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My Fifteenth Newsletter

11 October, 2001

What a change from the 14th Newsletter. And what a difference from September 10. This tragedy and its continuing consequences, one month later, never seem to leave our consciousness. However, many are returning to their lives, to school and to work. Football and other athletic rivalries have resumed. We are venturing out to eat. To movies. Even with the horror of our "two degrees", where many of us know or have heard of those who have lost their lives, their jobs or know of someone who is affected, life truly does go on.

For my friends who are writers, filmmakers, and creators: Our concerns go now to our own work. How to make what we do relevant and for those who write light and cheery books or conversely, gloomy books, are these truly relevant or appropriate right now? The answer: of course they are. We all choose varying approaches to heal, escape and ultimately make clear-headed choices for the future and we must write to that opportunity. Art - drama, music and literature and criticism - whatever makes us laugh, cry or makes us angry is as necessary as that which is healing to provoke us, remind us and inspire us to that which we value and question.

But, at the same time, others are attempting to make decisions for us as exemplified by the 1000-station-plus -Clear Channel memo to its program directors listing songs that "might be" distasteful at this time which broadly included, "Bridge Over Troubled Water", Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" to everything by Rage Against the Machine. Or, the many requests for cancellation of "Politically Incorrect" responding to a critical statement of the US made by Bill Maher. Or an Oregon journalist's firing and a Texas publisher's retraction for critical statements of early presidential or federal response. From happy to serious political protest to the sheer mention of disaster, censors are trying to act for us all.

The withholding of information is also a concern. A government in a state of war may choose not to reveal certain information for strategic reasons but that temporary state of withholding cannot endure nor become too broad.

This is what we must, absolutely must, watch out for and I recommend all of you continually check in with the various organizations, the ACLU at the forefront, who safeguard our constitutional rights. Were these to be limited, then the terrorists have accomplished yet another goal to the destruction of our society. We must fight to retain an environment where it is we, individually, who can not only can speak up, get all the information we need, but can make our own decisions.

This issue is SO important that a very strange coalition of organizations - from the ACLU and pacifists to Gun Owners of America and various right to life groups - have joined to endorse a strong statement cautioning "calm and deliberate" consideration of the ramifications of each and every step taken, including the right of dissent.

1. Read Joel Pett, editorial cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader with respect to the decisions editorial journalists now need to make in providing a voice to the public.
2. Re your schools, see the two Freedom Forum articles: "Mixed messages" and on students' rights to voice opinions
3. Check out the progress of the Anti-Terrorism bills and debates in Congress at S. 1510 & H.R. 2975.

As evidence of the strength of art, Jane Yolen has graciously permitted the inclusion here of her evocative poem, "Haunt," that I find so appropriate right now. A lovely statement of the need of us still here not to twist ourselves with recrimination but go forward with the memory of the warmth of those before us - their gift to us.

Haunt (from HERE THERE BE GHOSTS, Harcourt (l998)

When I am gone
Who will I haunt?
The second grade teacher
Who screamed at me
For letting a plant die
Over the Christmas break?
The girl who stole
My junior high boyfriend
Because she could dance the frug
And I could not?
The boy in high school
with the big ears
Who stood by his locker
And made nasty sounds
When I walked past?
Or the one in college
Who said he loved me
But married someone else?

I have let them go long since;
Even their names have disappeared
Like stones in water,
Where the ripples extend outward
For a little while and then
With a shimmer, are gone.
Life is too short for haunting,
Memories too long to waste.
I do not envy ghosts
Their righteous anger,
Their unhappy recall.
Instead after death
I will be with those I love,
In a gentler way,
Coming to them in a swirl of apple blossom,
On the wings of chocolate,
In the twist of steam from a cup of tea
Set out on the countertop to cool.

©1998 Jane Yolen, from HERE THERE BE GHOSTS (Harcourt), Used with permission of the author. (Jane's terrific site:

To shorten a long newsletter, many resources, including questions to help you focus and learn more about current events, are now in my special website section "Where Do We Go From Here?. Send me your ideas, resources or best of all, stories of your own activism and I will add them to what I anticipate will be a growing resource.

The website sections are loosely categorized as follows:
A. The terrorist attack itself.
B. The Aftermath: Relief & dealing with the tragedy of lost lives, jobs and loss trust.
C. The aftermath: Dealing with 9/11 & ... Now, what about the war????
D. What should I be thinking and feeling?
E. What else can I do????????

In addition to the many worthwhile larger sites there for relief, there are also sites to contribute your own art and smaller sites to help those we might forget. As an example,, aids those photographers (one dead, one with two broken legs, another missing and others whose studios were destroyed) who were at the scene. Even the ASPCA has a fund for the animals displaced. Even one month after, help, awareness and understanding is very much needed.

For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. Engagement is integral to our democracy and youth and young voters - citizens and residents already - definitely have the voice, power, intelligence, sense of justice, passion and energy to give the benefit of their participation right now! My website and this newsletter provide updates on current issues along with resources for change.

A. Some Current News & Concerns.
B. Youth Activism
C. What I am Reading.
a. Tolerance, Education And Understanding Of What The Situation Really Is: At this moment, explore everything to understand what happened and prepare yourself and others to participate as a citizen in decisions to come.
(1). Domestic Understanding & Restraint.
Here is a note from Abeer Abdalla, co-writer with Scott Beale of the upcoming book, MILLENNIAL POLITICS (working title) Abeer was a teenager when she wrote this a week ago but is now 20!
"Arab-Americans and Muslim youth in the United States have too lost a great deal following the tragedy of September 11th. We, like much of the country, lost lives, taken away senselessly before their time. No one can ever rationalize the horrible act - and we cannot begin to describe our grief and our fear. Many of us are moving on, trying to give back every way we know how.
I am a 19-year-old American living in Boston. I was born in Virginia and I was raised to pledge allegiance to the red, white and blue. I am one of the many Arab-American and Muslim youths of the country. While I watched our country grieve - I came to realize another fear. Upon returning home that night and every night since, another frightful email or voicemail was waiting. Another friend victimized for being "visibly Muslim or visibly Arab" was quickly becoming the norm.
Neither campus nor office was safe; each place found their way to be another venue for torture and ridicule. I myself recall being on the bus hearing racial slurs left and right - unable to respond for fear of retaliation. Other friends too were paralyzed but they did not have it as convenient as I did - some of them had to ask for a leave of absence from school and work. Even friends who are not Arab or Muslim, found themselves subjected to the same ridicule for having dark skin and dark hair, one such friend was Mexican but the perpetrator didn't seem to care.
Some of the backlash wasn't so mundane - some were mugged, others found themselves attending prayer services at a mosque covered in graffiti. Some went as bold as to threaten Islamic schools and organizations - seeing the attack on our country, indicative of an entire group of people.
The madmen who took away our countries innocence are not indicative of all Muslims and Arabs everywhere. We must not let them take away what makes us proud to be American. Let us rejoice in the togetherness that we have recently rediscovered. Let us re-read our Constitution and our "Bill of Rights". Let us remember to be involved, to speak up and speak out about the injustices that our fellow citizens are facing. Most of all - let us remember that America is a place where everyone had a beginning and that we all came from somewhere else, bringing with us diversity of color and religion. I will not let what I have experienced in these few short weeks, cloud my love for my country. This is my land, my home and my country - God Bless us and God Bless America."

In addition to my website links, also see:
---- Teachers Guide & Resources About Islam
----The Arab American Institute's great resources:
---- From Floyd Mori, President of the Japanese Americans Citizens League: "We urge citizens not to release their anger on innocent American citizens simply because of their ethnic origin, in this case Americans of Arab ancestry. While we deplore yesterday's acts, we must also protect the rights of citizens. Let us not make the same mistakes as a nation that were made in the hysteria of WWII following the attack at Pearl Harbor."
---- How to Fight Hate,
---- "101 Ways to Combat Prejudice", the jointly created booklet by Barnes & Noble and the Anti-Defamation League.
---- The Non-Violence Violence Project, Miami, Florida
---- SHINE

b. My own teens think my optimism sucks. That said, I work hard to find ways to go on. As I read each day or so the New York Times continuing list of victims of 9/11, I cry yet again. But as I do, I also feel the sense of wonder at this tragic opportunity, yes an opportunity, to view the incredible breadth of human life exemplified by those seemingly united only in the circumstances of their death.
They who died in this tragedy have gifted their lives to us as a lesson and example of who we are as a people. For each person's small "obit" is the story of humanity, of the way that each individual simply lived his or her life the best that they could: giving little gifts of humor, encouragement to loved ones, a dinner with one's parents, stories of engagement, love and affection, a strong work ethic ...
It is the strength of life that is within all of us and it is something to behold. Check out the many stories by clicking on "Portraits of Grief" in the middle of the homepage -- on 'the fold' -- in the category called 'Inside'

c. A Few More Resources Not Yet Up On My Website:
a. 9/11 chat forum for younger teens:
b. Just Add Consciousness: A Guide to Social Activism (useful at all times) from OxFam
c. FreeVibe 's youth forum:
d. Open Voice/OnTheLine youth forums:
e. Associated Student Press
f. Global Consequences from 9/11: As many as 40,000 children under the age of 5 will die and some 10 million more people will be condemned to poverty because of the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11. International Herald Tribune.
g. From President Bush this evening (10/11/01): "We are asking America's children to send a dollar or more to a new fund for the Afghan children. Send whatever you can to America's Fund for Afghan Children, c/o The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500"

d. See How This Is Treated As A Political Issue At the Major Political Parties' Sites: (Libertarians)
For other third parties, check them out through
and... Communicate with your various representatives, local, state and federal as it is their actions that will decide what happens right now not only with our future vis-a-vis a military action but our "homeland defense" issues and your rights.

e. Margaret Magnarelli, writer for Seventeen Magazine interviewed me for their December issue. A question she posed: "What will comfort youth in the wake of 9/11?" I would love to hear from all of you - youth, educators, others about what will comfort you now. Is it being together? Is it a pro-active stance? Is it trying to understand what is happening? Is it all of the above? What have any of you done to assuage your fears and go on? I'll publish responses in subsequent newsletters and on the website.

f. On A Very Lighter Note: Cartoons, satire and a different way of statement can be helpful to you and to others. A dead pan humor site, although it is definitely NOT PC AND CAN BE OFFENSIVE (language, approach and I'm not too happy about the continual Playboy ads... ) BUT at the same time cleverly cuts through an excess of swarminess, is the 26 September "Attack on America" issue of The Visit it before you recommend it to others and I personally apologize to those it may offend. That said, The Onion provides as well serious links to disaster relief sites (including FEMA) as well as music and film reviews.

With the overwhelming tumultuousness, it is easy to forget that we have had many other concerns that still remain to be addressed. Do not let them slip by.
a. The Environment. In the climate of defense, legislators are suggesting a lifting of varying environmental bans, including the Arctic Refuge. Visit your favorite environmental sites (many listed in my prior newsletters to see what's happening.
b. CHILDREN IN THE STATES 2001, the annual report just released by the Children's Defense Fund. "... about the condition of children and their families in each state." or, call 202-662-3576.
c. Anti-Globalization Concerns: "Before terrorists plowed into national landmarks and national headlines, anti-globalization activists in the U.S. had hoped to claim the limelight with a major protest in Washington, D.C. Instead, that movement is now struggling to regroup in the face of a new political climate, one in which the public is no longer as attuned to issues like global inequity, protection, and trade policy. Some members of the movement have shifted focus to form a peace movement, while others don't want to be seen (for the moment) as opposing the U.S. government and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund." Boston Globe, 30 Sept 2001 t_is_stymied-.shtml

1. Gennifer Davis, a 17 year-old senior at East High School in Portsmouth, OH and also a post secondary options student at Shawnee State University, is one of those wonderful teens I've met this year. She is the founder and president of F.O.R.C.E. (focused, organized, resourceful, compassionate, energized, youth providing a youth voice in her community and service learning projects throughout the year; a member of Youth Service America's National Youth Advisory Council; an ambassador for YFPY2K (Youth for Peace in the Year 2000); a regional affiliate for the By Youth For Youth Network of Culver City, Ca; a Tomorrow's Leader with the Elie Wiesel Foundation; and a member of Peace Incorporated. From 9/11 on, Gennifer's been using her list of friends and associates to pass important information along to others. Gennifer's latest: "Take a look at the article "Hope Will Shape the Future" on the website where peaceful conflict resolution is the theme."

2. Concerned about where to find things "green?" Several students at Santa Monica High School in Southern California created a "green map" that identifies everything from school cafeterias with organic meals to the sand dunes by the ocean, along with migratory patterns of the birds, wetlands and native vegetation hot spots. Think about a "green map" for your area that may include restaurants, stores as well as public places.

3. Elementary, Middle, High School, College and working young people have been coming up with the most creative ideas in response to the 9/11 crisis. View some examples on my website at

1. Every domestic and international paper or news journal I can so I can take in as many facts and different perspectives as possible as I formulate my own opinions and actions. I do take the statement from the USC TeachIn on the current crisis (see for the report): "Read everything but take none of it as the truth." A large list of journals and chat/forums in listed on the website at

2. I am again reading THE SITUE STORIES, by my friend, Frances Kirallah Noble. Short stories about growing up in a Christian Arab-American multi-generational Los Angeles environment. The writing is a pleasure and very relevant right now.

3. I canvassed some of my youth writer friends to find their books they feel appropriate to this time. Since this newsletter is so long, look at my website in a few days and the list will be there as well as in a soon-to-follow newsletter.

Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, TPP was written as a guide and a tool for service, advocacy and activism.

Again, PLEASE let me know of a concern or activity you would like me talk about. And send this on to others and suggest that they e-mail me if they would like to be added to this list (or if they wish to be removed).

Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list.

Sara Jane Boyers
-TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD A Millbrook Press/Twenty-First Century Book
ISBN: 0-7613-1391-5, paper $9.95/ISBN 0-7613-1307-9 hardcover, $25.90
VOYA's Nonfiction Honor List/BankStreet's "Best Books of 2001"
-LIFE DOESN'T FRIGHTEN ME Stewart, Tabori & Chang
A Publisher's Weekly "Best Book" of the Year, NYPL "Best Books for Teens", ALA "Book for Reluctant Readers", AIGA "50 Best Designed Books"

© 2001 Sara Jane Boyers