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Why Ask Why?

Natalia J. Garland

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Psychology, history, culture, politics: it all seems to get so muddled when Americans start asking why others hate us enough to kill us. It is a natural question for Americans to ask. We care. Most of us want to get along, whether with our neighbor or co-worker or other countries. We are the people who smile and say have a nice day. We give to charities. We adopt children. We rescue dogs and cats.

We are a civilized society. Despite our imperfections, despite strains of aberration and perverseness, we expect our government to protect the Constitutional rights of all citizens. If it does not, the courageous few will speak up until the wrongs have been righted for the benefit of all.

Many average citizens, however, seem to cope by using a defense mechanism of benign projection. We project onto others our own tendencies. We believe that, deep down, other people are just like us. That is, nice. It is difficult for us to fathom the chilling depths of antisocial behavior to which some individuals are capable. It seems incongruous to the national mind that those who do not have freedoms still have free will. Niceness can be just as one-dimensional as extremist fanaticism.

So, why do some people hate us? Let me answer a question with a question. Why do people single out America? World history is filled with atrocities. Other countries had slavery. There are segments of the Islamic world today where slavery still exists. Why the double standard? Other countries had military conquests. I loathe what the European explorers and early Americans did to the Native peoples. But the fact is, the white Europeans conquered this land. We all have to live together now and make the best of it. Nobody can turn back the clock and undo history at this point.

There is a problem of logic with the collective guilt theory. There are certain misled critics who state that, with the September 11th attacks, America is paying for its sins. These critics have a sort of grotesque version of what goes around comes around. This is illogical. The Americans who were killed were of various ethnic backgrounds, including some American Muslims. Also killed were visitors from a large number of foreign countries.

Besides, if we take a very cold look at this, does anyone really think that the 5,000 lives lost at the World Trade Center could possibly atone for the massacres committed against the indigenous peoples? Or for the emotional damage experienced by even one black female slave who was repeatedly raped by her white owner? How can the critics measure or judge the sins of history and conclude that America deserved what it got on September 11th? The people against whom these sins were committed are not here to speak for themselves. Where did the critics get the authority to speak for them?

Perhaps the critics are in denial. Perhaps it is easier to criticize America than to face the reality of terrorism. If we blame ourselves for what happened on September 11th, we could develop a national identity of co-dependency. Like the spouse of an alcoholic, or like a battered woman, or an abused child, we would accept others' unacceptable behavior and then wonder what is wrong with us instead of what is wrong with them. We would always be asking: why do some people hate us enough to kill us?

Terrorists seem to regard themselves as victims and therefore justified. Antisocial personalities have that same tendency. Terrorists also use projection: you are a terrorist. Criminal behavior is extremely difficult to comprehend, especially for those not of that type. There are people who feel entitled to take what others have worked hard for. They do not care about you. They do not mind manipulating your history and your feelings to get what they want. Or, killing you. (Written 12/03/01 - Revised 12/01/03)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2001, 2003 Natalia J. Garland