One year after Sept. 11, Lansing Mayor David Hollister
worries about the consequences of the USA Patriot Act on civil liberties.
LCC President Paula Cunningham reflects that she goes out of her way
to understand cultural differences since 9/11. Radio show personality
Tim Barron thinks the average American Joe Sixpack has had to broaden
This week, City Pulse returns to speak with Lansing residents who shared
their reflections on politics, humanity and war with us one year ago.
And, of course, weve added some new voices to the stew.
David Hollister, Lansing mayor
How much has 9/11 influenced your work?
Fundamentally. There isnt a single part of city government that
hasnt been impacted. Whether its worry over anthrax coming
through the tax forms, security at City Hall, extra precautions at the
zoo, or training more police and firemen. There are monthly meetings
with regional leaders that before 9/11 would just happen occasionally.
most of these issues resolved in the first few weeks after the attacks?
it hasnt slowed down. We just had a communication summit with
non-profits and big businesses like General Motors. One thing we found
was that people wanting to give blood or send money didnt know
where to call. Theyre flooding our 911 emergency phone number.
So we are looking at information sharing, and the possibility of a 211
non-emergency number if you want to give clothing, or if you want to
How much has 9/11 changed your biography?
I discussed with the Attorney General [Jennifer Granholm, the Democratic
nominee for governor] what role I would play in a new administration.
Through a network of people around the state, I know theres a
real frustration about homeland security and coordination. One of the
initiatives that a new governor should take is better collaboration
between state and local community agencies on homeland security. There
isnt a mayor I talked to who can tell you what code were
under today theres red, orange and other levels of alert.
Do we have the same code as Chicago? I can call my police chief right
now and ask him what the code is and he probably wont know. That
task will be undertaken by the new governor, if its Granholm.
We also hope to be reimbursed. We asked every department how 9/11 impacts
their budgets. The Personnel Department does more screening, and so
on. If Congress ever passes a reimbursement process for local governments,
we will have documented the increased costs.
Last year you told us: What happens [in the future], I dont
know. That depends on the skills and leadership of our national administration.
Do you think they did a good job?
I think history will be the judge. Personally I think a more appropriate
response would have been to declare Al-Qaida and Bin Laden criminals
and then trying to prosecute them through the world court, instead of
taking on a generic war on terrorism. When you make such statements
as axis of evil, and identify North-Korea, Iraq and others,
you complicate international policy. One of our major allies, Pakistan,
has now assumed more dictatorial powers and subverted democratic processes.
We are allied with a potential despot who is endangering peace in the
region, in a conflict over Kashmir. I think the war in Afghanistan was
effective; it appears that weve really dismantled the Al-Qaida
network, but I think this could have been done in a more proscribed
way, without opening us up for unilateral actions around the world,
that over time could isolate us.
do you feel about the Bush administration announcing a war against Iraq
without even asking Congress?
It worries me. I grew up in the 1960s, and I was an anti-war activist.
The war in Vietnam was undertaken without public support, and a strong
rationale for it was never really made. As bodies started stacking up
there were questions that undermined public confidence in the war. I
sense that Iraq is not a democratic society, but a unilateral war will
not be sustained over time. If we could have an engagement like we had
in Kuwait, one which is successful in nation building, we might be successful.
You also said, Whatever we do will have implications locally.
Lansing residents spend $9 million in tax money on nuclear weapons per
year. Since 1980, Michigan sends $10 billion a year to the Pentagon.
These decisions are not made by mayors, but by Congress and the president.
It worries me. We have limited resources and have to use them wisely.
Five years ago we were in the process of de-escalating the Cold War,
dismantling missile systems. The redirection of money toward urban areas,
and toward health care infrastructure investments, seemed to be disengaging
a war mentality. Vietnam demonstrated that you cant have both.
I worry about this continuous drumbeat for war that is in the media.
Initially, there will be public support for it. But unless its
done quickly and wisely the support of Americans and Michiganians probably
will evaporate, and we would have the worst of all possible worlds.
Local communities who are trying to provide basic services would be
forced to either reduce services or raise taxes. And those are very
ugly alternatives. Lyndon Johnson said in 1968 that the toughest job
in America was not to be the president, but to be mayor of a major city,
because people are calling you at home.
You are vice chairman of a group of 12 urban-core mayors.
Wouldnt it be possible to send a message that youd spend
money on health care, education, and jobs, rather than using it for
weapons of mass destruction?
That hasnt been discussed at this point. We have been so focused
on providing health and safety that we havent gotten into the
national debate. That might evolve. At this point, it hasnt been
on the agenda.
In 2001 you said, I hope we dont sacrifice our civil
liberties as we respond to this. Do you think the Patriot Act
poses a real danger to Lansing residents, based on their nationality,
ethnicity, or color of skin?
There were no reported cases in Lansing. I think the USA Patriot Act
was not as thoughtfully deliberated as most legislation. I worry that
Ashcroft is taking the most vigorous interpretation and is not concerned
about civil liberties as they have traditionally been understood in
this country. In the first time in 30 years, a public ruling criticized
the Justice Department and Ashcroft specifically, for 75 gross violations
by government, for deceiving and misrepresenting. That was quite an
extraordinary act. So I think there is a conflict, and the congressional
and presidential elections will revolve around these issues.
Could you imagine the FBI coming in and trying to control the police
force in your city?
Mayors worry about these things. I was concerned when the FBI called
my office to profile people of Muslim heritage, a small number of 15
people in October 2001. We cooperated, but we worked through the American
Civil Liberties Union. If the FBI wants to investigate again they will
have to convince us.
Last spring, citizens of Northampton, Mass., (and also Amherst) created
a petition to protect town residents from the Bush-Ashcroft USA Patriot
Act. A resolution to defend the Bill of Rights was passed
unanimously by the Northampton City Council. Did you hear about that?
It hasnt been brought to my attention. My guess is Lansings
City Council would not support such a resolution, because it hasnt
been a very visible problem in our community. If there were recognized
instances of violations, there would be a local response. Most of our
focus has been on training. Weve created a Unity in Community
initiative that deals with building bridges and celebrating diversity.
Theyre helping us organize a remembrance day on 9/11.
Thats been the nature of our response. Weve asked churches,
synagogues and mosques to hold inter-denominational remembrances. Well
have a candlelight service downtown, and members of the various faiths
will be involved in prayers and poetry readings no speeches from
politicians. The remembrance will be from various ethnic groups trying
to bring understanding, cultural awareness, and collaboration. I hope
the group will continue to thrive, come up with new ideas, and do things
that further enhance diversity.
Cunningham, president of Lansing Community College
Although things have heightened and there has been a greater awareness
since 9/11, there hasnt been much resolution. As we speak, were
talking about the United States going to war. Its a similar situation
to 2001, except now we may be the aggressor rather than the victim.
Neither position feels very good.
I still have a hard time believing that war is the only available answer.
With the intelligence and resources available today, do we really have
to resort to something as barbaric and fatalistic as war? Citizens need
to know more about what the potential dangers are and how were
threatened if we dont go to war. In absence of that knowledge
I reserve passing judgment on anyone who has to make those types of
decisions for the entire country. The president has an entire FBI available,
and networks all over the world. He supposedly knows more about the
world situation than we do.
This is a teaching and learning institution. The more you know about
other countries, the more you learn about values and differences, and
realize how similar people of other cultures are. Teaching and learning
are really a root that helps to bridge future generations.
Hate is built on ignorance, not on the fact that I dont like you.
Its because I dont know you. After 9/11, weve integrated
more world affairs into our curriculum, which is essential for future
peace. Weve created opportunities for students and we continuously
had open forums to talk about peoples feelings. Well continue
that, because how else do you get to a different level, if you dont
express where you are.
changed me in terms of how I look at all people. I take more time to
understand, to value, and to talk. We all have certain friends whom
we feel very comfortable with. I find myself also talking more with
people who I dont know, just to make certain that theres
a certain connection. I find myself listening to my heart more. 9/11
has changed me forever in that I immediately realized what hate can
do. Civil War, World War and Cold War this was always in the
past. Russia was our worst enemy when I was a child. But today, were
so firmly removed from reality, to know that were a world power.
There are other countries that want what we have, and want to destroy
this power. Thats what I mean by hate. If you get the wrong person
in power in another country, hate just breeds. I think teaching and
learning can affect that.
Hostility of any kind is absolutely not allowed on campus. However,
it exists. We have 2,300 faculty staff here and over 19,000 students,
and they have different opinions. Weve had less than a handful
of incidences where students said something full of cursing about other
students. We have certified counselors who deal with students and forums
where people speak people openly about things said to them. So they
were able to respond to verbal assault.
In terms of the USA Patriot Act, no, the FBI didnt call. We work
together with Michigan State troopers and have sworn-in police officers
on campus, who asked questions after 9/11, because of our aviation program.
McMurray Jefferson, retired Olds worker, Gospel singer and choir
only thing that bothers me is you dont know if its going
to happen again. I dont feel comfortable going to large gatherings,
even to baseball games. I feel that theres an enemy there thats
designed to bring our country down. Sometimes we accuse people who we
think are enemies. But a lot of Americans dont really study whats
going on. They believe in whatever the television or radio says. I think
we should teach our kids to try to get some real news, I mean the truth
about whats actually happening. In the past year I was thinking
a lot about the terrorists motives for attacking New York. I believe
it was just the idea of fighting back.
Declaring war against Iraq is terrible. How can you go over to another
persons house to clean it up, while yours is dirty? I think teaching
should be done by presenting an example.
Theres no short-term solution, but its got to start somewhere.
To me, it hasnt started, its getting worse. The people ruling
this country dont care for the lower people whatever these
people do is all right, so long as it doesnt affect them. Its
all about money, and the money people tell everybody what to do. Some
of the top people make money from evilness every day. But good can accomplish
more than evil. Theres a real chance to decrease the distance
between us and them. I believe 9/11 is going to happen again, because
theres no concern about decency and the human side of people.
Tim Barron, radio personality, WMMQ
believe what I said last year is true. I mentioned that the average
Joe six-pack American could no longer be the ignorant American. Weve
learned a lot about the rest of the world in the last 12 months. People
are familiar with the Taliban, and of different kinds of people who
wear turbans. The average American is now a lot more understanding that
there are many people in the world who have veiled women, but are not
terrorists. But we have a lot further to go. George Bush has learned
a bit, too. The enormity of learning as the leader of the free world
is overwhelming. You need a lot of advisers and a lot of raw experience.
He had a pretty wealthy upbringing and still has things to learn.
am sure were going to have a war with Iraq. Its too bad.
I wish they could police themselves and get rid of Saddam themselves,
but that isnt going to happen.
Because Im in the media, 9/11 has to play a larger role in my
life. If I werent, it would be in the background, sort of like
a soundtrack. I dont think that the average American has continued
with the intensity that was there in the first six months when everybody
was flying an American flag. There were a lot of instant patriots. But
the flags are all down and I guess thats probably for the better.
Its unfortunate that Arabs are being discriminated against. But
thats been going on a long time. You heard about sandman
and towheads and all the other derogatory terms since the
60s and 70s. People who are ignorant are always going to
be ignorant. Its their lack of intelligence. Its frustrating
to try to change ignorant people. But even the biggest IGNORAMUS out
there would have to understand after this year of coverage, that there
are lots of people that look just like terrorists, who are really mad
at the terrorists. And thats a good thing!
Discrimination and violence against a group of people is one thing,
but profiling is another. Im pretty pro profiling. If you look
at the folks who blew up the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and killed
the people on the airliners they were all young men, obviously
Middle Eastern. I dont mind if I get profiled. As a guy with a
ponytail flying to Florida, I was always profiled. I looked like a drug
I think 9/11 shows that we pay the admission price to be a real world
power, with real world problems.
Kathie Kuhn, People for a Positive Social Change
I first heard about 9/11, my immediate response was Oh my God,
what is our government going to do now to whom based on
the administration and the history of our foreign policy, which is completely
brutal, self-serving and full of war. My first thought wasnt those
poor people from New York! And I think I wasnt alone. Ive
spoken to other people who felt the exact same thing.
wake-up call was the Gulf War, when I started to first question the
government. And here the Army was bombing people of Afghanistan who
had nothing to do with it. Shortly after 9/11 we organized a couple
of marches. In March 2002, there were 207 people. We went from MSU to
the Capitol. Both times we got an awful lot of positive response, but
the media was stating that the huge majority of people wanted to go
after the people of Afghanistan. Well, thats simply not true.
I speak with a lot of people on the bus or on the streets. Ive
hardly talked to a soul who likes George Bush. At the same time, he
has great approval ratings in the polls. But only 20 percent of the
polls say we want this war to happen. So much of what I hear through
corporate media is just a lie.
are more African-American males in prison in Michigan than there are
in higher education. If this would happen in any other country wed
call it apartheid. Also: a right-wing government stole the election.
Look at that. Its the truth! People are just starting to wake
We need to hold the corporate media accountable to what they say. We
also need to work with elementary schools to really discuss this kind
of racism. My honest answer would be anarchism. Anything would be better
than what we have now. A 3-year-old child could come up with a better
answer than just killing everybody. Its the very planet we live
on, the air we breathe. We need to take to the streets. There have been
two general strikes in the country, one of them was in Lansing. Its
time again. Im really at the point where I just cant bear
it any longer. Its breaking my heart. Were pushing over
the edge in World War III. As far as Im concerned thats
not ok. Im personally willing to do whatever nonviolence is necessary
to prevent that.
Annabel Dwyer, attorney and adjunct professor in human rights and
humanitarian law at Cooley Law School
Its proven to be true that 9/11 is being used to build up the
military and to undermine international treaties. I think to go from
a $300 billion to a $400 billion military budget is very indicative.
Instead of trying to figure out what happened on Sept. 11, instead of
admitting that we have a good many of the same problems, in the use
of weapons of mass destruction were in fact the great masters,
we try to prove that the United States controlling these weapons is
the solution. Since 1945, with everyone in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our
weapons of mass destruction are somehow good, whereas everyone elses
are somehow evil. This makes no sense. At the time, the United States
is trying to get immunity from the International Court of Justice. We
want to be able to commit war crimes. So whats wrong with what
Saddam Hussein is doing?
what I understand the U.S. military is already poised for an attack
of Iraq. Essentially, were using Saddam Hussein because we cant
find Osama Bin Laden to justify a huge military build-up. When you kick
the military budget up, you need to figure out justifications for this
expenditure. Weve already destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq.
This was terrorism, just like the bombing of Afghanistan was.
The director of the organization that monitors the chemical weapons
for the U.N. very newly convinced Saddam Hussein to join the treaty,
and this eliminated one of the Bush administrations rationales
for attacking Iraq. We got him kicked out. This is a direct undermining
of the inspection regimes convention. To say Saddam used chemical
weapons against his own people is not a rationale. The U.S. knew when
Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Kurds. Not only
that, The New York Times had only half of the story. The other half
is that we actually supplied some of the chemicals used by Saddam Hussein.
Why would you go after him then? There is no legal justification. All
you can figure is that there are certain corporations that are gaining
a lot from this military build-up.
I think the fact that there is no question about the underlying assumption
that we must replace or kill Saddam Hussein is very shocking. It should
be shocking for all Americans. The former secretary of state, James
Baker, is claiming we must eliminate people who threaten to use weapons
of mass destruction. Well, we have 10,000 nuclear weapons. What does
that mean? This is very seriously fascist.
Somebody has to stand up against it, certainly not Congress. This Congress
has always been ineffective. Theres some great Mark Twain essays
on patriotism. Carl Levin is the head of the armed service committee
he has a couple of good staff people who are completely overwhelmed
by the military push. Grassroots activists and reporters need to find
out what corporations are directly funding weapons and tactics of mass
destructions. That was done systematically during Vietnam.
pay taxes that go into a $400 billion military budget. Thats why
theres a deficit in the state, thats why education isnt
funded, thats why people havent figured out a way to say
these are unacceptable things.
There are peace demonstrations all over the United States. Drop
Bush, not bombs. But these are rarely reported in the news. Its
very difficult to do grassroots organizing now in the United States.
Very few people can afford to do this work full-time. In the 1960s a
lot of people were directly affected by Vietnam. We were involved in
anti-bombing marches after 9/11. I spoke at two university teach-ins
in which there were 600 students. We only saw a few pictures of Afghan
refugees in The New York Times, and a few figures about how many people
were driven out and what their conditions were. With Vietnam we saw
every day what was going on. And exactly the same happened in Iraq -
we had no reporting. How do we know how seven million refugees from
Afghanistan look like after 20 years of war? Or a million-and-a-half
refugees look after the tirade of U.S. bombing?
The Patriot Act has brought more lawyers out to say, Hey, whats
going on here. The American Bar Association finally said something
about detaining a bunch of people without letting anyone know.
The business of harassing Muslim students, and foreign students in general,
is something I was very concerned about. Genice Rhodes-Reed of the Human
Relations Department and Community Services was doing a lot of that
work. Why Mayor Hollister would fire her is still a mystery. Right after
9/11, when the house next to the mosque was shot, the neighborhood organized
community relations. There was a lot of support. But the FBI told people,
If you dont cooperate, that means youre guilty.
Organizing resistance becomes very difficult, because of the subtle
nature of oppression.
The people now in power are exactly those who were in power in the 1970s.
The tradition goes back to the people who dropped our nuclear weapons.
The attempt is to transfer communism to terrorism. We have a rightist
militaristic strain in conjunction with short-term profits from corporations.
Theres no doubt about it. Theres always been a struggle
between people who build and believe in freedom and democracy, and those
who campaign for private property, and military and corporate robber
gangs. I think we have to do a lot more locally to make people realize
its insane. We have to point out that this massive military solution
is highly destructive, dangerous, expensive, and undercutting our own
educational and health care system.
Jose and Manuela Castilla of Lansing:
Jose: 9/11 changed our lives, because before we didnt pay
too much attention to the news. We do now. We want to know whats
going on in the world. We want to know if we lost any boys over there,
or if terrorists have been caught. One of my nephews is in the Air Force.
He was sent to Afghanistan, but hes back home in Arizona. There
are others who serve in the Marines, but theyre all safe. Although
I never served in the Army, I think this is a lot like Vietnam. You
dont know who your enemies are. In the Army right now there are
young men in the 20s. I think this is young. I was young in World War
II, but I still remember a lot of things. I remember a captain had to
be 30 some years old. And now I see a kid on TV captain so and
so is 23 years old. Thats too young!
and Manuela Castilla
I lost my younger brother during Vietnam. It might not be my brothers
now who are in danger, because theyre too old, but weve
got nephews coming up in these ages. 9/11 didnt stop us traveling,
though. In November 2001 we flew to Florida, where we have a condo,
and we flew there the following February. We decided if its going
to happen its going to happen!
Jose: We dont want to let these people scare us, because
thats exactly what they want. They want us to be afraid, not to
move, not to get out of our house to look out of the window. Theres
always been racial discrimination in America, not only against Arab
people, but also to the Mexicans. I have nothing against the Arabs,
the only thing I have against them is they raise the price of gas all
the time, and they own most of the gas stations around here (on Cedar).
After the terrorist attacks people really became more friendly to other
people. Before it very frequently happened that people didnt talk
to their neighbors, because they were black or Mexican. I dont
agree with the USA Patriot Act, because were all Americans and
were all the same. I think what the world leaders got to do is
get together more, and talk more. Leave your guns at home and get a
pencil and paper!
Carmen Electra Paradise, singer
The Patriot Act is a very frightening thing. Its something that
the Bush family has been trying to push for years. It takes away so
many of our civilian freedoms without even protecting as far as terrorism
goes. A lot of it is propaganda.
are planning to raise awareness with a zine project were working
on, called Focus. The first issue were doing will
focus on the Patriot Act, the second one on the rise of corporations
and the fall of independently owned businesses. Were trying to
focus on different political ideas per issue. We hand out flyers before
we put the issue out, to get people educated and aware about what were
focusing on. We encourage people to write us letters and articles, because
at home people dont even know whats going on and really
dont even care. It helps to get the word out.
Hopefully we will have a petition going so that we can say we
want Lansing to repeal the Patriot Act. Im optimistic and
I think Lansing has enough open-minded people. Were an open-source
project. If people want to write for us, they can send an e-mail to
to respond? Send letters to email@example.com.
our Letters policy.