CASUAL FRIDAYS #102: Not At All About Magic

Not much humor or game strategy to offer this week.

International readers: I hope you will forgive an article meant largely for American eyes. We all know in this country that you’re out there, of course. For example, I received an amazing email from a reader in Russia about two hours after the second airplane hit the World Trade Center. He was sick about the whole thing, and even though he’s never written or spoken to me, he wanted to make a connection and express his sorrow. That’s the sort of thoughtful expression that helps me and others know how many friends Americans have around the world. Thank you to all those who have done anything like this for anyone over here.

Meantime, feel free to read along, and just excuse yourself from those portions that seem inapplicable, or impractical. I’ll speak the international language of Magic next time around.

The moment will define every American generation born after Pearl Harbor. It will become – has already become – the”where were you?” question, even for those who until now thought that life-changing moments involved the deep sorrow we feel at dead Presidents and ill-fated space shuttles.

Now we folk under sixty-five know what”life-changing” really means. It means stark fear for your family and friends, even if you’re half a continent away from the explosions. It means letting some rather primal emotions influence the way you see the world. And it means an opportunity to step up and deny a part – even a small, tiny part – of the victory for your enemies.

Speaking of which. Please stop reading this article until you have placed a call to make an appointment to give blood, or other assistance to victims. If you haven’t already, of course. Red Cross: 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (blood) or 1-800-HELP-NOW (money). America’s Blood Centers: 1-888-BLOOD-88. Bear in mind blood needs are currently being met; but these organizations expect another surge in need within the next few weeks. The assistance you give goes to minimize the success of our assailants.

Those of you close to the victims or communities affected have heard – I hope many times – how thoroughly and deeply the rest of this nation is right alongside you. I’ve watched grown men and women here at my office crying for, cheering on, and praying for countrymen they have never met and will never meet. I do not even want to pretend to know what to say to you, beyond that.

Those of you a bit further away, physically or emotionally, from this tragedy may be feeling some of the same things I am: Awe at the scale, rage at the cowardice, fear of a repeat, hope for the recovery efforts, resolve to support retaliation, despair at the increasing tallies – and above all, pride in the values I see alive and well in my country.

What values am I talking about? The freedom media and citizens had to report the truth, the sacrifice of public servants’ lives in the service of those in need, the trust and grit New Yorkers showed in a calm evacuation and rescue effort, the bravery and resolve of those people on United Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, the way volunteers are pitching in with whatever skills and resources they have, even the care several leaders and reporters took to defend Islam as a peaceful religion – seeing these values remain strong gives me all the certainty I need to know that this country will once again demonstrate why we serve as a beacon to the world – and why our enemies never can, and never will, no matter how much they rage at us.

In exploring my feelings, I also recognize a desire to reach out in some way to this gaming community I’ve come to know as friends and colleagues. This is not surprising, given my individual neuroses. The question is, can I reach out in a way that’s helpful? And maybe I can, for some of you. So I want to offer the following.

Many younger people have a harder time working through their emotions than they do when they’re older. Believe me, no one of any age can pretend to have their feet still under them after what happened. But those with less experience asking themselves certain questions might take longer centering themselves.

With that in mind, I’ll bare my soul a bit and put up the questions I’ve been asking myself recently. Folks, I am not a psychiatrist, by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do I even presume that all the conversations I have with myself are worth your time and energy. But perhaps this will get you started on a certain process, and with a little time and effort, you will find yourself exploring the right things for you to ask and answer.

Here’s where I started:

  • What can I do to help the victims the most?

  • How would I explain this tragedy to a child?

  • Who or what am I most afraid of, now? Has this changed?

  • Who or what am I angriest at, now? What would I do, if I had the power to do anything? Why would I do that particular thing?

  • What people am I proudest of, now? What about them has inspired me? What have I done to be like them? What have I done that makes me different?

  • What am I in control of? What can’t I control? How much does this bother me?

  • Was this attack insane? Were the attackers? What do I think insane means?

  • What does it mean to me to be an American today?

  • What do I most want from America now? What am I willing to do to get it?

I think offering up my own answers would be a bit much – again, these might not even be the right questions. And I’m also still fuzzy on some of those answers, anyway.

But it’s a start for me. I hope it’s a start for you, as well.

But it’s not an end in itself. Rumination and self-exploration is not a substitute for action. And America is a nation born and bred of action. Even within our own national Magic community, there are those who have training in relevant disciplines – from military to health care to crime investigation and so on. We should all be thankful for those people, and for those who are currently making some incredibly complex decisions to guide your work.

As someone experienced in public policy analysis, I’ve got some ideas about what the United States ought to do as we slowly recover, in terms of national unity and healing, balancing security and freedom, generating a response, etc. I don’t consider this the time or place. But I’ll gladly share a thought or two with anyone who wants to email me privately.

Just make sure you’ve called the Red Cross first, to give blood, time, or money. That’s action. And it’s still the only action that really matters, for the next couple of days.

Peace, on our terms,

Anthony Alongi

[email protected]