I Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse

I heard on the radio that an airplane had just hit the World Trade Center, a bi-plane according to one witness. Curious, I turned on the TV and discovered that it had not been a bi-plane, but a massive jetliner. I thought to myself, “This is a major disaster.” And I thought it couldn’t get much worse than that.

But then the second jet hit the other tower.

This is horrible, I thought. This is an intentional act of terrorism. And I thought it couldn’t get worse.

But then the Pentagon was hit, and then another jet crashed in Pennsylvania. My God, I thought, it couldn’t get worse.

But then I learned those jets were full of people. Mothers and daughters and sons and fathers. And I thought it couldn’t ever get worse than that.

But then one tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. It just fell in on itself, and in a few seconds it was gone. And I thought it couldn’t get worse.

But then the other tower collapsed as well. Only a cloud of smoke and dust remained where two of the most important buildings in the world had stood. And I thought it couldn’t get worse.

But then they began to estimate how many people had been in those towers. And I thought, surely, it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

But then an old man in Huntington, NY, tried to run over a Pakistani woman in the parking lot of a shopping mall and followed her into a store and threatened to kill her for “destroying my country.” And a man in a ski mask in Gary, IN fired an assault rifle at the gas station where Hassan Awdah, a U.S. citizen born in Yemen, was working. And 19-year-old Colin Zaremba said, “I’m proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have,” as he marched with a crowd of 300 to a mosque in the suburbs of Chicago. And in Australia, a school bus carrying Muslim children was stoned, and vandals tried to set fire to a Lebanese church.

And I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

But then people began to talk of retaliation, about punishment, about a possible ground war, about the “nuclear option.” They started talking about how the American people have to be prepared for many “difficult” things, such as heavy casualties among our American troops.

I thought it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong. It can always get worse. And it most certainly will get worse, if this act of violence and terror makes us forget the values of love and reason.

Consider this my personal plea to you, to everyone:

Don’t make it worse than it already is.

Traffic

CONTAINS SPOILERS

I saw Traffic on cable last night, and I can’t remember when I’ve hated and loved the same movie so much.

What I liked: This was a serious movie dealing with an important topic, a topic that always fascinates me. It attempts to depict the complexity of the situation and the fruitlessness of America’s War on Drugs. The brutality of organized crime, the corrupting influence of the drug trade, and the impossibility of effective interdiction… It’s all there.

Toward the end, when Michael Douglass as the US drug czar has a crisis of confidence at a press conference, he sums it up very nicely by saying something like: “The War on Drugs is a war on our own family members, and I can’t do that.” Then he just walks away, quitting his job. Very unrealistic, but a point nicely made.

The film also indicates (correctly) that our drug policies are weak on treatment, focusing instead on interdiction. Why do we focus on the supply from outside of our borders instead of on demand from inside our borders.

What I disliked: The scene where Douglass’ (white) daughter gets fucked (literally) and hooked up on smack by her (black) drug-dealer boyfriend really made me wanna puke. I really felt the movie fell down in the depiction of drug use. In a way, it was cool that they primarily showed privileged upper class white kids using drugs, as that really dramatizes the quandry. But all the film’s depictions of illicit drug use are so extremely abusive in nature — I feel this misrepresents things. It’s my understanding that the majority of cocaine use (cocaine being the big focus in this movie) is fairly benign and casual, just like the majority of alcohol use. Addiction is a serious issue, but it’s also something that happens to a minority of users. Thus, again, the absurdity of the drug war. Traffic seems to reinforce the idea that drugs really are destroying this nation’s youth, which I think is an overblown myth.

Other gripes: Douglass asks who has his job in Mexico, and seems shocked when told there is no analagous position — yet. But that shouldn’t be a shock. The “drug czar” position is a very weird and uniquely American appointment, and Douglass would have to know this. The drug czar has little power, anyhow; I believe he’s more of a figurehead, who’s merely supposed to coordinate the efforts of the various gov’t anti-drug forces.

Also, many of the questions posed by the film (like why we focus on interdiction so much) are unanswered, even though the answers are not that hard to find.

Of course, if Traffic gets people to think, to ask questions, then so much the better.