Come September (by Arundhati Roy) -text

[EN]

Transcription of Arundhati Roy reading
and Ms. Roy and Howard Zinn in conversation
Lensic Performing Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico(18 September 2002).
“””

Recently, those who have criticized the actions of the U.S. government (myself included) have been called “anti-American.” Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology.

The term “anti-American” is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely – but shall we say inaccurately – define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they are heard, and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
But what does the term “anti-American” mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz? Or that you’re opposed to freedom of speech? That you don’t delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean that you don’t admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?
This sly conflation of America’s culture, music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the U.S. government’s foreign policy (about which, thanks to America’s “free press”, sadly most Americans know very little) is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. It’s like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire.
But there are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their government’s policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. government policy come from American citizens. When the rest of the world wants to know what the U.S. government is up to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum and Anthony Amove to tell us what’s really going on.

Similarly, in India, not hundreds, but millions of us would be ashamed and offended if we were in any way implicated with the present Indian government’s fascist policies which, apart from the perpetration of State terrorism in the valley of Kashmir (in the name of fighting terrorism), have also turned a blind eye to the recent state-supervised progrom against Muslims in Gujarat. It would be absurd to think that those who criticize the Indian government are “anti-Indian” – although the government itself never hesitates to take that line. It is dangerous to cede to the Indian government or the American government or anyone for that matter, the right to define what “India” or “America” are or ought to be.

To call someone “anti-American”, indeed to be anti-American, (or for that matter, anti-Indian or anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those the establishment has set out for you. If you’re not a Bushie you’re a Taliban. If you don’t love us, you hate us. If you’re not Good, you’re Evil. If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists.


Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this post- September 11th rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. But I’ve realized it’s not foolish at all. It’s actually a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived, dangerous war. Everyday I’m taken aback at how many people believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism, of voting for the Taliban. Now that the initial aim of the war – capturing Osama bin Laden (dead or alive) – seems to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?) Think of it this way: in India there are some pretty reprehensible social practices against “untouchables”, against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women. Should they be bombed? Should Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka be destroyed? Is it possible to bomb bigotry out of India? Can we bomb our way to a feminist paradise? Is that how women won the vote in the U.S? Or how slavery was abolished? Can we win redress for the genocide of the millions of Native Americans upon whose corpses the United States was founded by bombing Santa Fe?

None of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. So it’s no more than co-incidence that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September – this month of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody’s mind of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11. Nearly three thousand civilians lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else’s loved ones or someone else’s children, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.

To fuel yet another war – this time against Iraq – by cynically manipulating people’s grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent and running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a State to do to its people… “””
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One Response to “Come September (by Arundhati Roy) -text”

  1. HI there, nice piece there, but to tell you the truth about feminist and feminism. It is america where women ar estill treated way worse than they appear to be. They are al tied in the shackles of advancement, where women has been converted into a sexual object. People standing nude and posing sarongs as their “modesty,”have no right to call the covered people backward or narrow inded. By the way it was civilization that taught us to cover up. I respect your views about america but what you have said about the burqa clad women is inappropriate, becuase there u are also becoming the vicitime of what is shown by the media. Covering myself is my prerogative and by that i send a signal not of slavery but that i have brain and thats what i want show to peopel instead of my body and its shape. i am not a slave of of fashion and I will never want to be the coolness of any man’s eyes on the road.
    And america aur india, worse than 9/11 happened in gujrat and its is all and with all the proofs availble against the so called second largest democracy, we ar emisused and ishandleed in our own land, and we are arrested and encountered to pay the price of not taking the law in our hands to set the mp and other leaders of gujrat ot their right place. In the world, all is done by the globalists and not jst america. The world owners are running the governements of countries and we are still dreaming the world of non existent democracy, which itself is an ideal form of government. Saudia is not at all their ally in military, see and meet people and then make notions abt them.

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