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« Former Enron Adviser Paul Krugman's Thoughts On September 11 | Main | Remembering 9/11 in Pictures »
September 11, 2011

The Left's Continuing Unhinging Over 9/11

Not only Krugman, writing about the "Years of Shame" post-9/11, but also the anti-conservative liberal the media loves to quote as a conservative, Kathleen Parker.

An America that no longer knows itself

The legacy of 9/11 can’t be fully measured even now, but perhaps the most damaging aspect can be found in our national discourse.

Taking the long view, it is possible to see the roots of today’s political dysfunction — the hate, fear, anger and resentment — firmly planted in the soil at Ground Zero.

Did Osama bin Laden envision such a thing when he plotted the attacks? Probably not. He might have imagined that we would retaliate, and this would cost us lives and treasure. But he couldn’t have known that we eventually would lose our common sense of who we are. This has been the big surprise of 9/11 — an ongoing, self-perpetuating act of American self-destruction.

Something was unleashed 10 years ago that bears our scrutiny. It wasn’t only evil, though the attacks were certainly that. The event was so cataclysmic and horrifying that it caused a sort of emotional breakdown in the American constitution. Simply put, it damaged our collective soul and seems to have released a free-ranging hysteria that has contaminated our interactions ever since.

No matter how many prayers uttered; no matter how many hands held or pledges made; no matter how many bombs dropped or coffins draped. A nation cannot heal itself without self-awareness. On this score we have fallen short. We seem not to want to recognize that we don’t have a problem; we are the problem.

Putting it bluntly, Sept. 11 caused us to go temporarily insane. Being for or against the war, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, divided us as wars do, but this time was different. Friendships ended, marriages suffered, people crossed the street to avoid those with whom they disagreed. Ten years later, we are still at war. Tack on the global financial crisis, stagnant unemployment, the further dissolution of trust in our institutions, and we have all the ingredients for moral panic.

And now, alas, another election season is upon us with all the froth and spittle we love to loathe. President Obama understands that the nation has a psychological problem, but no president in his right mind can afford to speak publicly of such things. If Jimmy Carter was brought down by his “crisis of confidence,” a.k.a. “malaise,” speech, imagine if Obama, who already suffers an image of elitist condescension, mentioned that the nation could use a little time on the couch.

We stumble at last upon a purpose for columnists — to say that which no one else dares.

Note that Parker writes in her typical passive-aggressive way, and a superficial reading might suggest she's saying "a pox on all houses." But her previous history suggests to me she has a firm idea about which people went "temporarily insane," and which people remained steadfastly the voices of reason.

It's interesting, to me, that neither Parker nor Krugman feel the need to pretend they supported the War in Afghanistan any longer. This used to be a standard trope of the left, to feign support of one war to prove one's general credibility on the subject; they've now dropped that act, and no longer parse between Afghanistan and Iraq.

They don't quite confess the truth, but they no longer bother with the lies they once told. And, by the way, Miss Parker -- since you're casting about for some purpose for columnists that may make them seem more important than they are, confessing that truth that none on the left dare mention would more useful.

For a certain dominant strain of liberalism -- the liberalism of the bien pensant class -- the most attractive element of the creed is the self-deception. The self-deception I write of the moral vanity of supposing, by mere embrace of a political creed, that all "hate" and lizard-brain desire for vengeance has been purged from their minds.

Hatred has lived in the heart of men for 40,000 years. It is a natural response to the evils of the world. To say it is "natural" does not suggest it is good (despite the bien pensant's unexamined assumption of Rouseau's daffy conception of man as an untainted, virtuous angel absent the corrupting influence of society). But it is natural, in the sense of instinctual and innate.

To truly purge oneself of hatreds and a thirst for retribution would require the majority of a lifetime in philosophical self-denial and religious (or at least metaphysical) devotion and training. As a monk, whether a Western monk, giving his heart to god, or an Eastern monk, training himself to abnegate the self and its selfish passions in favor of a harmonic synthesis with the universe itself.

And yet, for the bien pensants, they seem to imagine they've accomplished this great feat simply by mouthing support of the Civil Rights Movement ("You know, if I were alive then, I'd've been a Freedom Rider") and by thrownng scorn and venom -- hate, in other words -- at those who show the temerity to disagree with them.

With all due respect: I'm absolutely certain this purging of hatred from one's heart is a much more difficult undertaking than the bien pensants imagine.

They profess to hate hate itself. That, for a start, indicates necessarily a more comfortable relationship with the emotion of hate than they generally acknowledge. But this is all for the purpose of constructing a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too loophole, in which they can both hate hate, and yet may indulge, freely and without shame, in the emotion of hatred, so long as they can contrive a pretext for it.

And that pretext is always the same: Yes, they do hate. But those they hate are themselves hateful, so indulging in hatred is not a shameful act, nor a hypocritical one, but in fact a necessary and good campaign against hate.

But this is all, obviously to anyone standing outside this "because I said so" mock-philosophical loophole, just a bit of psychological transference. Those of us not smitten with this Only Hate Hate Itself dodge can admit we hate. We may not be proud of it, and may question ourselves when we give license to it, but we can in fact admit this ugly emotion lives in our hearts.

And we can admit then that we do in fact hate the murderers who killed 2,996 on 11 September 2001, and we hate their allies, and we hate those who dance in the street at the thoughts of men on fire plummeting a quarter mile through the air to their deaths.

But to the bien pensants, this won't due. This sort of hatred is base, and crude, and obvious; lower working class, is what they would really call it, if they had the supposed courage Kathleen Parker imagines they do in speaking uncomfortable truth. Not Quite Our Class, Dear, as the old saying goes, lacking in manners and savoir faire (knowing how to "do," and by "do," we mean comport oneself with the expected manners and opinions of the privileged class).

And what does a bien pensant in good standing about these these uncultured yobbos who feel no twinge of class-inculcated shame in hating mass-murderers?

Why, you hate them, of course. For what else can a good bien pensant, who has purged all hate from his heart by simple act of subscribing to Mother Jones, do when confronted with some benighted hatred, but to pour enlightened hatred on it?

We have never really been arguing about whether we should go to war, or whether we should hate. The only contention of these past 10 years has been whom we should go to war with, and whom we ought to hate.

The bien pensants are quite insistent that we must not hate some External Other who serves as a bogeyman exciting our darker passions.

Rather, they urge, we must direct these darker passions at an Internal Other, the vast majority of Americans who do not consider themselves a type of latter-day digital order of Jesuits.

Apparently we all have the right basic emotional take on things; some of us have just chosen the wrong bogeymen to fear and hate.

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posted by Ace at 02:44 PM

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