Sunday, September 19, 2004

This Is A Man In The Moment Before His Death

©pasquino (September 13, 2001)

This is a man in the moment before his death. You do not know him. His skin is darker than yours. His hair is black. He speaks differently than you. He worships differently than you do. He is from another country. He is from this country. He has a family who love him. He loves his children and his wife.

He is a fireman who has run into a burning building. He doesn’t know the people who have set the fire or the people who he is trying to save. He works in a restaurant. He waits tables. He will never see his customers. He doesn’t know his killers.

He lives in a town in the mountains of Asia where the people are starving and he is starving with them. There are killers who come from a place near him but he doesn’t know them. He lives in a city in California where he has a job. He is an American citizen. He drives a cab in New York. He has just learned that his brother has died in a fire downtown.

He is just leaving his mosque after prayers and there is a crowd of people in the street. He works for a brokerage. He has just booted his computer and dialed his wife’s number on his phone. He is at home and has spent the last 24 hours watching terrible events unfold on tv. He is afraid to go outside. He is in the wrong neighborhood. He is in a bar and the man seated near him is angry. He is at the controls of an airliner and believes his actions will please God.

He is a tourist from India, from Pakistan, from Egypt, from France, from England. He is a refugee from Iraq, from the Sudan, from Yemen, from Cuba. He is at the top of a tall building. He is pointing out the Statue of Liberty to his nephews. He doesn’t know his killers. He is a New York policeman. He will die in a few minutes without knowing he was being heroic.

He shares a name with a man who has done terrible things. He lives in an apartment in a neighborhood of Beirut, or Cairo, or Damascus. He believes in God. He is a lawyer, a physician, a teacher, a merchant, a laborer. He dreams of coming to America to live. He is a businessman. He is about to board a plane. He is in his car in an American city listening to hateful things on the radio. He is arguing on the sidewalk. He is the mastermind. He is unsavory but he is working for us. He is a suspect. He is completely innocent. He is a hero. He is an ordinary man. He is one of them. He is going about his life as before, in his neighborhood, at his job, harming no-one, feeding his family. He has a plan he is about to carry out. He is going to save lives.

He is Christian, he is Muslim, he is Jewish, he is Bahai, he is agnostic. He loves his family. He loves his country. He believes in God. He has doubts. He appears to be from elsewhere. He resembles half of the world’s people. He is different from us. He is the same. He wants the same things we do. He wants things to be different. He is angry at our enemies. He is angry with us. He is speaking his mind. He is ashamed. He is horrified. He is grieving. He is doing nothing. He must be stopped. We must think carefully. There is no time to think. Something must be done. This is something, therefore we must do it. It is hard to decide. Everything is so clear cut. Everything is very confusing. We must act quickly. Quickly, now. Tell me: will you be the instrument of his death?

(This was written by Pasquino in the aftermath of 9/11/2001)


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