Monday, November 16, 2015

Fearing Fear Itself

New Krugman:

The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong.

More here.

I remember thinking at some point on September 11, 2001 that I wasn't afraid of any terrorists. Instead, I was afraid of Americans freaking out and making horrible decisions. It turned out that I had it exactly right. Terrorists have done nothing to me or the vast majority of Americans in the decade plus since then, but the massive freak out did, indeed, result in countless awful decisions, the results of which we are still trying to repair.

I was also afraid for myself personally. Bill Maher was fired from ABC for saying the wrong thing. Phil Donahue was fired from MSNBC for being anti-war. The Dixie Chicks were banned from Clear Channel radio stations and people burned their CDs. I was teaching at the time in a rather conservative and provincial district. Why not fire the liberal high school teacher for telling people they were wrong to scream for Muslim blood? I kept my mouth shut, but felt horrible about it. Indeed, that's why I started blogging back in 2002, so I could speak out, to someone, anyone, somewhere, anywhere--it's ultimately why I ended up treating my facebook posting as though it was blogging.

Over the years, I decided never to be afraid again, not of terrorists, not of my fellow Americans. I decided always to be the citizen that I am: when I see my country on the verge of insanity, I will speak out. Always. Whether you like it or not. I will allow neither terrorists nor fear-crazed Americans to change who I am, to make me less of an American. The terrorists might beat you, but they won't beat me.

Everyone who takes being an American seriously should make the same commitment. Or you're not much of an American.