The truth . . . in letters to acquaintances and friends

It’s finally happened.

I took my inbox of 2500 emails and reduced it to just 11. Lots of emails were notices about long-abandoned programming projects, mailing lists that might have been important one day, and other useless notifications I acted on a while ago. Others were the notes of acquaintances, wondering how I was – things I could have answered in a 10 minute email. Finally, there were the 50 or so emails from people who really matter to me — ones I should have dealt with ages ago. They’re all taken care of now, and what remains in those 11 notes are the final scraps I need to deal with, none older than December 28th, 2001.

In the due course of cleaning everything up, I typed this response to a neat person I met at my goodbye party in NYC, generously thrown for me by S. Names have been truncated to protect those who don’t know I’m posting this…

I’m sorry to hear about S. (as I did from many of her other friends.) Apparently because I didn’t email her after the terrorist attack, she was very upset, and I may have lost her as a friend. It’s unfortunate, because I enjoyed hanging out with her, and I don’t think anything I could have said could make her feel better. I took the terrorist attack hard too (I was watching live, by odd coincidence, on Japanese TV, when the second plane struck), especially since I used to work down in the same area and in the same building with Merrill Lynch, SSB, etc. But for some reason S. slipped my mind, and, while I didn’t intend any ill will, I didn’t contact her because by the time I remembered her predicament (via Y., actually, sending me an email with S’s recounting of what happened) since it seemed she was holding up well. By the time I actually thought to send her something, my feelings on the topic started to shift — and I didn’t think she’d be receptive to my viewpoint.

Yes, I was a New Yorker for long enough to feel a kin with the city, but frankly, the American reaction to the terrorist attack is entirely out of proportion with all sanity and due respect to human life. I wonder if any other New Yorkers feel the way I do, or if everyone is just so caught up in “an eye for an eye” that any action is justified. Frankly, it disgusts me, and it’s enough for me to *seriously* consider revoking my US citizenship and becoming French, Canadian, or hell even Japanese (though the last is unlikely.)


9 thoughts on “The truth . . . in letters to acquaintances and friends

  1. You don’t seem to feel guilty about your feelings and you shouldn’t. We all see the world from different vantage points. People hardly agree on everything out there, most reasonable persons have reactions and feelings based on valid concerns.

    So sounds like the matter you’re really wondering about is more diplomacy related. Hmm… well it’d definitely be a trick trying to convince a lady who lost her newlywed husband in the tragedy to stop thinking about probably the most important thing in her life and look at the broader scope. Whether it is even right to do so, I can’t say.

    Still, there’s a difference between having one’s own opinion and being sensitive to the feelings of one’s friends. I tend to be completely honest, sometimes brutally so. So it feels counterintuitive to me to not be absolutely straightforward with friends however bad they may feel. I expect the same from them. I don’t feel friends do each other any favors by sugar coating reality for each other or by holding certain things back. And it’s that much more comfortable for me when I feel I can talk frankly with them about any matter. Yet.. as nice as that is, there’s still those occasions I’m finding it’s better to spare someone’s feelings. The reasons why are rather complicated to explain but I guess the gist is that it’s best not to hold other people (even your friends) to your own standards.

    Discounting all my above rambling and going back to whether everyone is caught up in “an eye for an eye,” I’d imagine NY-ers are more likely to be lost in that feeling, simply from feeling the pain of the loss so much more than anyone else. I’m not a NY-er by any measure myself, but I wouldn’t necessarily say just yet that they are all caught behind a blind rage…

  2. Hi Wohali,

    I was going to send you this message over e-mail, but decided to post it on LJ instead.

    It sounds like you took my message to heart about S and that it brought up other issues of not contacting other friends. I know what it is like to be overworked with hardly any time to respond to messages, but one thing you might want to ask yourself is what you were avoiding. Was life that overwhelming? Just food for thought. To be quite honest, it was a lesser issue about rarely getting responses to my e-mails–an annoyance, but mostly a minor issue.

    I felt more confused after reading your post on LJ. My first reaction was frustration because I initially interpreted the message as starting off apologetic and then taking it back as if your friends should have no expectations of you. After reading it over a couple of more times I realized that that wasn’t the point, but I was left feeling confused (NOT angry). Who is important to you? How do they know? This message brought up more questions rather than closure for me.

    When I e-mailed you a couple of weeks back about S, I was trying to facilitate communication between you both. I wasn’t sure why you hadn’t e-mailed her after 9/11. I understand what you are saying that you and S aren’t best friends, but you are slightly more than acquaintances.

    If 9/11 felt like a big deal when you were watching it on t.v. in Japan, it was an even bigger deal here in the states. My cousin’s husband, who works at the Pentagon, should have been dead but he happened to have an offsite meeting. My cousin and her husband have five kids. All of his coworkers are dead. S is one of my best friends and my only solace for 48hrs after the planes struck the WTC was that she is intelligent and resourceful and would get out of the situation one way or another–but I knew that she was in danger and not hearing from her 2 days afterwards, well, let’s just say that my anxiety was building. I think it was fair to say that the nation felt shellshocked and unsafe. I know I did.

    On a separate but related point, I disagree with your message that the USs attitude is “an eye for an eye”. I certainly appreciate my freedom and hold a great deal of respect for those who have had to fight to maintain it (Can you tell that I’m the child of a Vietnam Vet and that I’ve worked at two different VA hospitals?). I think there are some Americans with “nuke them bastards” attitudes, but I think most people here are seeing this as self-defense. I was listening to NPR the other day and the general European sentiment, quite frankly, pissed me off. They disagree with our actions whilst they expect the US will defend the world. Let’s face it, we are a powerful country but if we don’t defend it there are people out there who would gladly turn into something along the lines of the Taliban regime.

    Back to the original point of this message, I appreciate that you e-mailed S trying to set things straight (so to speak)–it was the right thing to do. I knew I wasn’t going to fix anything by e-mailing you, but I would want to know if one of my friends was upset with me. I’m not surprised that one e-mail from you will not immediately fix things with S and I’m not sure where that friendship stands. At least now, in my mind, there may be some chance of making amends with her in the future.


  3. ok I was going to post a long rant on US policy that will most likely offend you both.

    1) we only do what is in the interest of the US. we are not the police of the world, we say that at home, but its not true and the rest of the world knows this. We turn our back on genocide with ease (indonesia, africa, palistine, kurds, armenians, etc) and fund and train death squads. Hell, Nazi war criminals and concentration camp doctors can work for Disney(Heinz Haber/ar) if they help our government! And we destabilize freely elected governments if they threaten our multi nats monopolies in their country (see south and central america). We are not the good guys. We may not be the bad guys, but we are not the good guys. We look out for short term us interests.

    2) US reaction to afganistan, by the citizens, was not as bad as you think Joan. Im not sure what they showed there, but its not that rabid here. And its getting less. This was the most destructive terrorist act on our soil. People were upset. Imagine if the effel tower was destroyed, France would call for blood. If the most sacred temples in Kyoto were destroyed, you know the Japanese would rise up in anger. The sad part is that the US is the most diverse nation in the world, and Islamic Americans have had a harder time here. and that is truly sad.But, as for our force, I haven’t heard too much world outcry (aside from Islamic nations), though I really only get the bbc for world news and that is only slightly better then npr.

    As this drags on, the outcry will get louder, and if we dare go into another country well, that could get ugly. And sadly, they will, as I fear Bush and Ashcroft will continue to use this to start up a maccarthy hunt here (just look at the anti drug commercials during the superbowl) and abroad.

    The US is not the good guys, we are not the bad guys in this case, but we are not the good guys. We are the ones in the gray hats. This is an improvement if you compare it to say our policy on Iraq (which was totally used by Bush Sr as a wag the dog war (and yes if anyone wants to read about this, I do have several books/articles I can send you the names of). Will we do that with Afganistan? sure, we are already (thank you Ashcroft) but this is the way the world works. France started vietnam, lets not forget that. Britsh brought you most of the world hot spots, Japan, hell what they have done to korea and to most of asia (visiting Nanjing and talking to older Chinese brought that home)… and do I even need to mention Isreal and Germany? To think you can change citizenship and get away from this is crazy. No nation has clean hands (not even Canada) but we are the most notable since we are the lone super power right now and we can, and do, whatever we want. Good or ill.

    ok, my rant is done. talk amongst yourselves.

  4. i can’t believe a man who lost a governor election to a DEAD MAN is running our justice system.

  5. ok yeah I can type, the us is not the good guys? ugh…sorry about that and we now return you to your regularly scheduled program

  6. The world sux. Life goes on. Deal with it. I think the US should stop being so hoity toity and just say they are looking out for their self interests. And I don’t think anyone should blame them. Wohali, stay an American citizen. Don’t be silly. Every government and country has it’s problems.

    I also don’t think that anyone should make anyone else feel bad for not sympathizing with their problems. (especially if they happen to be on the other side of the planet.) I think that it’s a completely self important way of behaving. Whoever S. is should be worrying about the families of the people that died, and if she lost friends or family herself she should be mourning and not making anyone else feel bad for her loss. People die. People live. Your problems are purely your own.

    How can you get mad at someone for not contacting you when something has happened in your life? When my brother died I didn’t expect everyone I ever knew in my life to suddenly contact me. If I wanted anyone to send me their condolences I had to tell them what had happened and how I felt about it.

    In short to S. and the US.: you cannot expect others to feel sorry for you. You just can’t. I hear S. is going around saying she doesn’t like Wohali. If she is I am glad Wohali didn’t write her. What kind of friend are you if your friendship is conditional on someone feeling sorry for you?

  7. Everywhere you could be a citizen of the world has its problems. Everywhere in the world has its problems. There’s at least as much good and as much bad to say about being an US citizen, or a French one, or a Canadian one, or a Japanese one.

    [An aside]
    I’ve got no problem with people being supportive of the US government in proper response to all of the September 11th stuff, in fact I’d gone so far as to say all the whiny geeks on Advogato who bitch and moan about “losing their freedoms” every time the DMCA comes up should support the military in response, because otherwise they’re being the geeks that would hand over their lunch money when bullied, and then try to justify it as being non-violent people.

    Bullshit, they were just too scared to stand up for themselves. And they probably said a lot of shit about the bullies afterwards.
    [/An aside]

    But yes, the lengths it became rapidly clear the US gubbermint was going to go to were obscene, and the lengths we are going to right now are obscene. I wish they’d go back to gaybashing and trying to make me salute the flag while kowtowing to the words of people who died thousands of years ago, instead of outright killing people.

    Another aside: Is it funny as hell to anyone else the way people’ve gone after Mr. Walker? I’d just say “he’s exiled from the US, let him fight for whatever he thinks is right”. Why did we bring him back? Good publicity for the US, it gives the media something to rally The People against. I actually won a bet with a friend of mine that GW was such an incompetent leader he’d go out of his way to find a war as soon as possible, so the people would be behind him. Heh heh heh. Never let me say the US did nothing for me, I won a bet!

    PS: If someone hinges their friendship with you on whether or not you do something for them, fuck ’em. See also my much earlier comment.

  8. …it appears S. is willing to forgive based on a single email to her. That’s a good thing, because it implies to me that she wasn’t that upset with me in the first place. Though I agree, assumption that your friends will do something for you, and getting upset when they don’t, is heinously self-important.

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