The terrorist attack made me scared first. I worried for Alex. I was relieved when I heard that Tasos and Greg (who works in the WTC) were safe. I was startled to hear from British Alex that he was in the subway a block and a half away at the time of the explosions. I still have moments of random worry for people I just haven't talked to yet -- people who had no reason to be in that place at that time, but you never know.
When I got past my immediate worry for people I knew, it made me sad. For all the people I didn't know who had died. For the families and friends waiting to hear. I managed not to cry until the first time I clicked onto a site that had begun listing the names of the known dead. I'm still sad for those people. I don't normally watch much news tv, but the net has kept me very aware of how traumatic this has been for so many.
But yesterday, I started being more afraid for us and what we'll become. Last night, this morning, I lay in bed with my stomach churning, thinking over some of the jingoistic responses I've seen in the message boards and mailing lists. Frightened by the ignorance most Americans have of our own role in funding and training terrorists and sending them in to overthrow governments we don't approve of (in the process killing many many innocents who are just trying to live their daily lives). So much of the rhetoric has been of the -- "if they support terrorism at all, we have every right to destroy them." People -- that's us. We do that.
I have no real doubt that our government will do things in response to this that I don't approve of, from using it as an excuse to wiretap the net, to killing many more people than it needs to. I expect that of them, sadly. It frustrates me, but it doesn't scare me -- or rather, I'm used to living with that fear.
What has shocked me (and continues to do so) is the way in which the net has made me aware of how many people I know are willing to respond to this event by "bombing the Arabs" -- without a thought, a question, a hesitation as to the ethics or effectiveness of such action. I was talking to Kevin yesterday and he asked me why it was that I was more upset with other Americans than I was with the terrorists. It took me a minute to figure out the answer:
I expect terrorists to be heavily-propagandized, thoroughly-indoctrinated, religious fundamentalists willing to kill and die for whatever rhetoric they've been pumped up with. In my view, they're pretty damn close to insane already, and I can be angry at their acts, and angry at the people who train them, but I think in my mind, I've classified them as lost causes. They've been conditioned to the point where they're just not so close to human anymore -- they have to be, to be able to fly a plane into a building full of people. They can kill innocents without a single moral qualm, because someone has taught them that they're justified in it.
I expected better of us.