I wanted to write this post on 9/11. I finally started it on 9/12. Here I am trying to finish it at 1 am on 9/16. Some entries are harder than others to write.
All of yesterday, I tried to find/grab 1o minutes to reflect on 9/11, but that post never made it to the screen. In part, I couldn’t decide if it should be a post related to class, or just a personal reflection. I think it is likely to be both.
The events of 9/11 were surreal to me–not entirely shocking, not incomprehensible, but definitely unfolding in a way that seemed out of synch with time and place. The events seemed far away, even though I had spent a wonderful evening in the World Trade Tower bar only a few years before 9/11. I knew no one directly involved. I had only a few relatives-by-marriage in the DC area. I knew nothing about Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda.
But the event, or maybe its ramifications, have become more real and closer to home since then, in the past 5 or 6 years. In 2005, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” came to my office looking for help with a magazine story he was writing. We became friends, I educated myself on the history of Sudan, and I learned that OBL had been in Sudan during the early 1990s. The Clinton aerial strike on the pharmaceutical factory outside Khartoum in 1991 or 1992 finally made sense to me. That was an attack on Bin Laden.
In 2009, I got to know a family from Somalia, or more accurately, ethnically Somali but from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. This couple was in Fargo because of the cold war (Faizil significantly injured in the Ogaden war of 1977), because of the lawlessness in Somalia, and indirectly because of OBL. The attack on the WTC, Pentagon, and the failed attack of the capital are events in an ongoing global war–not on terrorism, but perhaps a war of terrorism. Of strikes and counter strikes: the bombing of US Embassies in Tanzani and Kenya led to US bombings in Khartoum and raids in Mogadishu; an attack on New York finally gets response in a remote part of Afghanistan.
But ironically, or just surprisingly, 9/11 has come home to me most forcefully through my interactions with the Africans who have been displaced by this war and its related skirmishes. Simply village people, pastoralists, who wanted nothing more than to raise cattle and crops, but had to tend “word gardens” instead in the refugee camps as they struggled to learn English. English has pursued them, relentlessly, ruthlessly. It has not been kind to them, but they remain open to learning it, knowing it is likely the language of their future. It is certainly the language of their present, it is their new home language, and I do what I can to make it more hospitable.