Blame

The following is my side of an e-mail exchange with Kyle Gann, who had posted on his web site that the events of September 11 were due to bad "karma" from US activities during the Gulf War.

I have met sincere Quakers and pacifists who, in addition to holding anti-war views, were actively involved, not in angry and non-peaceful protest acts and writings, but in providing assistance and help to the needy and oppressed, often at personal risk to themselves. Remember the Peace Corps? I fully respect those who hold those views, and the right of everyone to express themselves. I certainly respect your right to post on your own web page whatever you please.

Of course, the proper response to what one considers bad speech is more speech, so I assume you respect my right to disagree, and to clarify why. Blaming something on fate, doom, karma (ways of not believing in G-d) or G-d's will are all equivalent ways of saying that you know that this event in time resulted in some other event in time that is otherwise not connected. Such a belief system (I believe event A and B are connected) becomes silly if someone says, no, it is the events of January 30, 1646 which resulted in September 11, 2001, or, no, it is the accumulated karma of the events of 1917, 1941, 1963, etc., or... Well, you get the idea.

Of course, if you could show exactly how this led to that led to the other, that would be different, but then you wouldn't have to invoke karma.

Maybe you have a much more profound understanding and definition of "karma" than I do, but I have to read your statement the way the misunderstanding populace at large does: because we did this, G-d, the universe, or whatever entity accumulates and releases bad karma caused that. You might have said that the feelings you felt when one thing happened remind you of the feelings you felt when the other happened, but no, you had to bring "karma" into it. In fact, this is what you say in your response to me - moral equivalence is a personal judgement; "karma" is supernatural.

By the way, I wrote a silly poem 20 years ago about the word "offended." It can be found here. Perhaps that set you off.

Barry

P.S. How about the good karma my kid is spreading by sending that dollar off to the White House? Just a gimmick?

P.P.S. I wish I lived in a world where the 6 million innocent Jews weren't killed in the Holocaust, where millions of innocent people weren't killed in Hiroshima and Bosnia and by cult leaders and abortion bombers and ... Well, when are we going to stop hoping for human nature in the 20th century to stop using technology for destruction and start fighting evil in whatever way we can? Should we just airlift all of the Afghanis to our wonderful prosperous country? Gee, do you think that will cut down on the terrorist attacks on American soil? What's your solution? Say mea culpa and kill us please?

Salman Rushdie, "Let's get back to life", October 6, 2001:

"Better judgement will be required on all sides in future. No more Sudanese aspirin factories to be bombed, please. And now that wise American heads appear to have understood that it would be wrong to bomb the impoverished, oppressed Afghan people in retaliation for their tyrannous masters' misdeeds, they might apply that wisdon, retrospectively, to what was done to the impoverished, oppressed people of Iraq. It's time to stop making enemies and start making friends.

"To say this is in no way to join in the savaging of America by sections of the left that has been among the most unpleasant consequences of the terrorists' attacks on the United States. 'The problem with Americans is...' 'What America needs to understand...' There has been a lot of sanctimonious moral relativism around lately, usually prefaced by such phrases as these. A country which has just suffered the most devastating terrorist attack in history, a country in a state of deep mourning and horrible grief, is being told, heartlessly, that it is to blame for its own citizens' deaths. ("Did we deserve this, sir?" a bewildered worker at 'Ground Zero' asked a visiting British journalist recently. I find the grave courtesy of that 'sir' quite astonishing.)

"Let's be clear about why this bien-pensant anti-American onslaught is such appalling rubbish. Terrorism is the murder of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder. To excuse such an atrocity by blaming US government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions."

I wish I could express myself as eloquently as Rushdie, but I see no strength in numbers for the way you expressed yourself, and yes, insulting as it is, when Falwell blames the ACLU and you blame our treatment of Iraq - when many of us are finally transitioning from acute traumatic stress syndrome to post-traumatic stress syndrome - well, crossing over that line into the offensive is pretty easy. Look at that Village Voice cartoon where the cartoonist fell over himself to refer to people who wanted to talk about Iraq, rather than what you did, which was to establish a causal link.

It's the old "there is no evil, society is to blame, open up the prisons" stuff. I've never heard it applied to mass murder before. Moral relativism run amok.

Why not take the contents of your previous e-mail - which was much more sensitively expressed - and post it instead of the short and easily misinterpreted heading you put on your web site? Or are you so sure that revenge and anger are ways of advocating peace?

By the way, Falwell really went way over the line, you just stepped slightly over it. I certainly don't equivalence you.

Link back to My Personal September 11 Page.

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Last Updated: September 12, 2007