A Grieving Family Tells Bush “Not in Our Son’s Name”

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Despite the Bush administration’s refusal to actually release evidence that might link Osama bin Laden to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the mass media has lined up almost without exception in support of wide-ranging military action against Afghanistan and perhaps other countries. In yesterday’s Washington Post, for example, the opinion page featured two allegedly opposing op-ed pieces side by side. The first column called imminent U.S. military action a “just struggle,” warning that progressives must support war despite inevitable mistakes, restrictions on civil liberties and potentially unsavory alliances with murderous regimes. The second column charged that pacifists are immoral, on the side of murderers, pro-fascist and “objectively pro-terrorist.” This is what passes for debate on the question of war in the mass media.

Almost lost in this media drumbeat is the growing number of families who have suffered terrible personal loss but oppose the Bush administration’s plans for military attacks against Afghanistan. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez (who is a professor at Fordham University) lost their son Gregory, aged 31, in the attack. He was the head of computer security for Cantor Fitzgerald. They wrote The New York Times and President Bush after the September 11 attacks with the message increasingly being voiced by victim’s families: “Not in our son’s name.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite the Bush administration’s refusal to actually release evidence that might link Osama bin Laden to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the mass media has lined up almost without exception in support of wide-ranging military action against Afghanistan and perhaps other countries. In yesterday’s Washington Post, for example, the opinion page featured two allegedly opposing op-ed pieces side by side. The first column called imminent U.S. military — [coughs] there’s a lot of smoke around here. The first column called imminent U.S. military action a “just struggle,” warning that progressives must support war despite inevitable mistakes, restrictions on civil liberties and potentially unsavory alliances with murderous regimes. The second column charged that pacifists are immoral, on the side of murderers, pro-fascist and “objectively pro-terrorist.” This is what passes for debate on the question of war in the mass media.

Almost lost in the media drumbeat is the growing number of families who have suffered terrible loss. We’re joined by Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, who lost their son Gregory in the World Trade Center attack.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: My name is Phyllis Rodriguez. Our son perished in the first building of the World Trade Center on September 11th as part of this very public and tragic disaster. I would like to read — start out by reading a letter that we wrote, hoping it would be published, and has been circulating throughout the internet and via friends and many media outlets. And it’s called “Not in Our Son’s Name.” We wrote it on September 14th.

“Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Hotel Pierre.

“We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands, dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son’s death. Not in our son’s name.

“Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”

My husband Orlando wrote that after three days of conversations that the two of us had in going in and out of shock and despair at not only what happened on September 11th, but the growing conviction that our son was lost. We could not grieve privately only. We feel that it’s bigger than all of us, that it’s not as if he died in a car accident or in just some random accident. This affects all of us, and we are making every effort we can at this point to lend our voices to the rapidly coalescing and growing peace movement in this country and internationally. We feel very strongly that any Afghani death resounds in our family, that people should not be killed in the interest of stopping terrorism. There are other ways, and our government must rise above the bloodthirstiness that we hear reflected in the media and from our administration. And now Orlando would like to say a few words.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Orlando Rodriguez.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Amy. You know, we think a lot about this, and it’s very hard to avoid it. And one of the things that we feel a lot is that we know that Phyllis and I and our son and our daughter very often talked about capital punishment, and we always felt that if a member of our family was killed and the perpetrator was caught and tried and it was a question of capital punishment, that we would not call for capital punishment, that we would call for life imprisonment or something less than taking the life of another person. We now know that that’s not just how we would feel, but that that is how we actually feel. These are not individual perpetrators. This is more than that. And we don’t feel just like a victim of a loved one’s homicide, but in those early days we felt like toys of people playing superpower games, both on our side and on the other side. And that is a feeling that we just could not cope with. We felt that we had to act in some kind of way. And that’s why we wrote this letter.

AMY GOODMAN: We have seen a lot of grieving families speaking about their terrible suffering over the last few weeks, but we rarely see the second part, which is what you feel should be done. And I was wondering, in the interviews that you’ve done, and particularly on television, because it really is television that manufactures consensus, you know, that most people watch and are affected by, are they interested in your views about what should happen now, now that you’ve lost your son and so many others have been killed?

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: I don’t know how the public reacts to it. I only know that many television journalists want to interview Phyllis and me. And happily, many of these journalists are from abroad. We were just interviewed by a Japanese news team, who said that they were going to give five minutes to this story, which, you know, in media language, makes it a very important story. We wanted to do this interview because we felt that this is not an American tragedy, but global tragedy, and that in order to stop any kind of mad response to this, it has to come not just from the American people, but it has to come from people abroad, as well, who pressure their governments.

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: I would like to add, Amy, that we did appear on two network news programs and got a lot of feedback from people who happened to see us. And I think that, in some circles, you know, in commercial TV, we are seen as news. And I think that’s good. And so, there has been some exposure. We have been more sought after by alternative media organizations, however.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there an organization being formed of families of loved ones who are opposed to war?

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I believe there is. We just in the — we have, you know, so much to do that we often don’t get to our email messages for a couple of days, but we have one called Families of World Trade Center Victims for Peace. And we’re going to investigate it. And there’s a wonderful letter in it, actually, from someone who lost his brother in the Pentagon on September 11th, saying the same thing we’re saying, you know, in different words. So we’re very encouraged by that, and we’re very interested in hooking up with such people.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to get in touch with you, is there an email address or some number that would not be calling into your home, where you are grieving?

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: We’re looking into — you know, this is all so new to us, but there is at least one clearing house for this type of communication that gets us messages without giving away our email address. And we have to look into that.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: It’s part of Yahoo, we know.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I will get the information to our listeners and viewers around the country as soon as you know it in the coming days.

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: OK.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Great.

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: We will let you know then.

AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering if, Orlando Rodriguez, you could tell us a little about Greg, your son. I understand he was politically engaged himself in his youth.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Yes, he was, like — and at a younger age, like many college kids, very interested in political activity. He had been involved in CISPES. But also like many other kids —

AMY GOODMAN: The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Yes, like many young kids as they left college and went on to other things, then became more involved in questions of making a living and so on. But I think, even though he did not continue to be politically active, he certainly was intellectually active and was, as well, active in his feelings about injustice of all kinds. And we fondly recall many conversations we had over the years about his feelings on all kinds of issues. I’m not going to say that he was just, you know, mimicking what we thought; on the contrary, he had a very active intellectual life. And we had many debates about these things. But I think what I admire most about him, actually, was not his intellect, big as it was, but his heart, how he reacted instinctively to tragedies that he saw. And that is part of what makes Phyllis and me motivated to continue this, that we know that he would have had our approval about how we are going about reacting to this personal and public tragedy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for joining us today, for giving us these few minutes in your time of grief. And again, I hope we can keep in touch. And as you become part of this more formal movement against the war, we’ll put out information. I want —

PHYLLIS RODRIGUEZ: That would be very helpful, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Great. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, our hearts here at Democracy Now! in Exile, still inside the evacuation zone, go out to you and your family on the loss of Greg. You are listening to The War and Peace Report. When we come back, some words on war and peace from the Buddhist monk, pacifist, Thich Nhat Hanh. Stay with us.

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