I received an e-mail out of the blue from a stranger in Australia, a female music teacher. The following is my private e-mail response.

Although I identify myself as a liberal and left-wing, and sometimes as a radical civil libertarian and even a neo-Luddite reactionary, I am also a Jew, and not a pacifist. The anti-Semitism I am reading from all sides - both the virulent kind from the various Muslim nations and the anti-Zionist kind from the liberal press - disgusts me no end. As one surrounded by Holocaust survivors in my family and amongst my friends, I am in no way sympathetic to anyone's call for the US to abandon the region (and, although unstated, by consequence, rid the region of "the Jewish problem") in the name of peace - and, of course, at the expense of Israeli Jewish lives.

Is the US to blame for the USSR invading Afghanistan? If we are to blame for assisting the Taliban against the USSR, does that mean we are also to blame for not turning Afghanistan into an American colony afterwards? Are we to blame for the Saudi's wealth and what they do with it? Are we to blame for commandeering airplanes full of people into buildings? At what point in time do people who are at the front lines of attacks, counter-attacks and terrorism take responsibility for their own actions? Or is it just convenient to write words blaming the US because it'll get published (try publishing an anti-Egyptian government article in Egypt)?

Excuse me if I do not sit idly by while terrorists blow up my airplanes, drive car bombs, spread anthrax and otherwise try to kill me and my fellow Americans. Let's see, the Nazis killed pacifists and communists and gypsies and homosexuals and mental patients and Jews and all kinds of peace-loving people, then invaded Poland and occupied France and bombed London - but I guess peace-loving appeasement would have been fine. Yeah, that's right - we needed a good peace movement. That would have saved the lives of six million Jews.

When fundamentalist anti-government zealots blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, I'm against that. When fundamentalist anti-Western zealots blow up embassies and high-rises, I'm against that. Hey, and when anti-Arab zealots try to blow up the Dome of the Rock, I'm against that, too. But I think it's crazy that a country that embraces its diversity and celebrates freedom of religion is being projected upon by anti-immigrant European nations who fear their own denial.

Unlike you, there are many Australians who have shown their bravery in the face of evil. My country may not have "thought through" the consequences of their actions, but we know the results of appeasement. Isolationism is a myth, even for Australia. If you really cared about peace and humanitarian aid, you'd be down in Afghanistan right now serenading them with music and teaching them about the finer things in life - while wearing a huge piece of cloth covering everything but your eyes. Gandhi fasted in the middle of raging Calcutta, and African-Americans put their bodies in white-only areas demanding to be served. While Americans risk their lives to defend our country, you're sending e-mails. That doesn't garner much respect out here by Ground Zero.

Add that point of view to your consensus. And while you're trying to formulate a musical response to September 11, remember what Adorno wrote, "Poetry after Auschwitz is no longer possible." Or how about Irving Greenberg, "No statement can be made, theological or otherwise, that cannot be made in the presence of burning children." You should see art and music and theater created by the children of Holocaust survivors - it's full of important issues and questions and ideas that everybody else ignores. Discussions related to them always ask, "Why did you make a piece about THAT"? The question should be, "How can anybody else make a piece that's not about THAT."

You can IMAGINE a world with no wars, but, excuse me, I have to live in the world that exists. Coming soon to a mailbox near you.

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Last Updated: September 12, 2007