Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We Must Accept Some Responsibility

The truth hurts - that's a universal saying that's applied to people probably as long as humanity has had language. Some people can't accept criticism, be they 22 or 42, and just won't hear it. Reading today's Dan Kennedy piece only reconfirms that. Still - six years after September 11th, 2001 - people can't say anything critical about America without the American Taliban rearing its ugly head. Well, they reared it right at our Governor, who had a pretty poignant speech that served mainly as a commemoration of 9/11, but briefly examined what we can learn from it too.

Here's the speech:

We meet today to honor the lives and memories of the 206 sons and daughters of our Commonwealth who were lost six years ago in the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 and with them the thousands of others from across our nation and across the globe, who were lost in that tragedy as well.

Our tribute is for each of them and our condolences are with each of you and the families and survivors so touched by that day. Each of us felt the impact of the incidents of September 11th. But the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and friends of those endured perhaps the most profound loss of all. This is your community and your community is with you today and everyday.

We have lived the last six years in the shadow of that tragedy. We carry the vivid reminders of the pain and the anger we felt. But we must also carry the vivid reminders of the compassion and generosity that was shown that day and the days and weeks that followed. The coming together that happened not only in communities that lost a loved one remember them, and not only in New York, Virginia or Pennsylvania and Washington DC or not only in the United States but all across the world.

That is the spirit in which we re-convene today, and that is what must last. Because among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding. It was mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also about the failure of human beings to understand each other, and to learn to love each other. And it seems to me that that lesson and that warning is something that we must carry with us everyday.

Fortunately, for human beings, the human heart is not designed to carry grief forever. Somehow we manage to move on and that might be in some ways our greatest strength. We live in a rare place, where our ideas, our shared goals, and our common humanity will and must be more powerful and must ultimately win out over intransigence and anger and violence and division.Tempered by these losses, we will emerge a strong and better place. That is how we best serve the memories of those we love. We do that not in anger at the horror of their loss, but in honor of the beauty of their lives. We miss them not because they are gone, but because they were here.

The part that bothered the non-reality based community is the fact that Patrick finds 9/11 a lesson in human understanding. What happened six years and a day ago isn't explicitly America's fault, but in many ways we didn't do enough to prevent it. The Bush administration certainly didn't take terrorist threats seriously, but it doesn't stop there. America itself uses and abuses our Middle Eastern neighbors on a daily basis: we prosper from their resources, all the while we cut most of their aid. We planted unwanted troops there, way before Iraq, despite the fact that it makes their blood boil. We helped the Afghan peoples overthrow their Soviet oppressors, only to abandon it to an even more oppressive force, the Taliban. There are a lot of mistakes in human understanding here - and if we, as Americans, can't accept them and try to learn from them, we're only setting ourselves up for another 9/11 - which is exactly what we're doing by being in Iraq, but that's for another post.

Of course, Dan Kennedy sees some wrong doing on Patrick's part.
As for the part that the Herald and the Republicans are upset with, I'd call it a sloppy bit of rhetoric. I'm all for peace, love and understanding, but Patrick's words lend themselves too easily to being interpreted as meaning that the attacks came about, at least in part, because we failed to love our enemies.

So, basically, Kennedy thinks Patrick's at fault because the Governor didn't foresee people taking offense to his critical point. Huh? Either what Patrick had to say is true, or it isn't. Unlike a lot of other things in life, when it comes to criticism there often isn't a lot of gray area - or a good way to criticize. A lot of people become even more guarded when someone tries to politely make their point. Heck, to some of these people, being polite is only a weakness (and could Patrick have made his point any easier?). They just don't want to hear it. ["They," in this case, can refer to the 33% or so of people who still think Saddam Hussein planned 9/11, those who think America can do no wrong and, apparently, the Boston Herald.] Sometimes the only way to reach people is to really challenge them; we've tried the whole Mother Goose routine and it didn't work.

What Kennedy doesn't seem to consider, unfortunately, is something that even a kid ought to be able to understand (it was even a major theme in Harry Potter!). Sometimes, we make our own enemies merely by choosing them. Part of the problem that exists, now more than ever, is the fact that many Americans have decided Arab Muslims are now the enemy. Anyone else suspect that there'd be a lot less tension - and IEDs - if this us-vs.-them mentality didn't exist? I don't know who started it, but the American conscience has certainly embraced it. Arab Muslims are the new Soviet Union. Except for the fact that they aren't: they're a mostly poverty stricken people who deal with things such as a world that cares more about their oil than their persons, wars, and let's not forget a few nasty dictators. America wouldn't have been on their map if we didn't do our best to put ourselves there. The people who can't take criticism on this point could just be right on one note - terrorism is a real problem - but if they never gain the ability to accept criticism, it will be a problem that's continually exacerbated by them.

Update: As David Berstein notes, there's a second attack being directed at Deval. Apparently, he wasn't being foaming-in-the-mouth crazy enough over how we should perceive people who have taken up terrorism. "Nasty and bitter" doesn't quite suffice, apparently Deval needs to throw in "murdering bastards" and a fat momma joke to appease the Howie-Carr types. It's a great country we live in.


Anonymous said...

The Taliban was home grown in Afganistan, I thought you said we should let people decide how to run/govern their own country.

Anonymous said...

It's been going on for a long time. The Crusades, Muslim slaughter in Constantinople, the war for Andalusia/Toledo in mediveal Spain. It won't go away with some touchy-feely Dr Phil encounters with the Arabs. A percentage of them hate us and would be bothering us because of our support for Israel even if we withdrew all our troops. Are you for withdrawing our support of Israel to appease the Arabs?

Ryan Adams said...

Anon 6:13, the Taliban actually wasn't "homegrown" in Afghanistan. They were mostly young men who were orphaned during the Soviet war and living in the Pashtun area of Pakistan. When they started sweaping across Afghanistan, they did so first in the Pashtun area and then conquered the other ethnic groups - all of whom bitterly fought back. There wasn't any sort of legitimacy of the Taliban and they treated their conquered peoples horribly. So, no, not only was it not home grown, it wasn't a legitimate government - and people were fighting back, even still when we arrived (otherwise, we probably wouldn't have been able to get involved as we did, with almost no troops at first, other than special forces).

Anon 9:06,
First, it works both ways. A lot of Westerners just don't trust/don't like Arab people. That's a very large hump to get over, to get both sides to at the very least respect each other. However, it's necessary.

Israel is obviously a tricky question, but there's room for compromise on both sides. First, despite the fact that the standard 2-state solution enjoys support from both most Palistinians and Israelis, neither groups trust the other to actually abide by it. Therefore, they've both elected hard-lining governments that don't want to give up anything. A two-state solution wouldn't be any sort of "appeasement," but it would be basically fair for both sides: it would allow Israelis to keep most of the territory they live on, while ceasing some of the camps on the Western bank that make Palistians' very, very angry. Many of these walls and camps in the West Bank rip right through the the heart of Palistinians, seperating people from their jobs, families and making what would be short trip into long journies. So, to answer your basic question, of course I support Israel, growing up in Swampscott and working for the JCC many (if not most) of my friends are Jewish - and most of them agree with me on these matters. If people support a country, they'll want that country to have peace - which, honestly, is something many "supporters" of Israel aren't interested in. They want that country to be a front-line, I want that country to enjoy what most Americans have: peace and general equality.

Joel Patterson said...

Kennedy thinks Patrick's at fault because the Governor didn't foresee people taking offense to his critical point.
Ryan--Dan Kennedy is a longtime member of the media. Their profession is trained to always be afraid of offending conservatives, because they would hate to be labeled 'liberal media.' He is, of course, in error to think that a Democratic political leader, especially one like Deval who seeks to transform the discourse, must operate under such a constraint.

Anonymous said...

That is a tribal area, they don't necessarily recognize the WWI type of artificial boundaries that Westerners have imposed. But we shouldn't be there anyway if I catch your drift about leaving other countries alone.

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