Is dissent in post-Sept. 11 America, and during wartime, still touchy?

September 10th and 11th are upon us again.  In the post-Sept. 11th era, in terms of politics and emotions, that date affects us in ways that, on Sept. 10th, we couldn’t calculate or anticipate.

In our collective national grief, disbelief, fragility and rage, it was easy to find the enemy in the other.

That’s common.  What was unseemly was that we took it farther: reducing a whole people or whole faith to that.

The more critically thoughtful and open-minded of us chastised those who clung to their “facts” about Arabs and Muslims.  I usually discuss subjects that involve the mass media or politics, or the intersection of that duo.  Dissent is vital to both, as we hope that civility might also be…one day.

When this date, September 11, comes around, someone usually says something foolish, or ignorant or outright brain dead, one of those peoples.  Do we respond to this with any more grace or civility than we used to, as we did on Sept 10, 2001?

I’m Just Asking…

Between Sept. 10th and 11th, a lot of our American culture changed.  Dissent in time of war didn’t become bad, it became worse than bad.  Why is dissent a disgrace in some peoples’ eyes?  And why are those people so often conservative?

Please think about Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s words:

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

We Americans have a devil of a time understanding, absorbing and acting on this fact.

When I think about September 11th, what hangs in my mind, after memories of the TV news coverage of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, are the American voices that became louder and shriller saying, on one hand, get the Arabs and Muslims, and, on the other, all the Arabs and Muslims; why all?   Soon it became a pissing context between conservatives and progressives over what makes an American, true American.

The last eleven years have been scary for dissent: Do you remember when Bill Maher lost his job after having stood fast in criticizing Pres Bush’s policies and politics?  How about when the Dixie Chicks did, after lead singer Natalie Maines apologized to Great Britain because Pres. Bush was from Texas?

I’m Just Asking…

An historical and iconic CBS News reporter, Edward R. Murrow, said that

“we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.  When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.”


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