Open Letter to All Americans about 11 Sept, 2001

Dear fellow citizen and human being,

Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I share the profound grief of citizens around the world for the victims of these heinous attacks. I also fear that the same grief in this country will be twisted into a threefold call for a vengeful war abroad, for an erosion of human rights, and for vicious intolerance and violence within our borders. We cannot let this happen.

Justice, not Vengeance

There is no justification (and can be none) for the crimes committed by those who hijacked the planes and who planned and coordinated the attacks. But by the same token, there can be no justification for responding with further innocent bloodshed.

We are in the unusual position of having nearly unanimous support and sympathy from the international community for bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice. What better opportunity to reassert our faith in the international community and to demonstrate our solidarity with the world in this time of global fear? And what better way to begin down the path of healing than by demanding a peaceful justice through international law, not a vengeance by the sword? Let us work together towards a resolution that treats the other humans in this world as the sisters and brothers they are, not as vipers or demons to be destroyed.

The Other Attack on America

It must take powerful hatred and fear for human beings to destroy as many lives as were lost on Tuesday in New York and DC. Unfortunately, hatred and fear have a powerful ripple effect. We must not sacrifice ourselves to these unworthy responses.

Already, lawmakers and the surveillance establishment are attempting to further erode the rights of our citizens. These attempts are just as much an attack on what America stands for as are the strikes on New York and DC. The lives of many Americans have been shattered by abuses of powers such as those Ashcroft and others are looking to expand. In only one example, the victims of the McCarthy era would not have been so many had the domestic intelligence establishment been held to a more reasonable standard. And as the surveillance powers expand, so will the damage inflicted on the American public both in our livelihoods and in our thought. If we are to defend "the American way of life," we must begin with defending our most basic rights: the freedoms of expression and religion, and the rights to due process and against unreasonable search and seizure.

Love and Community, not Fear and Hatred

The hatred has spread further than the military and surveillance establishments, of course. Already, reports of violence and harassment have skyrocketed in our country. These actions do nothing but add to the sense of danger and fear created by the hijackers.

We must stand together as a nation and a world, and not let this hatred overshadow the noble responses to this tragedy. Public leaders and citizens should speak out on behalf of all victims of terror: those lost in the attacks on Tuesday on the one hand, and those facing the dangers of violent prejudice and vigilantism from other Americans today on the other. Too many people have died and been injured already. We must not condone, explicitly or implicitly, further attacks on our fellow citizens by those acting out of hatred and fear. A patriotic declaration of solidarity with Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs and other targeted groups would do much more good for our country than another patriotic endorsement of war.

Please add your voice to mine in calling for a peaceful and just resolution to this horror. Let's break the cycle of violence and fear, for both our country and the world.


   Daniel Kahn Gillmor
   3538 18th St. Apt. 7
   San Francisco, CA, 94110-1636

Author: Daniel Kahn Gillmor
Date: 16 September 2001