Sunday, June 15, 2008

Being Polite in the Age of Terror

Prior to 9/11... Prior to 9/11... I am having increasing difficulty remembering how things were for me prior to 9/11. Things have changed so much that that world now seems like some alien place to me, strange and faraway, almost as faraway as my ancient childhood. What did I do prior to 9/11? What did I think about prior to 9/11? What were my priorities? Who were my friends? How did I relate to my friends and acquaintances? How did they relate to me? Certainly our particular political leanings were at the very bottom of the list of our concerns. In retrospect, life seemed so much simpler then. My friends were my friends because they liked me and I liked them. That's all. Nothing very complicated there.

I had developed what I considered to be a fairly well-adjusted and complete persona, one which had taken me a lifetime to define. I was an artist and a writer and a student of history. I was relatively easy to get along with. I don't ever recall getting into an argument with anyone over Augustus' role in the degradation of the Republic, or Caracala's cynical decision to extend the franchise of Roman citizenship. I think I was just naturally polite, a result perhaps of that lapsed Quaker upbringing. All of my friends were just naturally polite. All of my friends were interesting people. I was interested in people who were interested in life, people who questioned things. I watched PBS and CNN and even MSNBC without any noticeable physical discomfort or sense of alarm. I hardly ever thought about Islam.

I once heard a cop say that if everyone had been brought up to be polite, he'd be out of a job. And it makes sense, doesn't it? Politeness is a sign of civility and common decency. It's impolite to lie, or to steal someone else's property, it is very impolite to murder and rape.

Prior to 9/11, there was a whole group of words that we were used to seeing together in the same context. They had become almost interchangeable: politeness and goodness; tolerance and understanding, kindness and generosity. We all wanted to be good, didn't we? I mean, I can't remember ever waking up in the morning and deciding to hurt as many people as I could that day. Like most of you, I'm sure, I wanted to incorporate those familiar words -- politeness, goodness, tolerance, kindness and generosity into my character as best as I could. Of course, I didn't always succeed, but I think I tried.

And now...

Things have gotten complicated, haven't they?

I can no longer watch PBS or CNN or especially MSNBC. Their blatant anti-Americanism makes me sick to my stomach. I am unsure of my new persona. I still have friends, but they are fewer in number, and their particular political leanings are now of the utmost importance. I am more wary of people and what they say. I am less interested in being polite and more interested in being truthful. I am no longer certain as to what being good means anymore. I see tolerance now as a potential enemy, an unthinking reaction that has put -- and is continuing to put -- our lives in jeopardy, a weakness that can be -- and is being -- effectively exploited by our enemies. Even those old unquestioned standbys, kindness and generosity have become suspect in this new and unfamiliar world. Are we being kind and generous by granting those murderous "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo almost the same Constitutional rights as any American citizen enjoys? Are we being kind and generous by refusing to profile Muslim men in our airports? Are we being kind and generous by allowing Muslims to build more and more mosques in this country and by acquiescing to their ceaseless and arrogant demands?

I'm afraid I have hardened. I am finding it increasingly difficult to play the game -- the politeness game. My life, all of our lives, are in terrible jeopardy and if you truly cannot -- or if you simply will not -- see this, then I can no longer just agree to disagree with you. The days of this friendly gentleman's agreement have long past. We are at war now. If you feel that it is your personal duty to try to undermine the moral foundation of this country of ours during this time of its greatest peril, I can no longer just agree to disagree with you. The lines have been drawn; they were drawn on 9/11.

There are, unfortunately, those among us who still believe in the inseparability of those comforting words: politeness and goodness; tolerance and understanding, kindness and generosity. Many of these people sincerely believe that all of the problems and all of the threats that we face today are our own fault, the results of our imperialistic racism and bigotry, and in Barrack Hussein Obama, they feel that they have found a way out of their collective guilt. They believe that he represents the personification of all of those lovely words. And they will proudly cast their votes for him this November and sleep soundly that night.

And we will be lost.

We are halfway there right now.


  1. Oddly enough my attention terrorism and things like CBW, explosive and drug detection predates September 11th. No doubt however, that since then, the urgency of performance, and the sense of purpose has increased (think back to Centennial Park and then to the Murrah Building).

  2. Before 9/11 or even the earlier attack on the World Trade Center I was one of those who tried to warn Americans on the dangerous nature of the Jihadist. But our pleas fell on deaf ears.

    Although terrorism isn't confined to the realm of the Jihadist (Remember the IRA?), the Jihadist is a different sort of animal and very often the left would scream racist at the suggestion that Muslims welcome and supported terror.

    I am still polite, there is no reason not to be so. But now my voice is raised with others who believe as I do. I take courage in that we have become many. Each of us see the threat and are trying to warn the world.

    But will our warnings be in time? I pray that they are, but too many people have returned to a pre-9/11 mentality.

  3. Thank you Debbie. Nice to hear from you.
    PS: I finally figured out how to get your icon on my sidebar to work as a hyperlink. Better late than never, right? lol

  4. Thanks Findalis. I still try to be polite too. and although it may not always sound like it, I remain very positive and optimistic. But --
    it is that last sentence of yours that fuels my fires. that slipping back into complacency.

  5. Greetings...I am not a blogger nor do I frequently leave commentary.

    Nothing has ever been the same in my world either since 9-11. It helps to read your very experience through the pen (keyboard) of someone with the talent to do so. My new world view often leaves me without the proper words. I have less in common with so many but have at least learned to pick and choose when to express myself. More and more get it but so many cannot hear or accept reality.

    I found a book that also hit me with the shared shift in pysche. It's "The Fallout: How a guilty liberal lost his innocence" by Andrew Anthony.


  6. To 2savvy --
    Whenever we write an article or voice an opinion, the chances of being misinterpreted are always present. Sometimes, when more people seem to miss the point you were trying to make, than to get it, it can become quite frustrating. Thankfully, I've got good friends and regular commenters who do get it -- some of whom got it long before I did.

    I posted this article to another website, however, and the very first commnenter made the observation that I seemed to have lost a lot on 9/11. And my immediate reaction was -- My God. If you don't feel as though you lost a lot on that day, that your life has been irrevocably altered, then you're just not paying attention.

    I must thank you for your sensitive and thoughtful comments, and for understanding exactly what I was trying to say and why I was trying to say it.

    Welcome to Radarsite, you're in good company here. Please come back often. -- rg

  7. My Dear Roger,

    We have in the past compared 9-11 to that fateful day one is informed that the irritating little ringing in their ears or twitch of the eye is actually the result of a brain tumor. Everything changes. Hope is not lost. But everything changes, and caution and precaution take on whole new dimensions.

    Your post here makes this point but in far more poetic and compelling fashion. You are so right, and yet over time this awareness, once so pervasive in the American psyche, fades in the din of inanity.

    Write on my friend. This is good and necessary work!



  8. Once again, Roger you've put your finger precisely on the problem we face.
    I had this picture of a flare being launched and in the glare, seeing the enemy approaching......
    But the enemy is already among us too, taking away our means to defend ourselves and sapping our resolve.
    The Left is every bit as much the enemy as some primitive maniac wired with explosives--perhaps more so because they don't even wear the uniform of primitivism or strange fanaticism.
    They're the mild-mannered schoolteacher next door, the sneering academic, the unprincipled politician and the uninformed, apathetic neighbour who votes liberal because it makes him feel good and he wants the State to take care of him.
    So, to most people the real enemies of our way of life are virtually invisible.
    Take care of the left first--the rest will be easy.

  9. Amazing timing KG, that you should post your great comments just at this particular moment. As you know I also cross post to Susan Duclos' Wake Up America. Here are the first comments I received there on this article, followed by Miss Beth's neat rebuttal, and then, finally, my response.
    This commenter is precisely the breed you were talking about. This is the enemy we have to defeat first if we can ever hope to defeat the foreign threats.
    Hope you enjoy this:

    "Oh my goodness. I'm not liberal or conservative; sometimes liberals' blatant elitism and snobbery against conservatives makes me sick. And then there are conservatives like this, who scare the pants off of me.

    We live in a new, dangerous world now, and everything's different. Wow. We can't be good anymore, we're in a war. Wow, ever read the bible?

    Hmm. I have noticed there is often a liberal bias in the media, but do you really believe that news sources that tell the truth instead of repeating "I Love America" over and over are a threat to national security??

    Should we allow Muslims to build more Mosques? I didn't realize this was even an issue. Does the Government hand out building permits on the basis of religion? I was under the assumption that we had freedom of religion here. I don't see how denying people the right to their religion makes America safe.
    Or are we talking about some kind of combative Mosque building? I was just in a Muslim country, and there was a mosque next door to every church, and they announce their call to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day. Do they do that here? Then they should be stopped. But what you are saying sounds like you think freedom of religion means you have the freedom to choose between Lutheran and baptist.

    We can no longer agree to disagree? What is the other option? You must silence through any means necessary any opinion or 'fact' that disagrees with your worldview? You must keep shouting your view over and over until the other side gives up? You must shun and distance yourself from anyone who doesn't follow your rhetoric? You must, by logical extension, preclude any possibility that anything you believe yourself might actually be wrong. I pray you have not made yourself as isolated and unlikable as you make yourself sound in this posting, rejecting old friends over problems of politics."
    Yikes | 06.16.08 - 11:12 pm | #

    Gravatar "Yikes, you are living in a liberal dream world. It has been proven repeatedly mosques in the US are fostering anti-american sentiment. That's number one. Second, islam is not a religion, it is a societal ideology. Period. There is no discussion in that area. Those that have taken the time to educate themselves know this. The Bible and the koran are not the same--one preaches love (the Bible) the other preaches hate, violence and terrorism as a way of life (the koran).

    Yes, we've read the Bible. We've also read the koran--have you? You don't have to agree or disagree, but when that sword comes down on your head, don't look to us for help--we'll be too busy fighting those who took the time to understand the true, STATED objective of islam--world domination at the point of a sword and the elimination of the US and Israel.

    Go educate yourself before coming back. What you're saying is way to "pre 9/11" to even give credence to. Politics in this day and age are a deadly serious business, and if you're too blind to see that, there is no educating you. You will be one of the first to fall, and it's a choice you have made for yourself. Keep that in mind as they're sawing off your head to hold up for the cameras like they did Nick Berg and Daniel Perl. If you think that's just fearmongering (a common response to facts), so be it. Like I said, it's your head and your choice.

    Time to start facing facts and take off the rose colored blinders--this ain't your daddy's USA anymore. Those without the guts and courage to face the facts will be the first to fall as nothing more than weaklings in the stated desire for world domination and US obliteration."
    Miss Beth | Homepage | 06.17.08 - 12:31 am | #

    Gravatar "Well hello Yikes. I think I will come out of my isolation and my unlikeablity just long enough to reject a new friend over problems of politics -- namely you, my dear Yikes.

    "And then there are conservatives like this, who scare the pants off of me." -- If that's really true, if I really did 'scare the pants off you', then I feel that I've accomplished something here.

    But, somehow I doubt it. Somehow I sense that you are too comfortably enscounced in your fuzzy-headed ignorance to contemplate change.
    Yes, we are alarmists and fear-mongers, we are yelling 'Fire' in the crowded theater. But you won't listen, we're disturbing your movie. But the theater is really on fire and there's not much time left to save your skin.
    But, you know better, don't you?
    In answer to your foolish attempt at condescension, I have read the bible, Old Testament and New several times. I have also made a careful statistical study of the Qur'an and have read -- and still read a great deal of Islamist literature. As Miss B. pointed out, we do our homework here.
    But you, my unfriendly Yikes, are the worst kind of fool. You ride in here on your inflated ego, and spew out a bunch of insulting nonsense and think that you have somehow made an impression on us. Well, you have made an impression on us alright.
    You are exactly the kind of complacent amateur who is putting all of our lives in jeopardy with your blind arrogance.

    Not only did you miss the whole point of that article, I sincerely believe that you are intellectually, and perhaps genetically, incapable of understanding it.

    You, my dear Yikes, are a lost cause, and you don't even know it.

    Good night and sweet dreams,
    Roger G."
    Roger W. Gardner | Homepage | 06.17.08 - 3:57 am | #

    Isn't this a perfect example of what we're up against?

  10. And what a lovely riposte to Yikes!

  11. GREAT BLOG! I agree with most of what you say and you express the problems better than I do.
    I worry for my country, I worry a LOT

  12. I've quoted you and linked to you here: