Why we must all pull our tribes back together
Published October 12, 2001
Before there were cities with skyscrapers, there were villages with
wells, and before we became self-sufficient units with our own backyard
ecosystems and pools, people relied on each other.
When a couple
had a problem, they went to the elders to resolve it, and when tribes
were attacked, their members pulled together.
downsides to so much interdependence. It can crush privacy and
individuality. But when a group was under stress, it kept life normal.
Now we've built our way to such a level of comfort and security that
we've sometimes shut the tribe out.
We've been attacked, and as
individuals we're struggling to reach out -- checking in with family and
friends across the country; seeking refuge in the bar or barbershop, the
therapist's office or the church.
But we're not quite sure how
to come together as a larger society because our clans are so spread
It's that separateness and anonymity that the suspected
hijackers took advantage of when 15 of 19 of them lived, largely under
the radar, in South Florida.
They were instructed in a training
manual to find lodging "in newly developed areas where people don't know
each other." They were advised not to be "chatty and talkative in
So a new momentum is growing, helped along by the
National Conference for Community and Justice, to end the
"People do need to turn to others in times of
crisis," says Carol Spring, executive director of the Broward and Palm
Beach chapter. "There is community ... We are separated by the different
cities we live in."
The group is gearing up for a Monday night
event intended to unite different elements of the community. Free and
open to everyone, it will be at the Broward Center for the Performing
It's more than a musical program, though there will be
plenty of bands and singers; not quite a speakers' forum, though there
will be speakers. Nor is it a fund-raiser, though attendees are urged to
contribute to a cause of their choice.
The program is called "E
Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One: A Celebration of Red, White and Blue."
Spring calls it "a program of inspiration and music and hope."
One hopes it's just the beginning. One goal, she says, is to break down
the helplessness many are feeling. "People are asking, `When is it going
to end? What's next?' You get scared. You get suspicious. We want to
give residents something they can do by providing a place to go to feel
It's also a tribute to heroism and patriotism,
tolerance and social justice, she says.
The seeds for the
program began to germinate on Sept. 11 when Spring called the leader of
a mosque she knew in Pembroke Pines. Within hours, his mosque was
getting threatening phone calls. Another one in Orlando had been
vandalized, and some Muslim women were feeling vulnerable in their
veils. She helped the leader put together an interfaith prayer service
and a statement disavowing the violence.
Then the Jewish
Federation called, looking to put together a Jewish community response,
and there was a synergy of purposes. Spring put out some calls to local
civic and political leaders.
The event has many sponsors from
faith-based, ethnic, cultural and community organizations. There will be
an American Indian folk dance, a Baha'i Youth Workshop and performances
by Nestor Torres and the Nova Singers, among others. I'll be on the
program along with Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts. Modeled after
the recent telethon, it will be free of introductions.
military war against terrorism is being waged over Afghanistan. But for
the rest us, the best weapon may be strengthening our communities, and
pulling our respective tribes together.
Rather than retreating
into ourselves, let's be more in each other's faces. If we don't disarm
our neighbors with covered dishes, let's at least do the opposite of
what the terrorists teach, and get to know each other
Rekha Basu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
©Copyright 2001, Sun-Sentinel (South Florida)