Friday, September 15, 2006

The Antiwar Movement since 9-11 Part2

Why did the antiwar movement repel me so much since 9-11, even though they were, on the issue of Iraq, right on the core policy question: to invade Iraq would result in a quagmire, which would make life much worse for the Iraqis, and have seriously negative consequences for the United States and the American people.

Emotional reasons: the peace movement never seemed to be on the same page emotionally with the rest of us.
  • Yes, they thought 9/11 was tragic and awful, but only in the context of a world full of tragic and awful things. Kind of like a friend who while sympathizing with the death of someone you love can't help but mention that a lot of people you don't know died even worse deaths.
  • Yes, they could understand how other people were angry, but they seemed more afraid of that anger than anything else. The anger expressed by ordinary citizens was a fearful problem that needed to be managed. Even the widespread display of flags etc. seemed to be worrisome to many anti-war and peace activists. It finally hit me at one point: the peace movement was uncomfortable with ordinary Americans publicly expressing any emotional response to 9/11. While their rhetoric acknowledged anger and national solidarity as normal responses to 9/11, which even they shared, the sights and sounds of ordinary Americans expressing those same emotions set off alarm bells in their heads. I realized that much of the antiwar and peace movements feared the American people.
  • I remember feeling at the time time that the peace folks I knew had taken up a position of swimming against the emotional tide. Where people expressed fear, they argued that our expectations of safety were a privilege denied to many. Where people expressed anger, they pointed out that it was possible to see that we might have deserved this. Where people expressed national solidarity, they sang "This is my Song."
The emotional disjoint between the peace movement and the rest of the country was obvious within days of 9/11. It was impossible not to read the substantive policy proposals they made in the same light. I'll talk about that in Part 3.

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