Thursday, September 15, 2005


On Fear, and How Not To Handle It

Some more thoughts on the (ongoing) violence in Gaza, inspired by La Shawn Barber's post on the subject.

Why is it that the media screams for weeks on end about an unsubstantiated rumor -- if that rumor is mistreatment of a Koran -- but can't be bothered to cover Muslim desecration of synagogues?

My hunch is that there's a very simple motivation involved -- fear.

Let's be blunt. Jews have not been kidnapping political prisoners and beheading them; Jews have not threatened journalists with violence for unflattering coverage. Jews do not riot in the streets, killing people and destroying property, because a Bible, or even a Torah scroll, is desecrated. Nobody is concerned about planes being hijacked by Jews.

Muslims, on the other hand, have done all these things, in the name of Islam... and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some journalists, who try to watch such things up-close if they can, are frightened.

Sure, they don't sound frightened. But fear often masquerades as anger; ask any parent of teenagers. And I do wonder if the insane hatred we saw, targeting the Bush Administration and the U.S. military for outrages real or imagined at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, was really just fear of reprisal. Instead of pillorying Bush, perhaps they meant to say "We had nothing to do with this; please don't attack us".

(Does anyone remember the Not In Our Name demonstrations, and the many well-meaning idiots who apologized to the world for Bush's reelection?)

I don't know how true this is; I'm not a psychologist. But it would explain a great many things.

And, to the extent that this train of thought is valid, let me point out one of its connotations. There's a name for someone who blames only those who won't retaliate; someone who only gets angry when it's safe to do so, against people you can count on not to respond in kind.

That word is "coward".

If you're offended by that word, I'm sorry to hear it. But everyone ought to decide if that word applies to them or not. If you feel brave in "speaking truth to power" to the American government, but are unwilling to debate a Palestinian on the outrages of Arafat and his legacies, then perhaps you should wonder what you're afraid of. If you insist on the right to march and demonstrate, but also want immunity from arrest, then you should think about that too.

And if you write only about the supposed inhumanity of the Israeli government, while ignoring the barbarism that ensues when Palestinians are left to govern themselves -- or if you write endlessly about Cindy Sheehan calling Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world", while refusing to acknowledge Muslim terrorism when it's staring you in the face -- then "coward" might be just the word you're looking for.

If you'd like to know about courage -- the antithesis of cowardice -- then you might want to read what Bill Whittle has said on the subject. Personally, I prefer the simpler formulation of Eric Frank Russell: "Courage is fear faced with resolution". Or, to paraphrase Col. David Hackworth, "Courage means being the only one who knows you're afraid."


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