Commonplace

Do you think what happened on September 11 is going to change the way we think or talk about death?

Well, I hope it does this: I hope it makes us feel the value of human life anywhere in the world. We have never been attacked this way. Elsewhere in the world, everybody has. We have been the “exceptional people.” I hope that when we see that Vietnam shot of that naked little girl, terrified, running along the railroad tracks, I hope we realize the fact that she’s our little girl. I hope that when we hear about this Iraqi kid as we bomb Iraq—we don’t get Saddam Hussein, this brute; we do get women and kids—I hope we look at the Iraqi kid as our kid. That is what I hope, and that is what Einstein hoped, too—I always love to quote Einstein, because no one dares contradict me. Einstein, my God, he’s responsible for the bomb. It’s ironic, he’s the only one who could convince President Roosevelt to do the stuff at Los Alamos. But Einstein was the great mind of the twentieth century and the great heart of that century. And he said, Everything in the world has changed since the atom was split except one thing: the way we think. We must think anew. And that’s what Tom Paine had in mind 210 years ago, in 1791. He wrote a piece about that very thing: there’s something new, a new society, this American society—never in the world has there been anything like this. Not only free citizens but thinking citizens. This could be the example for the whole world! We must think anew. We have to realize that we are no longer isolated in the world.

–Studs Terkel, in interview (September 28, 2001)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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