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America | listen
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Iowa is a good place to write. We actually, in our weird way,
support writers. We've always had a writing tradition here. Lots
of times, it's turned into writers in exile, and that's the tradition
in the Midwest: that you start out here and then you move away,
and you write about thinking back. But I saw that as an early writer,
and wanted to make a different kind of commitment to staying here
and seeing what the issues were. You never know what's going to
happen to your life, but it's only when you're in a place long enough
that you can do anything in terms of the folklore, knowing the character
of the people, improving the environment. There are certain issues
you can't address if you only live in a place a year and then you
move, or five years, and that's basically what we do in our culture
these days. I actually have a unique perspective having been here
probably 40 of my 50 years.
just got back from New York the day before, and so I was just horrified.
I've been in the World Trade Center a number of times. There's a
Borders Bookstore that was in the World Trade Center where I've
given readings, bought books, all this stuff. I've been to the top
doing the tourist thing. And I knew the area. I go to New York,
like, twice a year, and so it was real to me. And then the Pentagon
thingI lived in Washington, D.C., and I knew exactly where
that was, too, and how that was going to affect people.
to teach from 7 to 10 that night. I just went in and said, Okay,
we're going to have a moment of silence and just try to assimilate
what's happened today. And I just let the students talk about it.
It was one of those things where you find out how interconnected
we all are, and so they had a lot of relatives, friends, and everything
there. We did manage to talk about some poems, but it was a tough
was in New York the weekend before the attack, and through a total
fluke, I ended up at this fancy, fancy party. The guest of honor
was a Holocaust scholar, and so the whole party was filled with
offspring of Holocaust survivors and so forth. I was having a really
good time, and this little wiry man came up to me, and we were having
a conversation. And all of a sudden he turns to me and he says,
"I want to know if disaster would strike tomorrow, if you had
a real tragedy in your lifethis week," he said"where
you would turn for solace." And, of course, I thought we were
in the context of the Holocaust. And two days later, we were in
a completely different context, although related. And it was just
one of those prophetic moments. I was like, "What is your name?"
And he was like, "Call me Jack," and he walked away. I
think I thought about it on the plane. I thought, Wow, that was
really interesting. Then I saw that second plane go into the towers,
and I thought, Whoaaaa
I wonder where Jack is this morning.
good part about September 11th, if there are any positive things
that can come out of it, is that a lot of people have said, "I've
reorganized my priorities, and I really think about what matters
to me now, and I want to do something with my life." Because
we just get into this workaday mode where we get through another
day, we get through another day, and then our life's over and we
haven't had any fun, we haven't accomplished any of the goals that
we've wanted, we haven't spent time with our families. People are
starting to say, Hey, there's something else I want to do here.
11th is really complicated politically. I'd like to do some kind
of journalism piece about that sense of rattling our cages in terms
of our complacency. It happened for a reason. I mean, that's the
thingwe just can't have these newscasters going, "Why
do they hate us?" Well, duh! And I want to be careful the way
I put this, because the people that did it, did an evil, horrible
thing and they are really off their tracks. But, America has a perspective
that enrages a lot of people.
think it's given everybody a deeper sense of nationalism, but nationalism
cuts two ways. Nationalism unites people, and allows people the
unification to get things done, but it also separates you from others
and creates wars and those kinds of things.