Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Krugman's "heresy" and my thoughts about 9/11

I have to admit that my first response to reading the many attacks on Paul Krugman post 9/11/2011 was bafflement. I read Krugman's piece, filed it under "Yup, that's probably how pretty much everyone except the extreme right thinks", and went on with my day, unaware that a furore had broken out. When I finally noticed, I read the attacks and... well, didn't understand them. Plenty of negative labels, but virtually no reasoning or explanation of why the piece was considered beyond the pale. Indeed, given the propensity of Krugman's regular critics to quote him out of context in an effort to mislead about what he's actually proposed, I wondered if this was merely a more extreme case, coupled with the "rightwing outrage machine".

So, I continued reading, and quite honestly, it wasn't until the center-left started to pile in that I started to "get" the argument. The center left was, at least, able to give reasons why they feel that on balance, given the pros and cons, they felt, overall, in general, that perhaps Krugman had crossed the line.

What was the line? Well, supposedly it was criticizing the leadership of the country circa 2001, and because that leadership was Republican (Krugman even used the term "conservatives"), this was partisan. And it was wrong to be "partisan" because, well, 9/11 was a tragedy, and you must not be partisan on a day of tragedy.

Am I right in suggesting that was the core issue the Republicans who bandied around comments like "Shameful" and even "Treason" were most concerned about? If I'm not, then please don't continue to read this post. Reply to it, and explain why I'm wrong.

My view of Professor Krugman is this: the man is one of the few "pundits" (well, he writes opinion pieces for the New York Times, so I guess he qualifies as one) who speaks uncomfortable truths, and as such he's been pretty much frozen out of the political system, treated as an "unserious" person in much the same way as Glenn Greenwald. There's a massive gap between what he actually says, and what his critics claim he says, as becomes obvious when you read his blog on a regular basis. And, for the most part (one rather poor blog entry on gold not included) he seems to be right on the money.  No pun intended. In some ways, what's bizarre is how conventional his thinking is. His economics are merely an evolved set of the same principles that were used from the 1940s to the 1970s. He opposes unnecessary wars, and is unhappy about the direction of the country in that sense. Krugman seems to feel that unemployment is a problem, and that it's somewhat cruel to put people out of work if you can easily avoid it.

So with that out of the way, what of Sunday's blog entry? Was it appropriate?

I'm going to speak for myself right now, because I can't speak for anyone else. I do not, obviously, speak for Krugman. I couldn't even if I wanted to.

I love the United States. This is a wonderful country. It still is. There's a core here that stands for freedom, for democracy, and for "the pursuit of happiness". That latter term is absolutely the right way to describe the people of America, for much of liberty is simply a method to that end. Our economy and laws reflect a people that wants to build and create, and use that production to lift us ever higher. When we as a nation are at our best, living our principles, we not only make things better for

So any attack on it, inside or outside, that undermines our liberties or substantially changes our voice, forcing it to utter words and perform deeds that contradict our very essence, is something that upsets me. And I believe that my sentiments are shared by many of those on the left.

What happened post 9/11 was an attack on those very principles. We saw one dubious war, and one completely unnecessary war, with no regard to basic moral principle that war is a terrible act that must be executed only at the most extreme necessity. We saw our government adopt draconian security policies, culminating in the imprisonment without trial of "suspected terrorists" - a large proportion of whom have subsequently been found to be entirely innocent - and we saw the adoption of torture and general abuse into the mainstream.

Government abuses aside, we also saw an unpleasant shift in our political establishment towards right-wing extremism. By this I mean many mainstream Republicans have started to bang the drums of intolerance and hatred in the name of "fighting terror", especially demonizing ordinary Muslims. From the attacks on those proposing building a Mosque in lower Manhattan, to Rep. Peter King's hearings on "radicalization", these are attacks on our principles, they fight liberty. They fight the pursuit of happiness.

But what of this? Is it possible for someone to to be as angry about the hijacking of American politics as they are about the killing of thousands through the hijacking of four planes? Leaving aside the hundreds of thousands of people who have died precisely due to the actions those who abused this event performed, there's also a critical element those who compare one to the other ignore: this tragedy was built upon the other. These 3,000 people were not murdered in a separate incident, but their deaths were exploited to bring about this result.

And so, for many of us on the left, we associate 9/11 with more than the murders of 3,000 people. We see a much greater tragedy. We are angry about the greater tragedy/ And we mourned on Sunday not just for the 3,000, but for the greater damage that was caused. You can't expect us to put our feelings about that day in a box, simply because you care less about those principles we saw damaged than we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Replies are welcome, but be aware comments are moderated. Be friendly, on-topic, and all of the things I'm not!