September 11th was a benchmark in world history. The individual reactions of those of us who participated – in this case merely observing, keeping watch over, the massive destruction was a deeply felt experience which caused changes in our thinking, our reasoning, our view of ourselves in the world, and even in the way we spend our time. Were it not for 9/11, this blog, Gates of Vienna, would not exist and I would still be puttering in my garden.
These changes are still reverberating through the world culture. Admittedly “world culture” is a questionable term; however, the fact of 9/11 registered on the world’s consciousness much as a volcano registers on a seismograph. Even five years later the aftershocks continue — a topic of debate on many levels, including the iconic images, the meaning of its occurrence, and the change in thinking it caused. Some of these dialogues are uplifting and redemptive, some of them nihilistic and despairing, and some are just plain paranoid – for example, the insistence by some fringe thinkers that the Joos did it, or that the American government itself demolished both towers…in the kingdom of Bizarre Theories, this latter gem has got to be the Hope Diamond of the moment, replacing even the Trilateral Commission in its brilliant lunacy. Such thinkers are best left to the healers of the psyche; they are beyond our help, as Shrinkwrapped and Sigmund, Carl and Alfred frequently observe.
At any rate, we were radically changed by the event — we know more about Islam than we want to. Like it or not, Eurabia intrudes on our thinking and planning for America’s future.
On the individual level, one of the biggest changes occurred in the heart of Oriana Fallaci. Even though she was to live on for another five years, one could consider her ruminations on the subject a conversion experience. Gone was the fierce reporter of all that was wrong with the world to be replaced by a no less fierce soul, a prophet crying in the desert of the European wasteland, calling her people back from the precipice toward which they’d been moving for generations.
Her cri de coeur was “The Rage and the Pride” – a fervent plea that was heard in very different ways by a range of people. Take the elites, for instance. Publisher’s Weekly had this review on the Amazon page:
Noted Italian journalist Fallaci (Interview with History; etc.) is capable of hard-hitting, trenchant social criticism, but she fails to accomplish that in this impassioned but sloppy post-September 11 critique, which has been a bestseller in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Fallaci only aggravates her lack of rigorous thinking by translating the work herself, resulting in a clumsy text that appears not to have been edited or proofread by a fluent English speaker.
After a melodramatic preface in which Fallaci congratulates herself on her courage in speaking the truth (and in her defense, apparently there have been efforts to ban the book in France), she lights into the European, and especially Italian, “cicadas” who felt that, on September 11, 2001, America got what she had coming to her and who, in the name of political correctness, fail to condemn the “Reverse Crusade” being waged by Islamic zealots like Osama bin Laden. But Fallaci’s love for America, her adopted home, and her critique of European intellectuals’ perverse contempt for it, is laced with a bile that may lead readers to suspect her of anti-Arab bias-a possibility she is all to aware of, repeatedly defending herself against the charge of racism.
…her denial that there is a moderate Islam, will not sit well with American readers, who may wonder why this small book has, in the publisher’s words, “caused a turmoil never registered in decades” in Italy, France and Spain.
Indeed. This writer surely couldn’t be from New York City, the focal point of the 21st century’s Armageddon? One can only wonder: was this screed written on the back of a napkin in a Seattle Starbucks, far from the still-smoking ruins?
On the other hand, here is Amazon’s own review:
With “The Rage and the Pride” Oriana Fallaci breaks a ten year silence. The silence she kept until September 11’s apocalypse in her Manhattan house. She breaks it with a deafening noise. In Europe this book has caused and causes a turmoil never registered in decades. Polemics, discussion, debates, hearty consents and praises, wild attacks. And a million copies sold in Italy where it still is at the bestsellers’ top. Hundreds of thousands in France, in Germany, in Spain: the other countries where it has become the Number one Bestseller. Around a dozen translations will soon appear.
With her well-known courage Oriana Fallaci faces the themes unchained by the Islamic terrorism: the contrast and, in her opinion, incompatibility between the Islamic world and the Western world; the global reality of the Jihad and the lack of response, the lenience of the West. With her brutal sincerity she hurls pitiless accusations, vehement invectives, and denounces the uncomfortable truths that all of us know but never dare to express. With her rigorous logic, lucidity of mind, she defends our culture and blames what she calls our blindness, our deafness, our masochism, the conformism and the arrogance of the Politically Correct. With the poetry of a prophet like a modern Cassandra she says it in the form of a letter addressed to all of us.
The text is enriched by a dramatic preface in which Oriana Fallaci reveals how The Rage and the Pride was born, grew up, and detachedly calls it “my small book.” In addition, a preface in which she tells significant episodes of her extraordinary life and explains her unreachable isolation, her demanding and inflexible choices. Because of this too, what she calls “my small book” is in reality a great book. A precious book, a book that shakes our conscience. It is also the portrait of a soul. Her soul. No doubt it will remain as a thorn pierced inside our brains and our hearts.
Both of these essays seem to have been written at the time of publication, October 2002. After the passage of almost four years, I leave it to you to decide which reviewer was more in line with the actual reception of Fallaci’s book and the tide of events which followed.
As of today, “The Rage and the Pride” is #30 in the sales ranks for books on Amazon. This is not unusual immediately following an important writer’s death. I remember having to wait to get Auden’s “Collected Poems” after he died because I procrastinated while he was alive. Hurrying to buy the book is, in a way, a kind of mourning and a substitute for being able to attend the final commemorations for authors we love.
Visit the page to peruse some of the 109 personal reviews. The rating for her book is 4 out of 5 stars, so no doubt there are some clangers buried in there. However, for the most part, the reviews read much like this one, written by a top 1000 reviewer from New Jersey (notice his geographical proximity to Ground Zero):
Oriana Fallaci is honest. That’s the best part of her new sermon. She is not a woman who will pull punches, who will temper her passion to appease those who might get offended. It’s so refreshing, so inspiring to read an educated European woman decry some of her own continental brethren. Theses brethren include the intellectuals and “leaders” who always drop those wonderful hints that America was really to blame for September 11th. That we’re such a big bully, that we’re so dangerous and evil. Fallaci reacts with the zeal of a wounded American, betrayed by European lack of comprehension. She compares Europe’s ostrich complex to America’s during the rise of fascism. They don’t understand the war being fought, that the enemy is within and will do anything to destroy the native culture. That is the nature of the beast she points out, and she doesn’t shy away from naming names and pointing fingers.
The enemy to Fallaci and the rest of the civilized world is Islamic Fundamentalism. The reason why this book is such a good read is she puts the threat in human terms. Throwing away the classic retort “Well, it’s just a small minority,” Fallaci describes the things she sees. She sees millions, millions of people chanting Death to America. Whole governments, controlled by degenerate autocrats fear this mass of illiterate Nazis. That’s what they are, Nazis. Even worse, religious Nazi’s, filled with a love of death and hatred of life. They have no ability to better themselves or others, so they kill and teach hate. It’s a petty existence, and a dangerous one. That’s the message Fallaci gets across with startling vigor. She states that the war is not over, and will get worse. This is a very enlightened few, not pessimistic, realistic. The masses of blackshirts with little books are no different than histories great tyrants and murderers, their rage has to end with death or failure.
Of course, Fallaci’s writings caused an uproar all across Europe. The biggest critics, various imams of Europe,(many of whom have been implicated or jailed for terrorist activities) celebrated 9-11 and push the tenets of religious death to their followers. This is in Europe, the cradle of the West. Then come the death threats, the personal attacks, the celebrations on hearing of Fallaci’s terminal cancer. What else do they have to celebrate, their culture is dead and only anger brings release or parity. That’s the message Fallaci is going to get across even if someone carries out one of the “religiously” sanctioned death edicts.
A brave lady and a wonderful writer. Good luck to her.
All of which brings to mind a sermon I interrupted at church last Sunday, September 10th. The priest started out well, reminding us that the best heritage is love, and using Mother Theresa as his example of this virtue. Then, somehow, he segued into a report of an interview he’d heard that morning on the way to church. NPR was doing its Weakened Sedition lead-in to September 11th and chose to discuss Ground Zero with a woman who claimed that the events of that day had made her an atheist.
His rhetorical left turn – from Mother Theresa’s love as agape to the self-absorbed nihilist from 9/11 was more disonnance than I could tolerate. Speaking up, I asked him to consider why, of all the people they could have chosen to interview, NPR picked someone who decided to negate God’s goodness because of man’s evil. I also pointed out that this was NPR’s agenda: to accentuate the negative, whether it was the economy, the culture, ecology, race, or religion.
Did I change his mind? Not at all. To him, and to others in the congregation, NPR is the sine qua non of political commentary and, to quote one, a “good use of our tax money.” And to quote another, she listens to NPR “forty hours a week.”
I’m still glad I spoke up. Had I known that Oriana Fallaci was going to die this week, I would have spoken longer and louder. Not that it would have changed any minds, but it would have been a way of honoring her.
Never mind. Other opportunities will sadly arise. Addled leftist Episcopal priests are always showing up at the church door. And from now on, I will choose – while in the pew, at least – to honor Fallaci’s memory by speaking up, by attempting, as she did, to reclaim the culture from the nay-saying nihilists at NPR. And, in her memory, I will be fiery and outspoken.
Too bad I’m not Italian. It won’t translate as well coming from an Irishwoman. Never mind…I’ll learn a few Italian phrases, like “cicada,” to describe these historically illiterate and mean-spirited mouthpieces at NPR.
Wherever she is, I hope it makes her smile.