Courage in the Face of Terror, Elsewhere

After 9/11, we were told how brave New Yorkers were, how resilient this city was, how its people would come together in the face of adversity, how it had seen worse and endured and would do the same again. After 7/7 we were told that Londoners, who lived in a city that had survived the Blitz and fought off Nazi attacks, would live to fight another day, that the day after the attack, stoic Londoners who could take a punch and roll with it were already back at work determined to move on, keeping upper lips stiff, and their chins up. Now, after 4/15 we are told Boston was the wrong city to mess with, that it and its residents will take this and move on, that the terrorists will find no victory here, that the city is strong and will endure.

I trust I sound repetitive above. For there is a pattern in there. (One whose details could be unpacked in even greater detail had I been more diligent in tracking down the original sources of commentary that I refer to.) Its outlines are clear: some places, some locales, which bear the brunt of acts of ‘terror’ and ‘dastardly attacks’ committed by ‘terrorists’ and ‘cowards’ are sites for the display of resilience and courage and fortitude. They serve as showcases for local character on occasions on which the accumulated history of resistance that they have built up can be unfurled in the face of the offender.

These tributes, well-meant and sincere and full of compassion for those whose lives have been afflicted by the scourge of the anonymously violent, give me occasion for pause. I wonder if other sites, other venues for the display of terror, are inhabited by people who show similar fortitude and courage. I wonder whether Baghdad–where improvised explosive devices like those used in London and Boston are exceedingly common, as are the tangled masses of flesh and blood and torn limb that are their inevitable result–is populated by the brave or by the cowardly, by the determined or by the milquetoast.  I wonder whether its citizens get up in the morning and go to work the day after a bombing; I wonder whether the parents who live there dare to send their kids to school the day after a massacre in their neighborhoods, and if they do, whether they are congratulated for their non-quivering upper lips and their chins held upright. I’m curious about whether the citizens of Gaza recover quickly after an aerial assault causes the loss of life of their loved ones. Do they just flop around, wailing and mourning, unhinged and disconsolate, plotting their next dastardly revenge? I wonder about those who live in Afghan villages, subjected sometimes to the invasive patrol, the droning drone, the unexploded ordnance or mine, or a local warlord’s imprecations. Do they display ‘stubborn resilience’ as well? Or are all these folks–the ones in Baghdad, Gaza, or Afghanistan–just fatalistically resigned to their fates?

Depending on how we view their actions, we might find the  people who live in places like these deserve our admiration too.

11 comments on “Courage in the Face of Terror, Elsewhere

  1. JR says:

    This post is for a month from now, or three months, or a year. You are such an asshole. I wish you the worst. You are a tactless, vain, twit. I’d say that I am entirely unimpressed by you, but I am actually impressed by your ability to be a complete asshole. I can’t believe that anyone considers you qualified to teach anyone. I guess you get what you pay for. I would think that as a new father, you’d know better. You don’t.

    You don’t have the market cornered on being an asshole, but it’s not for lack of trying. What a huge dick you are.

    • Amanda says:

      This is one of the strangest comments I could imagine to a thoughtful post. Without wanting to see any follow up whatsover, I feel compelled to say that I find it utterly bizarre that someone could be accused of being an asshole because he pointed out that other places and people experience terror on a frequent basis. Samir did not diminish the pain of the people who suffered in Boston. It is legitimate to wonder, particularly when the suffering in other places is often caused by Americans, if perhaps we would do well to see the people in those other places as also being human beings. What a strange and misguidedly hostile person you seem to be, JR. Who is the asshole? Samir for pointing out that “valor” is found in more than Americans or you for assuming that only Americans, Bostonians in particular, deserve sympathy?

  2. JR says:

    Amanda, it’s a question of timing. Another example would be how Paul Krugman was roundly criticized for his ill-timed blog post that was similar in vein to this, on the anniversary of Sep 11. You can think whatever you like of me, but I am far from alone in this. Many, many, people would feel the same way as I do, even if you aren’t one of them. The only difference between the reaction to Krugman and the reaction to this is that virtually nobody reads this.

    It’s a question of tact and timing. If you don’t understand that, there is really nothing for me to say.

  3. JR says:

    Amanda, we all agree that people are people anywhere in the world. That’s not the point. Are you a big liberal? If you are, do you know Mother Jones? The point is that Mother Jones is very liberal, and even they took issue with Krugman…take a look here

    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/09/paul-krugman-9-11

    so you see, it’s not an idealogical issue. It’s a human issue. At some point, we are all supposed to transcend these things, in a show of respect.

    Samir has no respect for the families that have suffered today. He’s a new father. One father lost a son, has a daughter that lost a leg, and a wife undergoing brain surgery.

    Now….if that family was in Afghanistan, or Gaza, it would be the same…you mourn for their loss…you don’t write idealogical garbage..it’s inappropriate, and viewed to be so by anyone with a shred of self-respect.

    • awbraae says:

      It is hardly ideological to point out that people outside of America and Western Europe are also the victims of terrorism, both state sponsored and otherwise. Its just a fact, and Samir is right to point out that our perception of an event varies widely depending on where it happens.

  4. JR says:

    Amanda, lastly two questions: Firstly, you said this of me “or you for assuming that only Americans, Bostonians in particular, deserve sympathy?” Can you please point to where I said any such thing?

    Secondly, based on your reading comprehension skills, (or lack thereof) is it safe to infer that you are one of Samir’s students?

  5. Ben says:

    JR. Which part offended you so much? Your straw man Krugman piece blamed people and criticized politicians. Samir advised what, pausing? Thinking? Yet you wish him the worst?

    • JR says:

      Ben, sorry you don’t understand. Really, if it’s not obvious to you, I’m not going to waste my time here.

      • Anna says:

        Yes, JR, it is probably best that you leave — and take your crap “arguments” and concerns with you. The level of personal hostility that you have displayed suggest that this, a forum for people who think before they spew, is really not for you. So, run along, and let the adults talk. Okay?

  6. JR says:

    To be fair, in terms of hostility, it probably all started when Samir asked to be friends with me on facebook, and I saw all of his pictures, like the one with protestors taunting police by holding fishing lines in front of policeman, with donuts on them. I was shocked at that, and offended.

    I go to my grandfather’s grave all of the time and miss him dearly, and I can’t help but be offended with some of what Samir spews. I really shouldn’t have looked here, but somehow, I knew he was going to say something that was not appropriate for the day.

    (Even though I really dislike him for the way that he has insulted my family, I think he is right in context here, just astounded at his timing. it’s very telling.)

    I tried to explain that he might not know all police, etc. etc..and he did his whole “f. the police” thing, posts about taunting them, etc. no apologies, just hurling insults and ad hominem attacks about all police in general. (How is that different than generalizing about the gaza strip, or afghanistan? that’s not something I do myself, but it seems to bother Samir..I can understand that…too bad the police thing is such a blind spot, in terms of generalizing.)

    It deeply offended me, and I haven’t really liked him ever since. I have a lot of police in my family, and some very close friends, including one that was shot and pulled the bullet out of his body, and then, after that, in another incident, was paralyzed from the waist down.

    And you’re right, I was hostile, probably more than I should have been, but that doesn’t change how I feel about Samir, and it doesn’t change that I am right on his lack of tact and timing. Emotions are running high right now for many people. As a father, I find it particularly troubling.

    As far as I am concerned, he has insulted several generations of my family, and I take it personally. He’s insulted my entire bloodline, repeatedly.

    Right now my good friends are hiding with their children in Cambridge. So to me, it’s a little too soon to start doing ANYTHING other than pray for victims.

  7. Ben says:

    Guess you did waste your time after all. Simply reflecting that a lot of other people in the world go through this a lot more frequently is not in any way disrespectful to the victims of Boston. Any perceived disrespect to you and yours was not intentional, I’d happily wager. I can’t say the same about directly wishing harm to come to him and his family. Seems pretty hypocritical for someone who is sitting around praying.

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