Iraq
officials, just the other day 100 percent of the 11,445,638
eligible voters answered "YES" for another seven-year
term of rule by Saddam Hussein. Hussein has ruled
Iraq for 23 years.
The timing of the
election was keyed to rebuke America's claim that Hussein is
a tyrant, feared by his people. And by toppling his leadership,
Iraqis will be free of the despotism suffered over the last
Saudi women voting
the fierce loyalty of the citizens to Hussein, pictures of women
voting by cutting their fingers and placing their "YES" vote in blood,
were released. However, foreign press are allowed only to talk
to "citizens" with an Iraqi "monitor," listening. News from
the nation is filtered through these monitors, so no one is exactly sure
what anyone really thinks.
In an interview recently with one of
"dissident" citizens, a former Kurd leader now retired, when the question
was posed about removing Hussein with American force, the dissident
responded: "We can take of our own problems. We don't need
America to do it for us. Besides, America can't even stop a sniper
in its own country, how can it manage ours?"
Day Parade was a sum of much conflict both within America's borders and
without. The sniper, threats to invade Iraq, a bomb threat, a
boycott by the mayor, honoring a man known for Terrorizing the
innocent--was a potpourri of emotional pushes and pulls--some Terror
based, some Vigilant based..
highlight of the parade, for me, wasn't seeing a bust of Columbus rolling
down the street, or a guy dressed up as him on the prow of a model of the
Santa Maria throwing out books and toys to children. My highlight
was seeing French firemen marching in the parade, their silver dress
helmets shining in the sun, their rigid military steps proud and
dignified. France, one of America's biggest critics
regarding the war against Iraq, was there in full support--not of
Columbus--but in honor of their brother firemen who suffered such horrible
losses in the World Trade Center on Nine Eleven.
French Firemen at
It reminded me that
labeling Terrorism by country or nationality or religion or ethnicity is
an error. Our Washington D.C. sniper could be white,
brown, red, yellow--who knows? He could be a right winger, a
left winger, a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian. He could
be Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist. No one knows
for sure what he is, or frankly cares at this point. All they
want is him to be dead, or locked up forever.
When we try to
decide who is the worst Terrorist, the true "Evil One," we miss the point
of Vigilance. Vigilance is about the smallest Terrorist, not the
biggest. It can start when a child feels unloved, or thinks he or
she is not worthy, or good enough, or smart enough. Or, if a
child thinks he or she is better than, more privileged, "above the salt."
These Terrorisms of a child can grow into hatreds of others, or into
feelings of Almightiness, allowing one to "justifiably" lash out against
our "victimization" by "victimizing" others. This is where Terrorism
must be fought--at its root level--in the children, and the children's
children, children. If we are Vigilant, we can stunt
Terrorism's growth by quashing it before it becomes malignant.
To achieve this, we need "counter-sniper tools."
When people band together under the
Pledge of Vigilance, when they start to stand up for the Principles of
Vigilance--Courage over Fear, Conviction above Intimidation, and Right
Actions in place of Complacency--Terrorism will have little room to
I maintain the sniper isn't eager to
kill people as much as he is to scare people, to frighten them, to make
them shudder helplessly and utter Complacent words such as Mr. Massoud who
said: "When it comes to this kind of terrorism how do you
This is simple Complacency. It
is akin to what the Taino people must have asked themselves 510 years ago
when they cut their fingers on Columbus' sword.
We can fight Terrorism by
making a Circle of Vigilance similar to the one that possibly saved my
daughter's life a decade ago, on the soil where the blood of innocent,
peaceful people fertilized the soil Five-hundred years
later their Fear had become the Courage to face the barrels of machine
guns, their Intimidation had involved into the Conviction to fight for
their rights--even if it meant death. And rather than
continuing in the world of Complacency of hiding in the bottom of a
church, they stood and rose and marched to their rightful land, taking
Right Actions as one body of Vigilance against the Beast of Terror.
I believe those villagers learned
something we haven't yet. They learned that together we can beat
Terrorism by facing it with Vigilance, not by ducking and running and
hiding in Home Depot parking lots or waiting for the government to protect
us by sending out "spy planes" that couldn't find Osama bin Laden.
We must become one out of many. We must become Citizens of
Vigilance first and foremost.
In a bizarre
way, the 100 percent vote of the people in Iraq suggests that a nation can
form a solid wall against any threat. Even if the votes were
manipulated or coerced, there is something to be said for a people's right
to decide their own destiny. If E Pluribus Unum
has value as a creed, it is a rally cry for "Vigilance."
Out of many--One, can only occur when there is a prior commitment to
fight the Beast of Terror.
That commitment, I am convinced,
is the Pledge of Vigilance. It will serve as America's
100 percent vote against any Terrorist who tries to inflict
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency on a nation unprepared as
the Tainos to deal with it.
Let the Pledge of Vigilance
be your armor against Terrorism.
And, whether Columbus
was a good guy or bad guy, I don't know.
But I do know
that Terrorism can take many faces.
It can even
be found in some mirrors.
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