Karen Bartlett Column

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 31, 2004 | Go to article overview

Karen Bartlett Column


Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Some things are sacred.

No matter how many more people have died in wars and famines since September 11th there was something about that day, and the people on those planes, that has entered into our collective memory, perhaps out of all proportion to the actual events.

Maybe because most of them looked like us and talked our language, and we know from hearing their last phone calls that they were frightened and human ( the people that they called, their loved ones and families, have been bestowed with almost saintly integrity.

Their words count above all others, they own that date.

But something has happened to the families of September 11th. While most are probably getting on with their lives as best they can, a noisy minority have formed into groups of angry political agitators determined to get their way on everything.

Their tactics are to embarrass everyone else into silence, knowing that a politician of any party must dread the prospect of having to stand up to someone still grieving for their child or husband and tell them that they are wrong.

But if groups of families of victims from any disaster expect us to treat their words more seriously than we would others, then we have the right to expect something of them. We have the right to expect them not to abuse that moral authority.

One particularly well organised group, Families of 9/11 for a Secure America, is now a formidable force speaking out on issues including immigration and race. On the surface a group such as Families of 9/11 for a Secure America that calls for better border policing and tighter controls of illegal workers would seem reasonable. Until it becomes apparent that the target of their campaign is not potential terrorists, but instead poor workers from Central America whose "crime" as they refer to it in their literature, is to remain illegally in the US without proper documentation. The numbers of immigrants entering the US from Mexico and elsewhere has risen dramatically in the last few years. As in this country, the US needs workers to do all the unappealing and badly paid jobs that ordinary Americans would rather go on welfare than endure. …

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