We must move on, regardless
Stabroek News
September 21, 2001

Dear Editor,

In the aftermath of the WTC disaster, we are grappling with a return to normalcy in our daily lives. That, in and of itself, may never be, but we move forward. In the meantime, I reflect on some ways in which life has changed in this land.

At mass last Sunday, my wife and I could not help noticing the sight of an armed policeman outside the church. On the way later to visit a sick friend we had to make several detours because of manned police roadblocks. The reason: mosques in the area. In the neighbourhood, and on the bus, or in the subway the atmosphere is palpably different. You feel the stares, you imagine the thoughts clashing in the heads of the observers. Is he "one of them?" What does he carry in his briefcase? There is fear, suspicion, even


There is no distinction from folks who hail from the sub-continent, the Middle East, or the Caribbean. Hindus and Moslems are reconfigured into that sickening, all purpose, visible symbol of evil and death - the terrorist. Remove the turban, shave the beard, change the garb and we are still what we are, or perceived to be. Is he one of them?

Welcome to the world of detention as a "material witness" which under certain circumstances allows holding an individual indefinitely. We see the removal of parties from Amtrak, the bus, and hotels for questioning. The ACLU and some constitutional scholars have expressed alarm. But the overwhelming mood of the country is if it gets the job done, then so be it. If I turn up at an airport at this moment, I expect additional scrutiny all the way up to a strip search, and I hardly look Middle Eastern. But it is a price I am willing to pay for the security that was so violently breached last week.

There is no immunity from the piercing winds that stab at our hearts and minds. As an attendant filled our gas tank last Sunday, I whispered to my wife that the individual could be "an honest man scrounging an existence at a minimum wage level" or on the other hand, "a sleeper assimilating into this open society, and awaiting orders." Given these thoughts from a rather sane and balanced person (or at least I hope so), what about the level of paranoia from the racist, the extremist, the xenophobic?

On a rather different plane, some folks from the Caribbean are revisiting their decision to migrate to this great land. I wonder at their naivete. This is part of the package of this land of milk and honey. It is not just about economics and education and standard of living. It is also about nuclear shelters from the 60's, military interventions, and being a world power. Cold War temperatures have been now replaced with an invisible cloud that is a moving target, and may well be a needle in the sand.

Regardless of the stares and fears, we must move on. We must prepare for rough days ahead. We must also believe that better days will come.

Yours faithfully,

G H K Lall