Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reflections on Pearl Harbor Day

When we think of September 11, 2001, our reference-point is always December 7, 1941. These two tragic days brought home to us that we are no more invincible than any other nation in the world.

Many things have been said and written since 9-11-01, some quite profound and others downright idiotic. We've heard the Euro-nitwits tell us we somehow deserved it, and a certain Geritol hippie professor wax philosophical about chickens coming home to roost. Nobody "deserves" to be attacked by terrorists. Our behavior since the attack, however, does leave something to be desired.

Here's a lesson from Moral Logic 101: It is perfectly possible to react badly to evil. According to the muddy thinking of the Right Wing, anything we do is okay simply because we were attacked and our attackers were evil. And if you argue with them, these deluded souls can only conclude you think the terrorists were in the right.

No, my poor, befuddled friends, THIS is what I think: I think that the terrorists were evil, and that what they did to us was inexcusable. I also think that though we're capable of being marvelous people, much of our behavior, since 9-11, has been very bad. We haven't been ourselves lately.

The soundest lessons we ever learn about civics, about being human in the world in general, we ought to have learned before we're even out of kindergarten. Remember all those times Mommy told you "two wrongs don't make a right?" I know it got dull, hearing that over and over again, but maybe -- just maybe -- she knew her stuff. Murdering thousands of innocent civilians and torturing non-combatants probably isn't America at its best.

And "but the terrorists are even worse" is no excuse. Since when do we let terrorists set our moral standards? Placing the bar just higher than the snake's backbone isn't aiming that much higher than its belly.

To the degree that any recognizable nation attacked us on 9-11, it was Saudi Arabia. You remember them: those great buddies of the Bushes. Fat chance we're going to kick any Saudi butt -- hell, they own half of this country! Attacking Iraq as payback for 9-11 is like retaliating against the Japanese for Pearl Harbor by nuking Thailand.

Although I remain vehemently opposed to this war, I certainly understand we cannot simply pull out tomorrow. We killed a lot of people and broke a lot of things, and now we do need to help clean up the mess we made. What I am opposed to is making the mess even bigger. I also fail to understand how you can force people to accept democracy. These folks give little indication that they're ready for prime-time.

When will we ever learn the difference between helping people and telling them what to do? They may seem, sometimes, to be one and the same thing, but they're not. We need to figure out ways to help the Iraqis without telling them what to do -- and that involves doing something that we, very frankly, are not very good at. It involves LISTENING. President Pom-pom doesn't listen to anybody except the cadre of combat-dodging cowards with whom he surrounds himself.

Let's remember Pearl Harbor for what it truly was: the end of American innocence. It showed us we could not simply hide out on our own, little island and ignore what was happening to the rest of the world. "You will be like God," the Serpent promised the mother of us all in that long-ago Garden, "knowing good and evil." And so she took the fruit and ate it -- and sure enough, we've carried the burden of knowing the difference between right and wrong ever since.

Every day -- no matter what's going on in the rest of the world -- we have the opportunity to do what's right instead of what's wrong. We can't control what the rest of the world does, but nobody else can stop us from being the very best America we can be. We may not live in the Garden of Eden anymore, but it's never too late to choose good over evil.

Let's stop tossing around words like "good" and "evil" as if they were strictly abstract terms. Let's remember what they really mean.


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