Life goes on in London. According to the BBC, we remain on “high security alert”. I think most of the City buildings are open though. (Any word, Jann?) All the flight paths going into and coming out of Heathrow have been altered, which means whenever I look out the window the planes are going in completely the wrong direction. (Hammersmith isn’t far from the airport.) The security guards at my office — who normally just wave the regulars on through — have apparently been instructed to double-check everybody’s ID’s. I have no idea what that’s supposed to accomplish. (What would a terrorist want to do in our building? Download porn and warez on our T-1 connection?)
People are shocked here, but more at the extreme devastation than the shock of American vulnerability. British people (and Londoners in particular) have been living with the constant threat of terrorism for decades. There have been several attacks just in the past year (bombs at Hammersmith Bridge, BBC offices, pub in West London, etc.). When I first arrived here in ’98, I asked, “Why aren’t there any garbage cans on the Underground?” The straightforward answer: “Because the IRA figured out they’re a damn good place to hide explosives.” Once you’ve been here for a while, you realize that terrorist acts do happen in the Americanized “West.” We’re not immune to it. It’s just a shame everybody in America had to learn it the hard way.
(Brief moment of humor: Watching the news last night, Nick said we should spare a moment for the poor IRA guys who are inevitably sobbing into their pints and lamenting, “Look what they did! And we can’t even blow up the bloody Hammersmith Bridge.”)
I find the kneejerk racist reactions of many of my fellow Americans appalling. I live and work in a very multi-cultural environment. I know many Muslims and I don’t hold them up as representatives of their countries or religions. They, in turn, do not see me as the embodiment of America. We would be a lot better off if everybody else did the same.
It’s been so weird to be outside the country while this has happened. I had several people from the States contact me hours after the events asking whether I’d heard what had happened. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world makes jokes about America’s self-absorption? I’m, like, “What the hell do you think I’ve been doing all day? We have television. We have the bloody Internet. Everywhere outside America isn’t the goddamn Stone Age.” My entire office was clustered around the telly in the kitchen following it from the moment it happened. We probably knew about it before half of America did. I suppose it’s pretty natural to assume that since American media never carries stories about disasters in other countries, the same situation exists elsewhere. I’m happy to report that other nations aren’t so insulated.
This is one of my longest posts. I don’t know what else to say. As Snookums put it this morning when we were going our separate ways at work: “If America goes to war, we’re going to Australia.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Get me the hell out of here.