‘Can I Get a Witness’ tells the story of September, 11 from a point of view that few people have been able to notice. For the first time, someone thinks that the events of that day may not necessarily have been completely bad. The notions are brought out through the eye of the narrator, an American of Indian descent. She is seated in a restaurant when it is blown up. The woman feels that the terrorism incident may have been an act of God. She feels that He sent the terrorists to not only save people who had been looking for ways of running away from their lives, but also to take away bad people from the society. The story brings out the real double sidedness of the society through a terror incident
The woman in the story feels that God came in the form of terrorists to save her from her life. She says that for a long time she has felt that her family does not understand her. As a result, she has come to develop a certain hate for her children and husband. She described the ways in which her husband has changed. When they met, he had been “…”A champion powwow fancy dancer when she’d met him, a skinny, beautiful, feminine boy who moved in bright feathered circles…”. He had changed so much over the years and even stopped identifying himself as an Indian and instead choosing to see himself as an American to the point of mounting several American flags in their home. She felt out of touch with him because of such behavior. For this reason, she had not moved when the restaurant was blown up because she thought that the terrorists had “…come to rescue her…”.
The narrator feels that there were a lot of people who deserved to die that day and many others whose death may have come as a gift because they may have been contemplating suicide but did not get the courage or the chance to attempt it, and were thus saved by the terror attack. She states that the building had been filled with “…”those towers were filled with bankers and stockbrokers and lawyers…” . She feels that although these people earn a living through these jobs, it would not be in order to automatically assume that they were not bad people. She even poses the question to the male protagonist, “…how honest do you think they were?”. Apart from the bad people who had died on that day, there were also those that had been tortured enough in life and needed a break such as the one that the terrorists had brought. She states that the crowd had included those that were, “…just sad and broken and dying inside”—the people who were being tortured…”.
The difference in opinions between the two characters is quite clear. While the woman represents a new voice and thought process about terrorism, the male protagonist voices the opinion of the perceived majority and what is seen to be the norm. The norm is that the act of terrorism is wrong and it does not matter whether those that died on that day were good or bad people. The simple act of terrorism was wrong. This can be obtained from the part that he states that, “…her story seemed more potentially destructive than any bomb . . .”. The reason for this thought is that he feels that the female character is in some way encouraging the acts of terrorism. He feels she is wrong to think that the lives of people should be placed in the hands of such people. just because there was a chance that there were those who deserved to die on that day and those that wanted to, did not give any mandate to the terrorist to choose random victims, because some of them did not belong to either of these categories.
The male protagonist continues to portray the voice o the innocent and those that are incapable of seeing the bad side of people. For example, he refuses to believe that the female character is capable of hating her husband and children. He says in part, “…but, you can’t hate [your husband]” and “I don’t believe” you hate your kids”. He also does not conform to the notion that the female character is trying to pass across about terrorism. He does not understand the premise of such acts and even says as much, “…what makes any sense in a world where a man can run into a crowded restaurant and explode a bomb?”.
It is easy to understand the point of view of the female character once it is explained that she is Indian. Native Americans have over time been sidelined in the country and they are rarely heard of. For his reason, it is understandable that the woman fails to sympathize with Americans following the terrorism incident. She may subconsciously feel that they deserve what comes to them because, after all, they came into the Indians land, took over it and sent them away. That is the reason she ways that some of the people who died in the incident deserved to have their lives taken away.
Humor has been largely used in the story. The main purpose of humor in such stories is to lighten the mood, since what is to follow is a sensitive topic that most people are still not able to discuss freely, even after all those years. The humor begins when the woman is still in the restaurant before the explosion. She has been sitting for a long time awaiting her order and begins to think that the waiter is probably late because he is “…banging the waitress…or banging the handsome Guatemalan busboy…”. She even begins to think about her credit card that has been taken away by the waiter for payment purposes and begins to think that he is probably using it to, “…but internet porn or remaindered celebrity biographies…”.
The two main characters in the story each have an important purpose that they serve in the society. The male character represents the voice of the normal Americans who feel that the terrorists’ events of September 11 were unfortunate and uncalled for. The woman, on the other hand, begins to dissect the occurrences of the day and represents the fainter voice that feels that people sympathize too much with such incidences and believe only in the good, even when this is not necessarily the case.
The ending of the story gives a better understanding of the theme that was being put across. It was about people understanding that the occurrences of terror do not have only one point of view. In the beginning, the male character does not agree with the woman but at the need, even he agrees with her on grief porn. He sees her point of view that America was attaching too many emotions to the ordeal than they should have. He agrees with her on the fact that Americans are making themselves the victims so much that they forget that there are other people who get hurt as well and whose feelings should matter just as much.