Connecting the Dots

Balint Vazsonyi

It is the morning after. Secretary of State Colin Powell just said to Katie Curic that "we must not associate the horrific events of September 11 with any religion, or particular group of people. All religions," Mr. Powell said, "respect life. This is simply a group of terrorists."

The Secretary apparently saw as priority the calming of nerves and protection for those who live here and may be seen as disturbingly similar to America's attackers. A laudable effort. Katie herself seemed obsessed with the urgent need to protect Arabs and people of Islamic faith.

All of this is very American and makes me painfully aware of my foreign birth, as well as the ultimate futility of my ceaseless and honest efforts for more than four decades to become American in every possible sense of the word.

I confess the rose-colored glasses do not fit me. I think if someone happens to be Arab in America at a time like this it is tough luck like, say, boarding a plane at Dulles airport, thinking that you are flying to California. I think it is time for Arabs to think about being Arab.

Yes, I think every Arab in the world supports the murderous actions which has been the sole contribution of the Arab world for some time now. Most would not say so, many might do so only in their innermost thoughts. But when a vast segment of humanity is consumed by a single emotion - hatred of, and a wish to destroy a small country and its people - it is reasonable to assume that unanimous agreement on that subject goes hand-in-hand with applause for those who appear to "do something about it."

(The same is largely true for the Irish when I.R.A. bombs explode in London.)

As for Mr. Powell's wishful thinking about the world's religions, he is not alone, of course. It is fashionable in the Western world to say that all religions are the same. How serious, educated people can subscribe to such nonsense is for future historians to analyze. Islam, or certain strains of it, may respect the lives of Moslems, but I have yet to hear of a Moslem (in Hungary we grow up with quite a lot of knowledge as a result of 150 years of Turkish occupation) who respected the lives of non-Moslems in a way Americans do.

We have finally heard our president say that we are at war. His statement that our enemies are hiding is incorrect. Our enemies are entirely visible. We are, whether we are prepared to admit it or not, at war with the Arab world. Better said, the Arab world is at war with us. The reasons are irrelevant. America's support of Israel is America's decision, just as America's decision of Great Britain in the world wars was America's decision. Our enemies are no less enemies just because they say they have "good reasons."

Without a doubt, the oil reserves of the Middle East and our need of them present a complication. No doubt, our dependence limits the options. But, perhaps, not as much as we fear.

To continue in my highly un-American ways, I will make the blanket statement that Arabs are basically cowards, and their leaders have gotten accustomed to living in the lap of luxury. In a stupor of religious intoxication, some will engage in suicide missions, but they are cowards nonetheless. A decisive measure affecting every Arab might very quickly bring the leaders to their senses. Many such are within the purview of our government.

By now, everyone is shouting at me, reminding me of the unfairness toward Japanese Americans in 1942. Frankly, I could never see the point in the national remorse. No one was physically harmed, in fact, harm might have been forestalled by interning them. We have been afflicted by some terrible virus that is destroying the natural defenses people, especially Americans, used to have, and which includes suspicion of others whose way of thinking is utterly different of our own.

How else to explain that of four hijacked airliners only one had people on board man enough to thwart the plan?! Could it be that our new flight personnel spends too much time endlessly, and hysterically, recounting all anti-smoking measures and the punishment for those who don't buckle under?

And now for my worst offense. I am not able, and will no longer even try, to feel a close kinship with people who wear earrings, have their bodies pierced at various places, sport African garb (unless they actually come from there) or refuse to learn English. Of course, I will continue to think of them as fellow human beings.

But not as fellow-Americans.