Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2003 / 14 Elul, 5763

Stanley Crouch

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Will we allow those who were burned alive, jumped from windows or crushed to death on Sept. 11, 2001, to have left this world in vain? | As most of us know by now, two years ago on this day, the 20th century officially ended. By the day before, Sept. 10, 2001, our town had become so safe that we could boast we had the best police force in the nation and were one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. In the big town on the Hudson, local people and tourists, from the bottom to the top, felt secure.

Before noon on the following day, everything had changed, and we found ourselves in the middle of a world war in which the other side took the position that there were no noncombatants. The basic playing chip of war - killing - could be applied to anyone in any place. Though the sense of world safety went down in bricks and mortar, the image of the city that never sleeps achieved a human grandeur beyond any that it has ever known.

On that day, with bottomless heart and courage, New York citizens and professionals taught the world how to best handle an act of barbarism in which nearly 3,000 people were murdered. We have since experienced levels of grief and anger that can only be associated with the nightmares of combat and genocide that arrive in the most savage circumstances.

And we have since had to rethink some ideas, finding some of the old ones to be sentimental and naive when applied outside a classroom. In the wake of our Western colonialism and our dehumanization of the Japanese in World War II, an idea arose that you are not supposed to judge cultures that are outside your values. But a murderous fundamentalist nut is not the same as a molecular biologist in the U.S.

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There is now the idea that we should just let as many people in from the Islamic world as ever because otherwise we're profiling Arabs. My attitude is that this doesn't apply during a war. People couldn't immigrate from Japan or Italy or Germany during World War II. That's a norm.

It should be very difficult for anyone from the Islamic world to come into the U.S. The immigrant tradition of America cannot be applied whenever it means that we have to take the risk of letting in 19 men like those who hijacked the planes that achieved the greatest coordinated murder raid in world history.

Will innocent, moderate Muslims suffer because of this? Probably; most people suffer in some way when a war is being waged. Will we lose money if we make it very difficult to immigrate or enter this nation from Islamic countries? We already are. Billions.

But what of those good Muslims, who are surely in the great majority? If they do not sink down into hating us for protecting ourselves (which is highly probable initially), they may someday realize that it is in their interest to help us find the murderers moving among them. That would distinguish their cooperation from that of American Muslims born outside this country who have been of little help in this war against domestic terrorism.

What of the students? Let them go to school in Europe if they have too much trouble proving they are not dangerous. Acts of war demand serious responses. These are the grim realities of our moment, and we run great and unnecessary risks if we are not willing to protect ourselves.

Otherwise, it seems to me, that those who were burned alive, jumped from windows or were crushed to death Sept. 11, 2001, left this world in vain.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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