What Not to Do

Update: My sister, always more articulate than me, has written in ten lines what I avoided saying in everything below.

The article this morning in the New York Times reported that Arab Americans have been subjected to harassment and threats. Last night’s version for me was a little more graphic. As I left my apartment building to make a run for some needed groceries, I saw a young muscular man in his mid-twenties wearing a t-shirt, obviously homemade. The t-shirt said on the front, “Die Raghead Scum.”

In the corner store, I heard a soft spoken talk show host explaining that this wasn’t really America against terrorism but the civilized world against terrorism, because you didn’t know who would be next. I agreed with this assessment, but then he went on to say, “There’s a surprisingly small number of countries in the world that are civilized. Outside of the US and Canada, Europe and Japan, most of the rest of the world are barbarians.”

I expect to see xenophobia and racism in the next few weeks that will excel the worst excesses of the Gulf War. But against whom? In the absence of hard evidence, we strike out at those we fear because of differences.

And they’re not making it any easier for us. The reports of Palestinians in the West Bank firing their guns in the air after hearing what had happened is only one reminder that we are already deeper in ancient conflicts than most of us realize.

But if we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that an eye for an eye does not end anything. How can it? How can one loss of life ever repay another?

What To Do

Give blood. If, like me, you can’t because you pass out (shameful truth), give money to relief organizations.

At “MIT”, the Red Cross isn’t taking any more donors because their infrastructure can’t handle it. Don’t give up if you’re turned away–come back later in the week. The survivors are going to need a lot of help for a long time.


UPDATE: Just for the record, Lisa is OK. She was originally supposed to travel by train to NJ today but last night decided to postpone it until tomorrow.

UPDATE: Forget about everything else. Here’s the story on washingtonpost.com.

Dave Winer has a good weblog of news stories as they come in. Use your common sense to sort through news and rumors. Don’t trust anything that isn’t linked.

If you haven’t yet done so, check out my sister’s article from yesterday. This is a big difference between us, I think. While I might be very comfortable discussing J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), she’s much happier discussing J2A (Journey to Adulthood)–something that has the potential to make a much more profound impact on people’s lives.

Wireless in Kendall

Nevertheless, I’m not going to let that stop me from continuing to geek out here. Today I’m writing this from the local chain bakery, where, thanks to the relocation of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, I now have wireless access to the campus network.

This isn’t wireless hijacking, like you used to be able to do sitting in Carberry’s from their neighbor’s network. The E-center director and staff are fully aware of where their signal goes, and have joked about charging the neighboring restaurant businesses a referral fee. It’s true–normally I’d stay at school while I drank coffee and caught up on email. This is much more civilized.

It’s experiences like this that make it easy to appreciate what Justin Hall meant when he wrote on Dave’s website that wireless would be the next big thing. In this case, it’s helping Sloan expand the boundaries of its campus to less sterile, institutional spaces where we can work in a little more peace. And that’s a good thing.