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Anthony Sapienza, the aforementioned editor of The Spook who is a New Yorker through and through, tells me sand nigger is a street term that has been around since the seventies. There were “white niggas” in the South, and “sand niggas,” who included Syrians, Egyptians, Algerians, Indians, whoever was in the hood who wasn’t white or black. So apparently the term was picked up by Wall Street, and also by the rural rednecks. Anything society that could come up with such a term is sick, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe we should be looking within ourselves for the explanation of what happened. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We have our own Bin Laden’s, our Timothy McVeighs on the right and our Ted Kaczynski’s on the left, our Columbines and police stompers of Rodney and sodomizers of Abner Louima. Every culture does. There is a Bin Laden in each of us. Most of us are able to keep him bottled, but if you push the right buttons, he will come out.
I refuse to be provoked by the carpenter’s invitation to “kill some sand niggers.” Instead I mumble something about having to get to the grocery store before it closes and drive back up the hill and split some very twisted and gnarly wood for an hour or so, until I can’t lift my splitting maul any more. I call my cousin, who lives in Long Island and could see the smoke engulfing lower Manhattan from Glen Cove beach. She has never heard the term and is appalled, but reminds me, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it what all Americans are like. Not every German is Hitler.”
She’s right, of course. At an anti-war protest rally in Cambridge, a young woman who had just started at Harvard as a freshman is photographed by the New York Times holding a placard that says AN EYE FOR AN EYE MAKES THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND. Gandhi’s dictum.
A lot of Americans and people all over the world—too many for the “world management team” —don’t want to see another Bagdad. But the Bush administration is going to be more sensitive to public opinion than the other side.