I'll give him this one

I really hate Bill Maher. I've never seen his cable show since I don't have HBO, and, as I said, I hate him, but his regular show drove me insane. And that was before the idiot guests you wanted to reach into the TV set and throttle came on. However, I have to tip my hat to this little rant, courtesy of Atrios. Maher says:

But by the looks of your convention, you'd think that the worst thing that ever happened to us was the best thing that ever happened to you. You just can't keep celebrating the deadliest attack ever as if it's your personal rendezvous with greatness. You don't see old men who were shot down during World War II jumping out of a plane every year. I mean, other than your dad...So I say, if you absolutely must win an election on the backs of dead people, do it like they do in Chicago, and have them actually vote for you.

This really goes to the essence of what I'll call the "9/11 lovers". These people aren't really interested in stopping terrorism, or taking a practical approach to domestic security, or other boring, unsexy, difficult things like that. The object of their love is their own narrative of the attacks. The emotional catharsis they felt watching the tragedy unfold and the closeness they felt to their countrymen. The shining feeling of moral certitude they found by declaring their unique and eloquent opposition to terrorism and cruelty. The delicious twinge of courage and decisiveness which twitches in their breast as they announce their bright line in the sand, and their willingness to sacrifice as many lives and dollars as necessary for the cause.

The lovers are jealous of their love, as all lovers must be. One must be a true believer or not at all. In this way, facts and practical realities come to seem less troubling. The primary object, you see, is the perpetuation of that love. Wrapped in their ecstasy, the lovers feel comfortable dismissing these challenges with any old rationalization that will make the problem go away quickly, and return their gaze to the love object.

How can so many people fetishize such a tragic, awful problem? Because it doesn't cost them anything of course. If the 9/11 lovers seem to be awfully carefree for war partisans, its because they don't really have much to worry about. Even New Yorkers, who should actually be worried (unlike most of the people supporting Bush), can't claim a fraction of the justified fear a resident of Tel Aviv today or a Londoner of the 40s felt. As far as material hardship goes, the symbol of this war will be tax cuts and checks in the mail, not ration cards. And, while certainly sobering over one's morning coffee, very few Americans can claim direct sacrifice from the war's casualties.

This is war in the abstract (until you actually get there, of course). Nowhere is that more clear than in the frequent and shameful comparisons to World War II. In summoning that war of truly universal, devastating price, the 9/11 lovers stake their claim to the story of sacrifice, of courage, of history they so desperately covet, yet are denied. It was probably bound to happen, seeing as how we just came off a decade characterized by restless comfort, topped off by a lot of feelings of inadequacy in the face of Greatest Generation tributes.

I don't necessarily blame all of the 9/11 lovers, some of whom you can't help but marvel at their earnestness (until you start thinking about all the death and lost opportunities, that is). But less forgiveable are the operatives of the Bush operation, who know exactly what they are dealing with, and have raised to an art the craft of exploiting this sugar-coated war. These people have been given unlimited freedom and audacity to mold the country and the world into a reasonable facsimile of the 9/11 lovers' fantasy in order to consolidate their political might.


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