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Moving Forward from 9/11 with a Lesson from Aristophanes

Monday, September 12, 2011 2:33 PM | Alma Robinson (Administrator)

The commemorative ceremonies and related coverage of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 disaster nearly wiped me out.   I had intended to browse lightly through the news reports, correctly anticipating that going into it too deeply would reawaken the original anxiety I had experienced after seeing the planes crash into the Twin Towers again and again. Instead, I found myself immersed in Sunday's non-stop television coverage, which included a two-hour reprise of the documentary made by the French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet.  These brothers had set out to profile a rookie firefighter and found themselves at Ground Zero documenting one of the biggest stories of our era.

Knowing the terrible price that we Americans have exacted on ourselves and the rest of the world in reaction to 9/11 made my angst even worse this time around.  While we continue to mourn for the victims of the 2001 attacks who were cut down in the prime of their lives, where is the grief for our 6,000+ American war dead and the more than 100,000 citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries who also paid with their lives?  And now that these misadventures have nearly bankrupted our country, how in the world are we going to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan?  

Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies estimates in Costs of War that there are more than 3 million Iraqi refugees, whose displacement will have an untold impact on politics in the Middle East and the rest of the world for generations to come. No doubt the injustice they are experiencing in the name of democracy has radicalized thousands of youth whose futures have been torn to shreds.  

Meanwhile, our own infrastructure and public institutions are crumbling. Public funds for arts and humanities, scientific research and space exploration, education, job training, health, housing and social services--and even the US Post Office--are shrinking due to "the deficit."  Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee a safety net for our elders, are being viewed with skepticism and derided as "entitlements."  It is clear that the federal deficit has largely resulted from mortgaging the costs of 10 years of war. 
But the 9/11 evening news hour also brought some hope for change. Code Pink ladies were enthusiastically waving peace signs on the Golden Gate Bridge. Their demonstration reminded me of a theatrical piece that urges women to exercise their ultimate leverage in order to stop war. In Aristophanes' Lysistrata, which was first performed in Athens in 411 BC, the protagonist urges women to end the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta by withholding affection from their men. That series of conflicts, which ground on for more than 20 years, is said to have marked the end of the Golden Age of Greece.  After the war ended, Athens never regained its pre-war prosperity.
We can't wait another 10 years to resolve this debacle.  Quick!! Could someone please forward this post to Michelle Obama and Laura Bush?  It's going to take a bi-partisan effort....

Alma Robinson, Executive Director
California Lawyers for the Arts



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