11 September 2010


This is, I suppose, one of those "da[tes] that will forever live in infamy." I vaguely knew a couple of people at the WTC, and more than a couple of people at the Pentagon, who were involved in one way or another; no relatives, close personal friends, etc., though. That doesn't prevent me from having a sense of outrage... at a bunch of religious fundamentalists who do not represent the mainstream of their faith, any more than Timothy McVeigh represents mainstream America (or even mainstream teapartyism). One could, I suppose, say the same thing about 20 May (1631), or 15 July (1099), or 21 September (1857), to name three similar dates with disturbing casualty counts caused by the mixing of extreme fundamentalist religious doctrine with political megalomania (that are outside the awareness of the typical American).

Then, yesterday evening, I saw the announcement of a living recipient of the Medal of Honor, a shockingly rare event — but, in retrospect and considering what it takes to become eligible for it, perhaps not so suprising after all.1 This, at the same time that Garry Trudeau has returned to dealing with survivors' challenges.

Doonesbury, 11 Sep 2010

(Do read the strips from earlier in the week... context matters.)

One must wonder, though, how much of the posturing that is not coldly calculated political gamesmanship results from some horrible societal equivalent of "phantom limb syndrome." I suspect that it's neither all nor none. Turning that posturing into vengeance, though, only reinforces dysfunctional fundamentalism, reminiscent of a different variety of MADness. Vengeance is the refuge of the powerless... and however powerless Americans as individuals may have felt in the aftermath of the cowardice displayed by the 9/11 terrorists, America as a whole is not. Distinguishing between the two, however, has never been a strength in America, or in the West as a whole; even acknowledging the distinction, in the face of civis Romanus sum and later extensions thereof.

Those who advocate societal vengeance on behalf of harm to individual members of that society by an offshoot of the Other too often forget that with rights come responsibilities; that with the ability to rain down destruction on one's enemies comes the responsibility to limit oneself to a proportional response focused on the (or at least an) appropriate target. Almost by definition, devastating the mainstream of a religious movement for the actions of fundamentalist nutcases is, at minimum, mistargetted.

  1. I met one of the few from Vietnam in the late 1980s. Unfortunately for him and his service, he was promoted well beyond his leadership capability and placed into a post pending retirement where he couldn't do damage... and then proceeded to nonetheless damage the intellectual curiosity of a generation of young officers by encouraging an environment that rejected the questioning of perceived wisdom and Reaganesque political correctness. (Allowing/encouraging a faculty member to defend Oliver North's conduct as somehow enhancing national security... in front of officers intimately involved with that aspect of national security?) That's not a criticism of that man's heroism or worthiness for the Medal of Honor — only of the institutional reaction.