Bahai News - Why we must all pull our tribes back together

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.

There are 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 out.

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 public."

So a new momentum is growing, helped along by the National Conference for Community and Justice, to end the isolation.

"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 Arts.

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 community."

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.

The 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 better.

Rekha Basu can be reached at rbasu@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4508.


©Copyright 2001, Sun-Sentinel (South Florida)

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