Opportunities To Help:
All Dried Up?
I have felt like a completely useless and confused American all week. The blood bank centers are turning people away out here in Southern California because of such high demand (even though I've been told that I can't even donate blood because of my recent trip to Europe & my susceptibility to Mad Cow disease, I still wanted my husband to go). It's impossible to find an American flag anywhere; the closest I could come would be to buy a colonial flag. I'm a full time college student, so funds are limited. I could afford the product, but not the shipping.
I couldn't participate in Friday's national (and I can't help but say somewhat absurd) day of prayer, since I've been an atheist for 10 years now, and this event certainly has not "woken" my faith in a deity in any way.
What is someone in my situation supposed to do to help?
I thought that by maybe being a little nicer to everyone that I encountered since Tuesday might help, but alas, I still meet all the same rude & inconsiderate people as I did before the attack. It amazes me that in this time where we should all be unifying as a nation, there are still an inconceivable amount of self-important people who care about little else other than themselves. I find myself becoming more & more disillusioned by the idea that we might actually all get along. A friend of mine told me on Friday that she lent a student taking a test her calculator, after everyone else the student asked told him that they didn't have one. He returned it to her, only to have her discover later that he stole her calculator batteries. The "We Love America" banners hung at the local high school have been torn down & trampled.
It amazes me. Is there any hope for this nation? My only concern about all this is that we do not become as fundamentalist a country as the one(s) who are going to bear the brunt and retaliation for this attack. But in a time such as this, I can't help but feel that my concerns are petty, yet I'm compelled to wonder sometimes if we're the "monsters" as some countries perceive us to be and if we deserve to come out of this smelling like roses.
Sorry to dribble on like this, but I come to your site quite often, and from your recent replies to other emails concerning this troubled time, I thought maybe you could help me with my confusion.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Lauren Fine"
Date: September 17, 2001 9:49 AM
People are on edge, and that explains the apparent rudeness. I'm seeing it all over. It's much worse than normal. I just go ahead and endure it, because I have some problems that make it hard for some people to get along with me anyway, so I'm used to it.
The only place it's seemed to have subsided is our Inbox: we have experienced a drastic drop in our normal number of gratuitous slams at the hands of Evangelical Christians and Twelve Steppers -- this despite the fact that our Inbox is about ten times as busy as it usually is. Some people are listening -- or are too busy hating Arabs who are theists than to hate Americans who are atheists.
As for the Red Cross, when the PSA crashed in San Diego in 1978, everybody wanted to go donate blood. I had watched the jet come down and told everybody, "Don't bother."
"Why?" they asked.
I said, "Nobody is going to need any blood today."
They said, "A jetliner just crashed in North Park! There are probably hundreds of people injured!:
I replied, "Nobody was injured today. I promise you that nobody at all survived this thing. Maybe one or two people caught some shrapnel off to the side, but this thing took out everybody on board and everybody in its way." I said this within about fifteen minutes of the crash, having observed it from about twelve or fourteen blocks away.
The Red Cross is not going to need much blood in New York. If anything, this extra blood will be converted to cash as hospitals around the country and world need it during the course of business. What they need is volunteers to go to New York (but all those slots are already filled by people who are on reserve with the Red Cross -- and many reservists are being turned away: I personally know four of them, and only one of my friends was even called, but she was relieved of that call within a day or so). They need volunteers to help out with displaced people around the country who had been flying (but much of that problem has cleared itself out).
New York is now short about 500 firefighters, rescue workers, and police officers, as that many had gone into the WTC saving others when they collapsed.
What the Red Cross needs most of all is cash, and much of this, as I mentioned, will come in the way of sales from what people are now donating. Since you don't have much of that, you may want to investigate ways to do fund-raising. But this could lead to suspicions that you're another one of the scammers we keep hearing about, and I doubt you need the added stress of having to endure such suspicions.
So, I suggest that people take care of themselves in all this.
Think about it: We all just went through a very harrowing experience, the likes of which most of us have never seen. If you check out an almanac of disasters, you will see that when it comes to loss of life, this was a huge disaster as disasters go. Many of us haven't had time to absorb just what has happened, and many others of us are not handling the prospect of war very well.
We also just had the rug pulled out from our sense of the future. Those of us who can still envision any concept of a future will need to help reassure the rest of us who are still nervous.
The most important thing that helped me get through that first day (and I was hit worse than most, needing medical attention three times) was watching people get back to the normalcies of life. The World ended for several thousand people. The World has come to a stop for hundreds of thousands of others who lost loved ones and jobs, whose lives were just torn up at the roots and there is no going back. Our sense of security and our sense of dignity as a species have taken a big hit. But for most of us, we can get back to our lives relatively unscathed except for the wear of having watched this thing unfold from afar.
Life does go on and life will go on. As you unknowingly pointed out and as I reiterated, most people are on edge. What can we do to put a lid on this? I don't know. We cannot make other people get better, but we can take care of ourselves. And if I can take care of myself so that I'm no longer on edge about it, that's just one more person who's not on edge. People will have to deal with others who are on edge, but I won't be one of them if I take care of it on my end.
I have my work cut out for me. Many, many atheists are completely frustrated by the blatant religiosity being thrust upon us by our government during the course of this disaster. My role, in part, is to help atheists to see this for what it is and to not let it destroy us -- to not let our anger or frustration over this eat us alive. This has been a delicate dance for me and for many of our regular readers and writers. I am spending all my free time posting letters so that our readers can have that much more of a perspective with which to work through these issues.
I don't know how to respond to your questions, except to listen and perhaps offer a few ponderings of my own. As I read and respond and format these letters, I see people who have it much worse than I do in some areas, and I see others who are already much further along in their healing than I'll ever be. I can have compassion on the former and be glad that I've done my homework already and don't have to go through that again. I can look up to the latter and realize that it's not all just luck, that perhaps they have been busy preparing themselves for the uncertain future and have done some things that I can learn and emulate to increase my prospects for being soon where they are now -- and not having to go through what I went through this time should a similar emergency take place in the future.
But most of all, I must take care of myself, because if I am not healthy and together, I can be of no use for others no matter how needy they may be.
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
From: "Lauren Fine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 20:00:09 -0700
Thank you Cliff!!!
These were wonderful stories to read. I myself have had a little easier time coping with everything that is going on & my experiences with people lately. Aside from being sick as a dog, I've taken my sick day to sit home and watch the local news, & finding that it was surprisingly uplifting. They were showing many people who were helping, whether by giving blood, money, food, or just helping out a stranger that they never would have considered doing before. It was nice to see.
Granted, I know deep down there are still many self-involved, self-important people in this country, and all around the world, but I feel as though the number will decrease as the problem of terrorism starts to be resolved. My thoughts are starting to move from "Do we even deserve to have all this help?" to "What will the world be like when we put aside our differences, even for a couple days?" It's a refreshing thought. I forsee more & more people telling others to be more tolerant, more caring, especially to those whose beliefs differ.
I certainly do not think that this country will move more towards fundamental Christianity; I think many people are realizing that intolerance to what we do not understand may have in fact caused this to happen. I know as a nation we're still angry, that most likely more innocent people will die to help with our healing, whether that's few or many remains to be seen. But I think as the healing process goes on, we can use this event, as tragic as it is, to keep reminding us to smile at a stranger, to ask how someone is & genuinely care about their answer, to make an effort trying to make others as happy & comfortable as possible. This is what is helping me to cope with everything and to not become a hateful person towards anyone because of whatever reason.
I wish you the best Cliff, and keep remembering your own advice; take care of of yourself, and remember that fans of you & your site are always here to listen to you as well.
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