by David Sheff
Playboy: How did September 11 change your life?
Nelson: Like everyone. I watched it and at first thought it was a movie they were promoting. I hear that kids saw that over and over again and didnâ€™t understand that it was a single attack â€“ they thought that it kept happening every time they showed it on TV. I didnâ€™t like the way the news media exploited it. No wonder weâ€™re toughened to things like that. We see it and donâ€™t know itâ€™s real because we are bombarded with images. Every time you see it, it starts looking more and more unreal. How long are we going to exploit it? When are we going to let it become what it was? Are we going to learn lessons from it or keep making the same mistakes?
Playboy:Â What lessons?
Nelson:Â Are we going to look at poverty, disproportionate wealth and the horrors in the world or ignore them? The poorest places are the ones where terrorism breeds. If someone wants to kill me bad enough to kill himself at the same time, there has to be a reason. People jump all over you if you ask the question, but if someone in America murdered 10 people or 3000, the first thing we would ask is Why? Nothing can justify the attack, but there might have been something we could do to prevent an attack in the future. Iâ€™m not talking about giving in or negotiating with terrorists. Iâ€™m talking about looking at the complaints of people in the world who hate us. Is it because our troops are over there? Are we afraid to say that? Anything else? Our policies regarding Israel? Iâ€™m not saying we should stop doing anything they donâ€™t like just because they donâ€™t like it, but we should understand why and try to acknowledge that people in other parts of the world have rights, too. That they matter. What arrogance to say it doesnâ€™t matter what they think. Itâ€™s not un-American to ask these questions. Itâ€™s un-American not to ask them. America really stands for human rights and freedom. Letâ€™s apply it everywhere.
Playboy:Â What led to your performance at the benefit for September 11 victims at which you sang America the Beautiful
Nelson: I just got a call and they asked. Of course I would do it. Everybody at the show felt helpless and wanted to do something. If any of us could have gotten ahold of Osama bin Laden, we would have cut him into a million pieces, but we couldnâ€™t get ahold of him. We are still frustrated. We may have gotten a whole lot of people, but not the ones who actually did it. Where is Osama? How do you stop terrorism when your enemy is scattered in 80 countries? At least they stopped pretending that we have won any wars. For a while they were saying it: We won the war, blew Afghanistan sky-high. Big deal. Blew up a lot of dirt. I canâ€™t see that we have won any wars. The information you get from the people in charge is frustrating; they lead you to believe that they donâ€™t know any more than you know. All the alerts â€“ trying to scare the hell out of us â€“ donâ€™t seem much good. Iâ€™m not sure what good there is to try to scare the death out of every man, woman and child in this country saying the bogeyman is coming. If they know for sure, thatâ€™s one thing. But the more times you hear them say â€˜Be alertâ€™, the less alert you get. You can only stay so alert. When you say something and it doesnâ€™t happen, youâ€™ve lost the crowd.â€