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"Nous sommes tous Americains!
Nous sommes tous New-Yorkais..."
(We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers)
--Le Monde, front page editorial, Thursday Sept. 13
"We know the children who begin the youth of loss greater then they can dream
-- Wendell Berry, "November Twenty
Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three"
Flash Extra, 9-12: "We are All Americans"
Edited and with commentary by Paul
The Dance Insider
PARIS -- I'd like to share some more
responses with you, from our dancer readers around the world and from the French
and world press. New Yorkers themselves seem too shell-shocked to do more than
check in that they are okay, and I'm happy to report that all our immediate Dance
Insider family are present and accounted for. I am also relieved to share, courtesy
Dance Insider RS, that the Events crew of the World Trade Center, which was on
site for an 8 a.m. call yesterday, was able to get out in time before the buildings
collapsed. As reported earlier to our e-mail list, the Parsons Dance Company and
crew, who were scheduled to perform at the WTC, are all safe and accounted for.
Also, Stuart Hodes, Head of School
at the Martha Graham School, writes that all in that community are safe and sound,
and adds this report which I hope he won't mind my sharing with you: "Yesterday
around noon I biked down to the OK-Harris Gallery on West Broadway for a tech
rehearsal, expecting it to be cancelled, as it was. City was very strange with
almost no vehicular traffic, pedestrians crowding into the streets. Near NYU I
saw a man covered with cement dust, stopped, said to him, 'You must have been
close.' He replied, 'Three blocks,' told me he'd been taking pictures with his
video camera when he heard a shudder, did not think to run until he saw a black
cloud of cement dust billowing toward him. He seemed oddly detached, likely suffering
from shock. Passers-by gathered, trying to offer reassurance. I asked him his
name. 'James.' 'God bless you, James,' someone said. They were still around him
when I biked away. Things will be very different from now on, although just how
they will be different no one can know."
Eliza Miller asks me to pass on that
her company's performances this weekend have been postponed until further notice.
Martin Wechsler and Linda Shelton of the Joyce Theater communicate that the Joyce
SoHo, as all businesses below 14th Street, will be closed by order of the city
until further notice. And that the Joyce family are all okay.
So: Below we have more dancer reaction,
followed by reaction in the French and world press. I've also added some more
reflections of my own, and shared Wendell Berry's copyrighted poem, quoted above
and written on the occasion of the death of John F. Kennedy. (Don't worry, it
won't depress you!)
One piece of advice from this earthquake
survivor (not quite the same as there is no evil intent behind an act of nature,
but a trauma nonetheless) to my friends and colleagues in New York and D.C. and
indeed across the U.S.A: Give yourself some time to get over this. In San Francisco
after the quake of '89, we were the walking traumatized for months after the 7.0
quake. Oh and also: Post-tragedies are golden opportunities to meet you neighbors
and fellow citizens.
From Keila Cordova in Brooklyn,
I just want to say thank you for
your insight and the power of your words. As i sit here in Brooklyn, paralyzed
by events, I am trying to focus on the light. Even as i listen to the war-mongers
on TV try to harness our distress onto a cataclysmic path. Yes, this is our Pearl
Harbor of 2001. it is also our opportunity to right the innocent loss of life
in the nuclear response to that 1940s suicidal attack. How we respond now as a
nation says everything about our humanity; this is our opportunity to prove that
the hatred in the hearts of the Muslim children I watched jumping in the streets
of Palestine is misguided. Are we strong enough to do so?
From dancer Kim-lien Dessault in
I just heard the news, what could
we say .... They got the keys to play war and we have nothing, except our eyes
to see or just the ground to fall. I just want colors and human beauty. Intellectuals
in France say utopia is dead (it belongs to the past because we are in the 21st
century), I would continue to believe in it. I am not the person who could control
my thought. Who is Muslim? who is American? who is Israeli? What are the consequences
of colonialism in occidental part of the world? A big macy ....They want to make
order but it's impossible, why they don't accept we are in disorder, the consequence
of the consequence.
From choreographer and dancer Joe
Alter in Warsaw, Poland:
Thank you for the reports and reactions.
I am an American living in Warsaw, Poland. The sense of shock, disbelief, and
sadness that such a thing could be allowed to happen, that human beings who surely
have loved ones of their own, could allow hate to consume them, that one human
being could objectify other human beings as "other" to such a degree that they
become ''assets" to be used to display their hate....how do we go so far down
that road that something like this becomes possible? I too lived in San Francisco
during the earthquake, and in New York when the trade center was bombed before.
The feeling I have is inexpressible. Helpless.... I wonder what power we in the
arts wield against such horror. The dancer in France who spoke of color and beauty
-- the creation of light in a world that sometimes seems so full of darkness.
I question whether what we have to offer, not in retaliation but in answer to
this unspeakable tragedy and others like it, is sufficient. Are there enough of
us to make a difference? And yet I also know that I have no other tools at my
disposal -- all I know is light, color, and beauty, so as ineffectual as I fear
these things may be, it is to these thing I turn.
From dancer and DI Correspondent
Bettina Preuschoff in Hamburg, Germany:
"Something in this dimension has
never been in our days.... Yes, I know the biggest community of Jewish people
outside Israel is in New York. So the question is....my goodness! For me, seeing
the background of my own country....it's...I can't find the words. How can one
have such a hate? How is it possible to act like that as a human being? This act
changes the world. All my personal problems of the last weeks are really ridiculous...!
Yesterday, I felt like it would be impossible to write about dance in the next
days, but I think all which has happened is one more reason to talk about it,
to give a light to other people."
From Jefferson James in Cincinnati:
Thank you. I can continue my day
with a little more concentration than I expected. You've made it just a little
easier for me to do what I knew I should do -- be more committed and vocal, in
my community, which isn't New York or Washington but has the same hate issues
roiling at the surface. We probably won't get terrorist attacks but we've had
our riots so -- we'll continue to shed light and bring dance. It's all I can do
and now it seems a bit more important than yesterday.
------------Reaction from the French
and world press, and from the world in general
This evening's Le Monde devotes a
20-page, front section to the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon, including on
the ground description from New York and editorials and reaction from around the
Under the headline (relying on my
sketchy French) "America is Struck, the World is Siezed by Fear,) the front page
of this evening's Le Monde, usually illustrated with a cartoon, carries a color
photo of a smoke-covered lower Manhattan, seen from the Hudson and dwarfing that
French tribute to American democracy, the Statue of Liberty. The lead story ends
by concluding, "Today, (Manhattan) is a cemetary." An editorial echoes a common
reading overseas of the message this tragedy sends to President Bush: That an
isolationist policy is not an option for the United States. As well, that US plans
for a missile shield ignore the biggest threat to international security, rogue
terrorist states andorganizations.
There's a funny "Our man on Broadway"
account by Afsane Bassir Pour with some choice quotes from Manhattanites, including
this from a woman interviewed at Bruce's Hamburgers near Times Square: "And Bush?
Where is he? I have no confidence with this 'petite' Bush."
Le Monde also includes a sampling
of reaction from the press, governments, and people around the world.
With the exception of Iraq, whose
government says "Le cow-boy American" is reaping the fruits of its own actions,
the governments universally condemn the attacks. In China, Le Monde reports, ultranationalists
writing on the Internet ask, 'When the Americans bomb Iraq, is that not terrorism?
When the Americans bomb the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, is that not terrorism?"
In Algeria, official reaction condemned the attacks but also excoriated the media,
particularly French television, for the premature conclusion that the assault
was committed by Arabs and Muslims.
Le Monde also surveys reaction --
and, already, prescriptions -- from the world's media. In Israel, it reports,
the daily Ha'Aretz states that with the bombing, World War has commenced -- a
war to counter terrorism around the world. The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, bemoans
the repeated scenes on television of jubilant Palestinians. (Several of whom Le
Monde also shows triumphantly firing their Kalashnikovs in Lebanon, and crying
for Tel Aviv to be attacked next. In Italy, La Stampa of Turin opines that a climate
of war is rapidly taking over the world. In Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung suggests that the U.S. administration take this attack as a cue to focus
more attention on the Near East, where anti-American sentiment has been fomenting
for some months.
Finally, Le Monde reports on reaction
from Americans in Paris. Several schools have started searching the bags of all
who enter. At Harry's American Bar, one patron compared her feeling to that after
the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
-----Some Reflections from Paul Ben-Itzak:
Our Loss of Innocence
That assassination, of Kennedy, wreaked
a devastating loss of innocence -- the innocence of Kennedy's contemporaries who
had seen him usher in their New Camelot, and the innocence of my generation, scarcely
born and not even knowing the meaning of the word innocence before it was taken
away from us. Much of the hippie movement of the Sixties was an attempt to hang
on to that feeling, and it was a nice party while it lasted, but when it petered
out. Eventually, we, in America -- governmentally, anyway -- retreated into our
shell. Which is not to say we didn't militarily intervene, but we lost much of
our corporate zeal to engage with the world. In the arts, we felt this in the
dwindling and finally essential elimination of federal programs for touring our
artists. We also retracted when it came to bringing foreign artists here; as the
presenters and managers among you know, if you want to bring a foreign artist
to the U.S., you have to run a major bureaucratic gauntlet.
Me, I feel yesterday's senseless
slaugher -- even across the Atlantic -- as a second loss of innocence. I feel
a little naive confessing to this feeling here in Europe, where they know what
it is to be vulnerable; there are still bullet holes in many of the buildings
I pass every day, and on everything from apartment buildings to Metro stations,
you can find a plaque memorializing a veteran of the resistance who used to live
there or who died defending the spot. Indeed, an anglophile French friend, who
is an authority on U.S. culture, says this is not a loss of innocence but of illusion.
I believe that even if we can pinpoint
a source for this attack, and even if we can bring the mastermind to justice,
and even if we can bring the country that harbored him to justice, it may produce
a short-term high but really, it won't solve the long-term problem. Sure, we still
have those -- are artists among them -- who engage the world and who bring to
other countries a vision of America that counters that of the bully of the world.
(And, on top of everything else, what the evil and corrupted minds and hearts
of those who did this don't realize is that in attacking New York, they didn't
just stop the motor of Capitalism, they stopped the motor of all the good energy,
artistic and otherwise, that is concentrated in New York. Whether it's our economy
or our culture, New Yorkers with their manic but ultimately dedicated energy are
the nucleaus, the locus, of the American cultural and intellectual engine. Which
is not to say these don't take place elsewhere in the country, but that in New
York it's a 24-hour operation. It's the heart. Today, that heart has stopped.
) But I don't think this is enough. I believe that on a government level we need
to earn back the respect -- not just the fear -- of the downtrodden of the world.
Yesterday's massacre showed that we don't earn this by brandishing our stick every
time we're attacked. (Dance Insider Susan of Biloxi, where the military are being
mobilized to help with this disaster, makes the valid point that our young men
and women of the armed forces do much good work in the world, and as such also
represent the United States in its best face. So my comment is not aimed at those
in the trenches, but at the war-mongers at the top who do the brandishing and
who threaten, anyway, to use these innocents for less noble ends.) I think it
starts with the children -- with giving them a different -- a "kinder, gentler"
if you will -- vision of America. I don't say there shouldn't be an individual
justice meted out to the perpetrators of this attack and their sponsors. But I
say if it stops there we are not really preventing another attack in the future,
because an "eye for an eye" policy does not change hearts and minds. And as this
attack shows, if someone is of a heart and mind to kill you, they will find a
John F. Kennedy had that vision of
America's true engagement with the world. He had more responsibility than, perhaps,
we like to admit for miring us in Vietnam, but it was also under Kennedy that
the Peace Corps was launched.
I'd like to close with "November
Twenty-Six, Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three," a poem by Wendell Berry. Originally
published in The Nation, it was issued in book form, illustrated by Ben Shahn
in a stark wood-block manner, shortly after President Kennedy was killed. That
assassination, which took place when I was two-and-a-half years old, is my first
conscious memory. I received the book on my third birthday. It is rather in tatters
now, but I can still decipher part of what our family friend Bill Wedemeyer wrote
on the inside cover: "Years from now, you will hear about this event....It often
brings sadness, and perhaps despair, to the minds of some men, to witness the
deeds of others. There are times when the goals of men seem to be so opposed to
that dream or image of man that some of our minds hold, that indeed man seems
lost. That this little book exists is a ray of proof that from this despair, beauty
can still be born."
Now that I think of it, there were
those like Bill and my parents, and maybe yours -- or maybe you -- who were able
to rescue John Kennedy's vision from his biere, and carry those ideals into the
Sixties. Maybe we can do the same. Here's the poem; be well!
---------------Wendell Berry's Poem
on the Passing of President Kennedy
"November Twenty-Six Nineteen
Hundred Sixty Three"
Copyright 1963 Wendell Berry
We know the winter earth upon the
body of the young president, and the early dark falling;
We know the Veins grown quiet in
his temples and wrists, and his hands and eyes grown quiet;
We know his name written in the black
capitals of his death, and the mourners standing in the rain, and the leaves falling;
We know his death's horses and drums;
the roses, bells, candles, crosses; the faces hidden in veils;
We know the children who begin the
youth of loss greater then they can dream now;
We know the nightlong coming of faces
into the candle-light before his coffin, and their passing;
We know the mouth of the grave waiting,
the bugle and rifles, the mourners turning away;
We know the young dead body carried
in the earth into the first deep night of its absence;
We know our streets and days slowly
opening into the time he is not alive, filling with our footsteps and voices;
We know ourselves, the bearers of
the light of the earth he is given to, and of the light of all his lost days;
We know the long approach of summers
toward the healed ground where he will be waiting, no longer the keeper of what
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