I have some thoughts on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks at Democracy in America. I also agree with my colleague Roger McShane's assessment that, in the shock and distress immediately following the attacks, Americans acquit themselves with courage and goodness.

I think this points to a reasons why many people, myself included, were offended by Paul Krugman's comments on the subject:

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

The memory of the attacks, he concluded "has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame." It occurs to me that the extent to which you share that view might reflect your underlying views on who we, collectively, are. I think we are the people, not the politicians. So while I agree with him that some people displayed some unsavory behavior, I don't think the people, collectively, should be ashamed of themselves. I would imagine that our feelings on the anniversary were somewhat more nuanced. I would expect it to involve Some combination of sorrow for those who suffered, anger at those who perpetrated these attacks, disappointment with those who politicized it,  determination to avoid naivete or excess, and pride in the people who, facing a senseless and monstrous act, responded with dignity and decency.

And in fact, the vast majority of people who wrote or spoke about 9/11 yesterday did offer a more complex emotional/moral perspective than Mr Krugman was prescribing. In response to the criticism, he elaborates his thinking a bit today:

Now, I should have said that the American people behaved remarkably well in the weeks and months after 9/11: There was very little panic, and much more tolerance than one might have feared. Muslims weren’t lynched, and neither were dissenters, and that was something of which we can all be proud.

The soft bigotry of low expectations, American public morality edition. An absence of lynching Muslims and dissenters is not "something of which we can all be proud." It's actually something I expect as a matter of course. Why does Mr Krugman have such a low view of his fellow citizens? 
 



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