Five Groups to be Angry at After September 11, p.2
December, 2001

3. COWARDS. Since September 11, I've met people who won't use powdered sugar, won't fly on an airplane, and are avoiding entire swaths of my home town of New York City. Let's not mince words. These people are cowards, and are giving aid and comfort to our enemies. They are traitors to America. Yes, there are increased risks, and there will be another attack. We should all take sensible precautions like not opening unusual mail and notifying the police of suspicious packages. We all have to put up with traffic and congestion at checkpoints. But paranoia, fear, and panic are the best weapons a terrorist can get. Really, it's giving them every victory they could possibly want, hurting our economy and turning us into a bunch of pathetic, scurrying rodents.

Here's an idea. Next time someone tells you they're afraid to fly, point out how much safer it is than driving, and ask why the hell they can't get control of their emotions. Buck it up, and fly. Go about your business. Hiding in a hole like a scared rat is not to be coddled. It's not to be "understood." It's to be condemned. People need to read the statistics, swallow the facts, and summon up a little courage. We're not asking everyone to run into a burning skyscraper like the firemen did downtown. We're just asking them to go shopping, or take a vacation as planned. If this is too much to ask, we deserve to lose this war.

4. CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS. The months of October and November have seen the most cynical abuse of human suffering I've ever seen in domestic politics. Citing the need for "unity," the Republican majority in the House has passed a lopsided, unfair, and patently ridiculous "stimulus" package that would never succeed if Americans weren't so distracted by Anthrax and Afghanistan. This is a package that retroactively eliminates the Corporate Minimum Tax, and doles out $300 million+ welfare checks to IBM, GE, GM, and others while eliminating the only real corporate loophole-closer on the books. This is a package that phases out tax rates starting years in the future - hardly what you'd do if what the economy needs is a short-term boost. It gives nothing to average Americans (let alone the poor) but gives billions to the richest individuals and largest corporations. It's the kitchen-sink wishlist of the GOP, neatly disguised as an emergency stimulus.

This really is disgusting behavior. 3,000 people died, and their deaths provide the pretext for utterly unrelated, totally unfair spending provisions. "Hey, this is great! Now we can get that tax break in for General Electric!" There is no conceivable connection between the need for a short- term stimulus and the types of provisions in the GOP's stimulus package. Therefore, the "stimulus" is just the excuse for political payback. Same with the "Energy Policy," a massive corporate welfare bill for extractive industry, which used to be justified by a now-vanished crisis, and now - shazam! - is necessary because of the war against terrorism. Enough shows of unity - this is a desecration of the dead. Call a spade a spade, and fight these awful bills.

5. SIMPERING FOREIGN EQUIVOCATORS. We all know that America has been a big, brash, arrogant bully for several decades. We trample on international law, ignore international consensus on issues like arms control and climate change, and our crass and materialist culture spreads like a weed, choking local cultures in Europe, Africa, Asia, and everywhere else it touches. OK. But then again, America won the cold war by outspending the Soviets; it has spread democracy as well as its own interests for some time now; and it is currently being targeted by a group with an overtly medieval agenda. So, let's stop being patient with French or Brazilian or Indonesian protesters equivocating about just who's right in this war and who's wrong. Object to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians if you like. Criticize globalization and international capitalism. But don't pretend for a moment that these barbaric, misogynistic monsters are somehow your real allies. Al Qaeda is sort of about multiculturalism and resistance to American hegemony. But mostly, it's about killing non-Muslims.

The latest thing is to condemn the bombings, but also condemn America's response. As if we can separate Al Qaeda's mission from its tactics. It's fine to debate American policy while smoking Galoises around the cafe table. But these guys have a gun to our head - are we supposed to just convince them not to pull the trigger through our sharp wit and dapper black turtlenecks? There is plenty wrong with American foreign policy. But 4,000 innocent people are dead, and more will follow. It's time to kill our enemies, not sit around justifying how they feel and self-critiquing. Because while we're busy introspecting, they're busy planning their next attack. The equivocators are fiddling while Rome burns. Next time you hear someone defending these murderers and opposing the current war, tell them to close their eyes, and punch them in the nose. Ask if they still want to be sure you're the guy who did it, and if they want to keep talking, or if they're pretty sure they want to punch you back. The punching may not actually solve root causes, but to sit and debate and equivocate is to invite more people to take advantage of our decadence. This is how civilizations go down. Doubt is necessary to prevent authoritarian groupthink. Knowing when to circumscribe doubt and act is necessary to prevent Rome from falling to the vandals.

So, there's the hotlist, with constructive suggestions for change on all except maybe the last one. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Let's leave it to the military to hunt down and kill Bin Laden and Co. We have battles of our own that should command our attention. Our weapons will not be arms and copters; just words, mostly. But let's not use our frustration as an excuse to forget all about political engagement and immerse ourselves in escapism. It's worth more than that.

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