Bat Out of Hell

by Sola Osofisan

Living in America is a walk down a long dark tunnel. There’s always the Central-Park-after-dark adrenaline rush to contend with. There may be all sorts of creatures lurking in the dark too. On the other hand, there just may be nothing to fear. It’s very much like the little boy who found himself sucked into a movie in the Arnold Schwarzenegger bomb, The Last Action Hero…You’re never sure what’s going to happen next, where you’re going to wake up. But there’s also the promise of light calling at the end of the tunnel…

Many of us come to this country because we say it’s organized. You can plan a life, your life. There will be electricity flowing from the mains and water from the pipes when you get back home; you can get further educated on the side while you earn a reasonable income; you can get medical attention even if you have no money; you can even choose not to plan and drift wherever the currents of life choose to toss you.

Still, there is always that fear of the creature lurking in the dark…Will a fellow student go gun crazy in Junior’s school today? Will you be mugged as you get off the late train? Will the guy you’ve overtaken develop road rage and come ramming into your car just for the heck of it? Or will the plane you’re on be hijacked by extremists targeting Americans and nose-dived into the nearest skyscraper? It’s the long dark tunnel, folks.

Life itself is very much akin to that dark tunnel. Your parents shove you fighting and screaming hard into the embrace of unpredictability from birth without ever asking if you wanted to be born. And the assault never ceases. In Nigeria, all shades of forces conspire to bring you to your crumbling knees and so you go running like Meatloaf’s bat out of hell to America and the other countries of the world.

The events of September 11, 2001 still reverberate in our recall. They’re not likely to be forgotten…ever. We shudder still, our minds indelibly scarred by the now Network television-soundtracked replay of a plane filled with probably screaming men and women and children exploding into a skyscraper. Bodies flying in the air like prop dolls thrown from high rise movie sets. Bodies flying in the air without wings. Bodies flying…Bodies?

The disaster has since been described as the deadliest attack in US history. Picture the pathetic stories of people who called from under tons of rubble to tell the world “I’m still alive down here. Please don’t give up! Come get me!”. And then the phone lines got jammed by those who were perfectly fine outside, making it impossible for those who desperately needed the lines to get through anymore…And their lives faded like cell phone batteriesas the days passed… Death itself is inevitable, but that’s no way to go. That’s a brutal way to go.

Expectedly, the American media milked the moment, running around town with their hyper instincts sniffing for the most sensational twist. Actor-newscasters wore sombre faces, trying to outdo each other amidst the confusion. Even the movie studios who spend big budgets exploiting disaster stories and our sick fascination with them couldn’t believe how close to home reality had hit. This wasn’t a concoction from the imagination of William Golding or James Cameron. It didn’t happen in Ghana or some other out of the way place that could have imbued it with the significance of Lady Liberty blinking in the sun or a dog farting down the street. This happened on American soil!

Makes you wonder why God didn’t just strike the hijackers with lightning while they sat in their dark rooms plotting this. That old time dining room wall décor in Nigeria contends he is “the silent listener to every conversation”. He could have had their bus delayed by an incident…No, an accident! As long as they miss the flight! He could have Fedexed a heart attack to each of them before they even got on the planes. Still, he didn’t interfere. And thousands remain missing today, bodies probably charred by the heat that melted steel. What good will DNA do when you have nothing to run it against?

It’s incredible how the news – in the name of reporting – actually steered the public and government into the several transitions we have witnessed: America Under Attack; United We Stand; America Fights Back. America has emerged from mourning and now is thirsty for blood. And the networks are priming their finest reporters to go East – ready to milk the cow even further. This isn’t about ratings now. That comes later when they make the “Movie based on…”. It’s PR time now. We love you so much and we will stay awake around the clock, risk our lives in the fire to let you hear and see what’s transpiring…So if you watch us now and you see we are on your side, even more than the other networks, you will watch us now and forevermore, amen.

Our people are among the many lost to the recent events around America and no one is hollering the moon to have them found – or identified at the very least. There has been nothing but complaints about the role the Nigerian government has (not?) played in efforts to identify Nigerians lost in this multiple disaster. We’re all here, rudderless and uncaptained ships tossing in the shark-infested oceans that is America. Nigerians are high-flyers around here and the WTC is the place to work. I have a friend who practically crawled out of the building as it collapsed around him. Imagine the undocumented Nigerians who would have perished in that blaze…

Oh, sure, their family will be grieving. The outpouring of concern from Nigeria – family and friends back home – has been incredible. Most of us are indeed safe. But in a society such as this where the media is as all pervasive and inward-focused, no one else matters except the missing Americans. We only matter to our own. That’s one of the many risks of going to live elsewhere. The Nigerian government does a lousy job of protecting Nigerians in Nigeria, so why would they do anything extraordinary for Nigerians in extraordinary situations outside Nigeria? You’re on your own, sucker. You’re far away from all the fall-back supports; the extended family and long-armed friends…

How significant really is our presence in the United States? If we all packed and returned to the good old motherland today, would the American system feel our departure the way they would feel the Chinese and Indians? Or…Would there be a sigh of relief! Agh! Good riddance to bad rubbish clogging up the air and scarce resources! Is there a way we can shore up our influence in this country? Does it even matter? America isn’t in the habit of recognizing whatever is not American.

I realized as I thought about those Nigerians and Ghanaians and Liberians who were unfortunate enough to have been at the WTC when the building was brought down that the enemies America has created over the years do not think about immigrants when they plot their dark acts. We’re all Americans to them, and likely to be targets, especially now that America has decided to fight back. Yes, we all came to America to partake of all the beauty and wonder. We are fated also to pay whatever price Americans are paying for all that they enjoy.

In my head, I have a bunch of what-ifs colliding like bumper cars in an amusement park from hell. Where do we go from here? What if America goes to war and the suicidal attacks escalate? Selfish as it may sound, what is the fate of the immigrant when the adopted nation becomes too hot for comfort? This is human nature, folks? Just as Americans hunkered down, aggrieved over the loss of fellow Americans, other groups worry about their people who remain unaccounted for too. Self first.

Is this a battle America can win? Not likely. There will always be forces around the world unwilling to bow to the capitalistic tendencies championed by America. The world may be in total awe of the United States, at her mercy even, but there will always be pockets of resistance – and it takes – to paraphrase a superior mind – just a fevered few to change the world. Or drag it screaming down that long dark tunnel of fear…Bat out of hell, folks. Bat right out of hell.

Henceforth, when some people try to remember their loved ones, all they will see in their minds will be that image of a plane slamming slo-mo into the tower. The fire has permanently seared it into their waking and sleeping mind. That’s no way to remember daddy…

America The Beautiful…God bless America.

And good God, if you’re not too tired and there’s some leftover blessings, please don’t forget Nigerians in America…

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1 comment

Anonymous December 16, 2005 - 7:46 pm


I found your article Bat out of Hell very insightful. I as an American would agree that some of us believe that "others" are clogging up our system, but I do not believe that "America isn't in the habit of recognizing whatever is not American." I firmly believe that statement not to be true. The America I know was founded on the habit of recognizing what is not American. This country was built on "others, like my grandparents from Ireland and England. Today's America was built on immigrants. My grandparents had to fight and fight hard for what they had. It was not easy for them. If you know anything about American history then you would know that the Irish were discriminated against in the early 1900's. Nothing was given to them; they had to work hard in order to receive. They overcame like so many others. Not like, today where others can come to this country and get most anything they want, perhaps even more than I get, and they will still complain. If not for my grandparents and other immigrants, YOU would not be able to come here and do as you wish. America has been very generous towards immigrants, maybe to generous.

Being an American gives me the privilege of self first, and why not This is my country where my ancestors fought a very hard battle to give me the dream. I am very blessed to have been born in this country and take pride in being American.

I think that most if not all immigrants forget or maybe don't know is that this country was built by people like my grandparents, so it's very sad to American's when others come here and complain and wonder why WE arent doing enough for them. Havent we done enough, what have you done


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