Nightly With Terror
been born in England, I have lived with all those emotions before.
In the early ‘40s in the East End of London, we lived for years
with the always-present threat of bombs landing on our home. I was a
child during The Blitz when we were at war with Hitler.
night our parents took us to sleep in the bomb shelters we had built
in our garden. Even today the smell of paraffin reminds me of those
frightening nights in our shelter bunks.
father, a baker, was often up at 4 or 5 in the morning and I would
sometimes get up with him. We would leave the shelter and sit
together in our back garden and watch as Hitler’s pilotless VI
bombs flew across the night sky.
bombs blitz blimeys
called them "buzz bombs" because when their buzz stopped,
indicating they had run out of fuel, they would fall to earth and
destroy everything underneath. Hundreds of those bombs penetrated
the British defense coastal guns and wreaked terrible havoc in our
a day we would get up and find a house in our street burned to
rubble. Our playground became bombed out buildings where we went
that scene in John Boorman’s excellent World War II film, Hope
and Glory, where the kids searched for souvenirs—chunks of
shrapnel after a night of bombing? We were those kids.
may be difficult to believe, but nightly bombings became a way of
reminded me of my early years in war-torn London was seeing
President Bush touring Ground Zero on Friday in the devastated World
Trade Center on the tip of Manhattan Island.
recalled for me the King and Queen of England, walking through the
rubble of bombed out London. They remained in Buckingham Palace
during the worst of the attacks some 60 years ago.
shines on left coast
HAVE made my home in America on the West Coast for the past 40
years. The sun has shone. The living has been easy. I have felt very
the subject came up, it was always difficult for me to explain the
fear and worry we experienced during the worst of the blitz. What
could Americans know of civilians going to bed at night in concrete
bunkers, not knowing if their homes would still be standing in the
in Southern California, we go through the regular earthquakes, fires
and mudslides. But forces of nature everyone understands. Deliberate
devices designed by man to destroy man are something else entirely.
alas, after the diabolical carnage of September 11, everything has
changed—and I do not have to explain anymore. America has lost her
innocence. Nothing will ever be the same again.
see around me my fellow Californians trying to cope with the
aftermath and the implications of these heinous acts of terrorism.
It happened 3,000 miles away—but it might as well have been in our
many, I have talked and been in touch with friends and families
around the world.
email has been deluged with messages from friends in Australia,
Canada, Great Britain and Europe wishing us well, declaring their
sympathy and solidarity with America.
London, however, my brother tells me the attack on America has also
produced a wave of hate and resentment from many of the have-nots
from third world countries currently living in London for whom
America is "the Great Satan."
people actually try to justify the carnage with the attitude,
"America had it coming to them."
BBC came under attack for a program in which a former American
Ambassador was drowned out by a mob screaming hate against
America—this despite that fact that over 100 British citizens
perished in the bombing of the Twin Towers and that the vast
majority of the British public from the Queen down are decidedly
in the shadows
HE comparisons of
shattered Manhattan with bombed-out London only go so far however.
In England in the ‘40s we knew who the enemy was. In the United
States in the fall of 200l it is hard to pinpoint how wide the
tentacles of our suicidal enemies are, however clearly the evidence
may seem to point to one man.
City in Pain
President Bush pointed out, terrorists hide in the shadows seeking
aid and comfort under the skirts of whichever sympathetic Third
World governments they can find.
much worse than the bombs of the Third Reich is the fact that this
terror and destruction has come in a very real way from within
America, from terrorists who lived among us, who were our neighbors,
maybe even our friends. "Nice normal guys," one neighbor
can you explain the mind-think of someone who spends two years
planning mass murder and suicide?
openness, the naiveté, the up front “what you see is what you
get” nature of most Americans is part of what makes America great.
It’s also its Achilles heel.
a journalist who has covered the American scene for decades, I
continue to marvel at the access the media has to the top levels of
government, the judiciary, the arts. This openness is duplicated in
no other country on earth.
T’S the flip side
of the insularity of some Americans: Their ignorance of what goes on
outside their borders is amazing – some high school students,
sometimes even college graduates, can’t tell the difference
between Austria and Australia, Denmark and Holland.
such an atmosphere is it no surprise that a bunch of suicidal
fanatics from the Middle East lived in Florida, Arizona, New Jersey
and San Diego, were trained by some of our best experts and enjoyed
our food, hospitality and our enviable lifestyle.
the death and the awful destruction, something else galls. They took
our very own jet planes and turned them into weapons of mass
destruction. They spat in their host’s face.
they managed to do it because this is a nation that prides itself on
the protection of each individual’s human rights—no matter their
opinion or lunatic beliefs.
is this very openness, this belief in absolute democracy, the
equality of men and women, the absolute right of every person to
worship their idea of God as they see fit, to express their ideas as
they believe them, however unpopular, their right to the presumption
of innocence and due process: It is for all these things, so
diametrically opposed to everything they believe, that this new and
most dangerous enemy hates us.
Ivor Davis and East End pals.
if there had never been a State of Israel, we would still represent
The Great Satan to the fundamentalists of this world who want to
return us all to the 2nd century.
what has happened to America, if the act of barbarians changes the
nature of American society to the point where the freedoms that make
us Americans are threatened, those barbarians will have won a
victory more profound than anything they could achieve in battle.
O we will protect
our freedoms at home with a constant vigilance while defending our
shores with every weapon, physical and moral, we have at our
for those in the “turn the other cheek, make nice to them and they
won’t do it again” school of appeasement who bombarded the
internet, I return to that shelter in the bottom of our London
nights, listening to the buzz of the V1’s followed an infamous
letter waived by an equally infamous British Prime Minister
returning from a meeting with "Herr Hitler" falsely
promising, "Peace in our Time".
Prime Minister lost his job to Winston Churchill whose contrary
message should resonate around America today:
"Appeasement," Churchill declared emphatically, "is
feeding the crocodile in the hope that he’ll eat you last. "
apposite are the words of George Santana: "Those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it."