"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Thursday, November 12, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Worrying About and-- Not Love-- but Tolerate Terrorist Attacks

Check out Victor Davis Hanson's essay on terrorism (h/t Pat @ And So it Goes in Shreveport) in National Review Online. Hanson points out that Hasan's attack on Fort Hood is not as unique as most of us might think or remember.

Click on the above link and read the whole essay (it's not long), but excerpts are below:

"Many commentators were more likely to cite the stresses of hearing patients discuss two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than Hasan’s own apparent extremist beliefs.

"In truth, the Fort Hood murders fit into a now familiar pattern of radical Islam-inspired violence that manifests itself in two principal ways.

"First are the formal terrorist plots. Radical Muslims have attempted, in coordinated fashion, to blow up a bridge, explode a train, assault a military base, and topple a high-rise building — in ways al-Qaeda terrorist leaders abroad warned us would follow 9/11.

"This year alone, three terrorist plots have been foiled.

[...]

"There have also been 'lone wolf' mass murders in which angry radical Muslims sought to channel their frustrations and failures into violence against their perceived enemies of Islam.

"Since September 11, several Muslim men have run over innocent bystanders or shot random people at or near military bases, synagogues, and shopping malls.

"After the initial hysteria died down, we were usually told that such acts were isolated incidents, involving personal 'issues' rather than radical Islamic hatred of the U.S. Yet a few examples show that was not quite the case.

"The just-executed sniper John Allan Muhammad, who, along with an accomplice, killed ten, voiced approval of Osama bin Laden and radical Islamic violence.

Naveed Afzal Haq is currently on trial for going on a murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building. A survivor said Haq stated his attack was a 'personal statement against Jews.'

"Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar ran over nine students at the University of North Carolina. Officers said he told them afterward he wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide.

"Omeed Aziz Popal struck 18 pedestrians with his car near a Jewish center in San Francisco. Witnesses say he said, 'I am a terrorist,' at the scene.

"No doubt in each case, experts could assure us that there were extenuating personal circumstances — stresses and mental illnesses that better explain what happened.

[...]

"Every few months either an Islamic-inspired terrorist plot will be foiled, or a young Muslim male will shoot, run down, or stab someone while invoking anger at non-Muslims.

"In other words, the attack on Fort Hood happened on schedule. It was the rule, not the exception. And something like it will occur again — soon."

While it is important to differentiate between violent acts perpetrated by people with Arabic sounding names and terrorist-motivated attacks, it is equally, if not more, important to not simply dismiss terrorist attacks as the results of mental stress.

All terrorists are the results of mental stress. Are we to believe that people who strap on explosives lined with nails and tacks, and then go and detonate themselves in a pizza parlor or on a bus are not under mental stress? Simply because an act of terrorist murder resembles an act of mental breaking, does not change the basic nature of a terrorist attack. They are not completely unrelated to begin with.

Like so many others, I am shocked at the way the media, government, and even the top brass in the military have responded to the Fort Hood attack. We're told not to jump to conclusions. Fine. We waited. And as we waited MSNBC, CNN, CBS, the NYT and so many others of the MSM speculated wildly and told us that Hasan suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (although he had never seen combat), or that he had been driven to his killings by frustration at the lack of health care funding (remember this is when HR 3962 was on the House floor). We were told not to care what his religion is. While we waited, we were told Hasan was bullied for his beliefs in Islam.

And now as the truth of the matter becomes clearer and clearer, much of the press and Obama himself would like to treat this incident as just another natural tragedy, like a tornado or a flood. While many have swooned over Obama's Fort Hood speech (chiefly because he didn't spend any time praising himself), Obama spoke of the victims as though they had been struck down by lightning in some freak storm.

Certainly it's fine and fitting to honor the memory of those slain, but to do so without even touching upon why and how these fine people were brutally murdered is disingenuous to the extreme. It reeks of moral cowardice-- of an inability to be even slightly honest when confronted by events outside of Obama's great plan. It dishonors the fallen by twisting the circumstances of their deaths until their tragedy's meaning is devoid of any relation to the truth.

This strikes me as being similar to a certain branch of grief counseling, where the focus is on the exhumation of already surfaced feelings. By wringing out every last drop of emotion and energy, the aggrieved are left physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted at the end. The bereaved often feels relieved, generally better, and sometimes feels as though something has been accomplished, some mental burden has been lifted and set aside. Yet the tragedy remains, and the hollowness of absence continues, and they're told that all that will get better in time. Well, that would have been the case regardless, so what's the point of the emotional crush at the beginning of the process?

The basic idea is to expunge the negative feelings (the assumption being that such feelings won't come back, or if they do that they'll return with less intensity) so that they will not cause undue internal stress and consternation in the aggrieved. It's sort-of a shortcut to acceptance. It's a theory that dismisses the possibility that the gradual grieving process has an internal importance, that the road to acceptance has meaning based in the journey itself and not merely because of the end result. And acceptance, in this case, is just another word for tolerance.

Obama's strategy in dealing with these violent attacks seems to be not completely dissimilar. Be sure to focus sympathy on the victims (who could argue with that), expunge, wait for everything to simmer down and let tolerance take root, and then continue with political agendas. Repeat as necessary. Indignation at the hateful and violent causes behind such tragedies would be a distraction. Far better to teach us us all how to learn to accept these man-made disasters in stride.

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