Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001
Subject: Re: What is to be done

--- "Stefans, Brian" <BStefans@GC.CUNY.EDU> wrote:
> According to John Miller (and I confess that I got
this info from David Letterman last night -- remember,
I only have one tv channel!), bin Laden himself (at
least in 98) had three specific points of contention
with the United States: support of Israel, the
air-bases in Saudi Arabia and the sanctions/no fly
zone against Iraq.


The three points that John Miller reported are
slightly mistranslated and re-ordered via Letterman

What you quote as the second point ("the air-bases in
Saudi Arabia") is the main point, but wasn't phrased
solely against "air-bases".

The fundamentalist ultimatum is that there should be
no non-Muslims, none, not one, including civilians,
within the entire Arabian peninsula.

This has to do with their belief that that land itself
is--- PLEASE NOTE: holy ground.

Hence, the point against Israel follows; it is not
specifically discriminatory as anti-semitic; it is
universally a taboo against all non-Muslims

As a formative influence in his life, years ago, bin
Laden's construction enterprise was the one awarded
the contract for the buttressing-up/restoration of the
architecture that houses the Ka'aba (!) and, after a
"wild youth" (Club Med of the Islamic world, etc.), he
underwent a profound conversion.

A sense of sacred space or holy ground may be
difficult for us Americanized to understand

(especially for those who understand their irreligion,
such as "politics" or the secular, to be ontologically
different from religion, who believe that Western
empiricism, skepticism, and cynicism made some quantum
leap break with tens of thousands of years of human
religiosity, . . . instead of seeing rationalism-Americanism as another type of religion. [The god of money was Pluto]).

The closest the United States comes to remembering
"holy ground" is, of course, in the Native American
sense of such: you're familiar with recent
negotiations that were waged over industrial
development because Native holy ground had been
infringed upon.

Those who followed the "story" around the Temple Mount
in Jerusalem watched holy ground at play again.
(Interestingly, Jews are forbidden to walk onto the
Temple Mount, which is under Muslim jurisdiction,
not [only] due to Muslim prohibition, but by
Jewish, hallakhic law. Because it's believed that
Solomon's Temple is inside the Mount but it's not
known exactly where the Holy of Holies might be within
that area, by Talmudic law Jews are not permitted to
trespass because of our current state of impurity, for
fear of crossing over the Sanctum Sanctorum that no
one except the High Priest was allowed to enter.)

These Islam fundamentalists have expanded that sense
of holy ground to the entire peninsula, an unusual,
perhaps unprecedented scale (from the little I know of
Islam. The "jihadists" are also markedly un-Islamic
in their practice of suicide bombing [according to a
Muslim academic whom John Miller interviewed]).

Westerners seem to re-acquire an approximation of a
sense of holy ground only by death marking a spot.
Viz., the struggle over the convent and crosses at

As a New Yorker, you'll recall the African slave
cemeteries that were discovered in lower Manhattan,
and the problems around exhumation or the continued
construction by the builders who had stumbled across
the vast cemetery. Jeffrey Dahmer's house was burned
to the ground, and the spot is thought to be
uninhabitable. There was a campaign along the New
Jersey turnpikes of erecting small memorials at the
spots of car collision deaths. Etc.

The link between ancient holy ground and this
XXth/XX1st cent. return of the repressed may be blood
stain: the Temple altars red with the slaughter of
livestock . . .

The cries for "The World Trade Center will be
re-built!" seem messianic and unrealistic to me.
(Jewish "extremists" in Israel, of course, are
dedicated to building The Third Temple, similarly.)
My sense is that the site, if it can ever be
decontaminated, hygiene-wise, will be too "holy".

I don't want to get too theoretical (I was initially
dismayed by all the first person narratives appearing
on the List, --- I don't know why it is that an
"anti"-first-person literary movement reverts into "I"
when there's the feeling of a really serious
subject, viz. Aaron Shurin's AIDS essays, True,etc.
--- but I sort of miss the memoirs, now that the
breezier amateur politician bar stool opinions are
flowing, a masculinist "coolant," I think, getting all
prematurely theoretical and intellectual-hairy as a
way of retreating from softer sadnesses, palpable
groundedness) but---

an identification with holy ground cultures may have
been especially lost to us because our civilization's
sense of space went over to the concept of land as
private property, land that could be owned. (Holy
ground may be more rooted in nomadic hunter cultures,
us a settled agrarian civilization.)

{I was disturbed to read in Rain Taxi last night ---
I hadn't know --- that Gilles Deleuze died from
jumping out a window a few years ago.}

I was out of the city for the first time this weekend
for the twins' 40th birthday party (my brother and
sister) and to visit Mother in the physical rehab
(revision surgery of hip replacement),--- and it was
strange to find the world still going along elsewhere
on quite different tracks, on the other side of the
river (they're more at the phase of anger, I felt,
New Yorkers more mournful)--- but helpful, reassuring
in a way, that society moves along at different strata
and some layers may persist unaffected, that the
fissures might not reverberate into cracks throughout
the entire system.

My sister was driving me back north from the shore
where family live --- a one-for-the-road snack of six
bad oysters on half-shell, shrimp in the basket with
nothing but little breaded fried shrimp, no French
fries (when they say "in a basket," they're being very
literal: a basket; who said anything about anything
besides a basket?), out at a brise marine table on
the edge of the long Funland pier, dozens of
chatterbox gulls re-staging Suddenly Last Summer
climactic bird ravenous god scene to fellow patrons
tossing French fries---

and my sister in the driver's seat pointed through top
of windshield at sky:


However poets have described them, "chevrons," the
trails of undulant giant capital Vs gliding across the

near sundown, GEESE heading south overhead.

Silent through the windshield. That made me feel
better, sort of, that the vast millenia-old migrations
still go on, as scheduled.

One avenue I tried in the second week ("What is to be
done?"), especially after late '60s punchiness at
reemergence of The National Transitional Object
(flag), was---

emulating models like Gertrude Stein who wrote a Susan
B. Anthony
opera during days of flag-waving, Kenneth
who wrote "George Washington Crossing The
Delaware" during flag-waving days, Larry Rivers'
spin-off "...Crossing The Delaware"series of
paintings, Jasper Johns' white flag, etc.,---


rather than let "them" just appropriate these symbols,
to take my own closer look at the patriotic
motherlode, bedrock, and see what it says to me, what
I might make of it:

been reading Francis Scott Key's Collected Poems
(author of the Star-Spangled Banner lyrics).

Some rewarding oddities:

He did a rhyming pentameter couplets translation of
Ajax's speech, XIIIth Bk. of Ovid;

a very strange "On Visiting the Pennsylvania Hospital":

"Madness here,
. . .
On high-piled human skulls his throne is fixed,
His bursting brows a burning iron crown
Confines, and blends its fires with fiercer flames
That from his ghastly eye-balls wildly glare;
A robe of straw his giant form conceals;
His hand a leaden sceptre wields, each point
With terrors armed. Ice, never melting, gleams
From the one; from the other, fire unquenchable;
Each, as it points to his devoted prey,
With cold, or heat, or freezes or inflames
The chambers of the brain, and stupefies
And chills to dullest idiocy"

a very odd, somewhat buffo, long (107-line) poem, "A
Bear Story", with sequel! "Song" ("O, Bruin! O,
Bruin! come back to thy chain / . . . / Thy
lady-pressed paws will be luscious to lick"); a
definite "dark streak" to Key, I think;

---but, to my point:

The biographical materials note that Key's first major
political commission (which lead to the ship-side
imprisonment where he wrote the "Banner") was in the
forced migration and encampment of the Creek Nation.

(More JJ research needed there. To follow.)

Thought of the Creek Nation also, paradoxically, lent
me some hint of --- comfort? Before us, there were
whole nations, civilizations, right here. They're
gone. We ruined them. --- So, well, . . . I'll feel
bad if it all caves in on us, yeah, but--- there may
be civilizations/cultures that'll come later, as
unimaginable to us as ours to the Creek.

I own one Arabic music casette: Om Khalsoum (sp.?),the
most popular singer in the world, more popular than
Elvis was, than ABBA. I played it last weekend,
windows always shut dust allergy air-conditioning
(dust opened) opened wide. Hadn't heard it in years.
Sounded beautiful. There's this curious stoppage
that occurs in that Arabic music: the melodic line
instantaneously seizes and lurches to a brief halt,
then continues forward, at perhaps a modification of a
half-step (?).

Zuz', did you order that copy of Jackie's Best
? Today's the release date. I think it would
be nice to read a few poems by Jacqueline Bouvier
Kennedy Onassis

When The Towers were originally erected --- mid- to
late-'70s, I guess --- all the earth that was
displaced by digging the hole for the foundations was
moved off toward the Hudson shoreline, and a small,
man-made (temporary?) "beach" was created. There was
an open air series run there for a while, called "Art
on The Beach." The newspaper The Village Voice ran an
article that I've never forgotten:

Australian aborigines were brought to the US. They
were taken to the ex nihilo beach for an Art on The
Beach to do a performance of their "dances."

It was very exciting to scholars and everyone that
here were these pristinely untouched tribesmen. They
were living neolithics who had literally just
stepped out of The Stone Age (outback, forest). The
newspaper played it up big, the angle that here were
these people brought directly out of 40,000 B.C. by
silver jet to dance at the base of the world's new
tallest building, in the shadow of The Towers. Museum
curators removed Stone Age artefacts from vitrines to
show the aborigines, ask them what they meant to them.

There was one particular petroglyph carved in rock.
It showed a circle will concentric lines leading
inward, like a wheel with spokes. Historians had
conjectured that it might've been a solar disk, an
ideogram for the sun. They asked the aborigines what
it said to them.

It's a meeting of tribesmen, they said, all sitting in
a circle with their staffs pointed toward the center,
tips touching.

But, here's the point:

Being neolithic and nomadic, they had no sense
whatsoever of personal possession. One couldn't
own anything. (That's why graves provide evidence
of Stone Age life, filled with Venuses of Willendorf,
Cycladic mothers, stuff: rather than proof of belief
in an afterlife--- once somebody died, nobody wanted
anybody else's s--t, and they just dumped their
hoardings like garbage into the hole where the body

There was one thing, though, which they could own:

a dance.

No one except the owner of a singular dance could do
that dance. It could not be stolen, sold, or given
away in life.

Upon the death of a father, the son who had seen it
practiced could then do the dance.

And the dances were of such phenomenal simplicity that
they were sometimes difficult for Westerners to
recognize as having even happened, danced to
completion before their eyes. Such as, I remember,
"The Bear":

The dancer stood very seriously, flat-footed, weight
evenly distributed. He took one step forward,
transferring his weight onto the sole of that foot.


The "dance," more than choreography per se, was like
the "duende" that Lorca writes about in flamenco
dancers, I guess, not only its motions but an
attitude,or elan, about doing the dance, "The Bear,"
the self-consciousness of possessing something.

The Australian aborigines danced at the base of The
Twin Towers at its inauguration.

love read