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WorldCrafters Guild

Workshop:Nine-Eleven Editorial
Anne Phyllis Pinzow

Anne Phyllis Pinzow is a script writer who makes her main living as a newspaper reporter and editor.  

Suggested Headline: It was such a beautiful day five years ago, and then we lost a war.

My sister and I were to drive into New York City together to pick up specially ordered drawer knobs for their newly renovated kitchen. Nothing seemed quite as important to us as that errand then.

It was one of those perfect days, the cloudless sky was a beautiful bright blue and there was no humidity.

“Did you hear, some idiot flew a plane into the World Trade Center,” she said when I arrived at her door. I waited in her playroom in front of the TV until she was ready to go.

It was an hour later when the horrors kept mounting to the unimaginable nightmare that I asked, “When is it going to stop?”

The son of a next door neighbor, a boy I knew since his infancy was dead. A member of our synagogue was dead. The parents of schoolmates of my nephew were dead. The brothers, sons, fathers, husbands of too many of Orangetown’s first responders as many of they themselves, people I’d come to know through my work, were dead.

Five years and untold numbers of memorials later and it still gives me shivers of fear up and down my spine when someone says, “what a beautiful day!”
Will there be another attack?

We all have learned that yes, there could be and have been more terrorist attacks, if not here then in Spain, in Great Britain, in Jordan, in Kenya, in Indonesia and almost daily in Iraq and Israel.

We’ve taken precautions. We’re all shocked at having to give picture ID before going into religious services or not being able to bring a bottle of water onto an airplane or being questioned about whom we are and what our business is before entering a public building.

As a consequence of the terrorist attacks and the resulting fear, this country and its half willing and terrorized allies have gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to strike back.

But unlike any other time in our history, we’re not fighting against a definitive foe but against a stateless group of people. They justify their actions on the bastardization of the peaceful teachings of the prophet of Islam.

Ranked up there with “Mein Kaumpf” is the Wahhabi supported manifesto of terror and hatred “Milestones” written by a mad man, Sayyid Qutb, imprisoned in an Egyptian jail and hanged for his sedition in 1966.

That book was part of a larger work ''In the Shade of the Qur'an.'' According to the New York Times, a translation into English of that collection was published by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth an organization whose Washington, D.C. office was run by a brother of Osama bin Laden.

What we’re fighting aren’t a people, a country, or a race. We’re fighting an idea and a culture that feeds off of the pain and death of others.

So how do we fight an idea?

It was during my recent trip to Israel that I remembered an incident from a previous vacation there ten years ago, when I was walking along the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem with my then teenage nephews.

We were in the Arab quarter when some small boys begged us for some money. Aware of all the warnings given tourists about this we quickly walked past the children.

It was then that these so called innocents followed us throwing rocks and empty soda cans. They never actually hit us, but were just being the other side of dangerous in their aims. Not content with this they ran up and grabbed at our clothing, quickly letting go but tugging at our arms, attempting to pull us off balance.

There we were, three big, strong Americans helplessly being harassed by a group of underweight, undersized children who would not stop. The use of force against the “children” was out of the question. Besides, they were doing nothing to actually harm us. Dumb tourists though we were, we all three realized that their sole aim was to provoke us into doing something really stupid.

In desperation I took their pictures and told the heretofore non-English speakers that I was going to show their photos to the police and miraculously, they ran off.

It was a small victory, but a satisfying one. No power or superior force was used, except for maybe one. We understood that they were afraid of being shown for what they were and being caught in the act would be cause humiliation, mortification, something to be feared more than death.

Unlike the way we had been taught, that the act was wrong and punishable, they were taught that being caught in the act was the ultimate wrong.

And that’s what they live by as the Islamist harassments have turned deadly, killing thousands of people with the barest minimum of technology.

Yet that’s what it is and has remained harassment, a means of provoking people into using their own strength and power, trusting natures and freedoms to weaken themselves, getting others to fight battles that cannot be won for a simple reason. The Islamists are not fighting us. They’re making us waste our resources. They’re making us use our powers against ourselves.

Afghanistan has been pounded into dust and yet after several billion in American aide to a so called struggling democracy, the Taliban are experiencing a resurgence and have enough power to set up road blocks, paralyzing huge portions of the country, and cultivating more drugs than ever before, according to “The New York Times.”

As far as Iraq is concerned, the recent news of the capture of Hamid Juma Faris Jouri al-Saeedi, comes with the daily numbers of American service men and women who have been killed in that struggle. At least 2647 have died since the war began, the majority of that number, 2510, has been since President George W. Bush climbed out of a Navy S-3B Viking onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln air craft carrier and proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.”

There’s irony in that like Lincoln’s task of emancipation, the work to stabilize Iraq may take another 100 years.

The mission is still very real to the civilian and military personnel who live and work in questionable safety in a green zone. A war is not over when people must travel in an armed escort and where there’s the constant fear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombings.

Yes, it’s harassment that has made Americans so fearful we’ve willingly given up many of our freedoms that no one had ever before been able to take from us by force.

It’s harassment that makes us use our full force and power and economic might to the detriment of educating our youth, maintaining our infrastructure and protecting our environment.

This culture of harassment, of getting us frightened, of killing just enough of us so that we’re all afraid of attacks that can, but might never come. Osama Ben Laden has become the boogie man, bigger than life, almost unreal in the fear he and his minions generate. Our reaction is forcing us to win his war for him.

He commands no troops. He rules no country. Yet he has been able to put a huge dent into our financial support of the structure of taking care of our own. Not he but we’ve terrorized ourselves into abandoning a portion of all the joy of liberty and democracy we live by, the justice heretofore guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.

We don’t have to react out of fear. Let us stand back from the situation and react out of thought, out of what we know will work.

While some may see it as simplistic, the fact is that the Islamists revealed the means to their own defeat, and it was not by force of arms or road maps to peace, blockades or sanctions or talks.

It was by of all things the humiliation they felt at humor, at exposure, at people seeing them for who they are and laughing at them, of catching them in the act. While killing them rewards them with 72 virgins, innocent cartoons causes them unbearable soul shattering damage.

Let’s face it, terrorist groups and organizations which pay families to martyr murderous children don’t fear death. People who train their children in summer camps and kindergartens that to reach the ultimate in achievement they must be suicide bombers, know they can’t win in what Westerners consider a fair fight.

But they do win when the grieving parents of the homicidal bombers are caught on international television.

When parents are asked why they allowed this to happen, they look soulfully into the cameras and say, “Because they’re the only weapons we have” with just the right tone of pride in their voices that their children killed themselves to kill and maim others.

Then those who pay the mourning families thousands of dollars so others can kill and be killed scurry away into their rat holes to watch others destroy themselves.

So let’s show them for what they are, as I discovered in that little incident ten years ago. Let’s truly examine the weaknesses the Islamists revealed about themselves just a year ago when thousands were willing to rise up in anger because of a few pen and ink drawings.

Expose them, humiliate them, get them to act against their best interests and bring to them what they fear; the world seeing them for what they really are, a culture which thrives on the destruction that others wrought upon themselves. It’s time that they got caught in the act, that their propaganda is turned against them. It’s time that those who thrive on death are depicted as they truly are in our movies, our entertainment, our video games, our comic strips, our newspapers and television and radio.

Maybe only then we’ll again be able to go out and truly appreciate a clear blue sky on a beautiful September day. That’s not winning a war. That’s better. That’s celebrating life.  


HOMEWORK: See the homework assignment for the editorial on Cablevision.

Read the other lessons by Anne Phyllis Pinzow.  Especially her Rules for good reporting.  


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