September 11 Awakening The Spirit Of America

778 words - 4 pages

September 11: Awakening the Spirit of America

Late in September I found myself talking to Quaker kids: solid citizens all, more hard-working, serious, and responsible than 13-to-16-year-olds ought to be. But pacifists, mostly, and to a person they were worried, even scared. Bush had not yet delivered his "either with us or against us" speech, I think, but the message was abroad: school friends and others had given the teens to understand pretty clearly that criticism of the U.S. amounted to support for the terrorists. To their credit, few of the teens actually had kept silent, but they were closer to being intimidated than I would have imagined this formidable group of kids could be. ...view middle of the document...

Whatever response we make to the terrorist attacks should include a revision of those policies."

Why on earth does this look like the claim that the terrorists were right? Well, because it looks like the claim that we're wrong, about something. Apparently the inference is this: "If our policies were wrong, then the terrorists were right, and their acts were justified." Note the ironic convergence: none of the critics of U.S. policy make this inference, only (1) the new patriotic absolutists and (2) the terrorists themselves.

Why does the critic of U.S. policy look like a moral relativist? That's harder to explain, but I think the reasoning must be roughly this: "Some critics are trying to get us to understand the terrorists, to see things from their point of view. But to do this would be to acknowledge that they're right from their point of view, just as we are from ours." Note that this doesn't in fact amount to moral relativism: you can maintain that someone's right in their own eyes without granting that they actually are right about anything whatsoever - certainly without granting that they're right to crash airplanes full of helpless people into occupied buildings. But to acknowledge that the...

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