“How can someone believe that?”
This has been a far too common question in recent history. It first occurred to me when I learned about Germany during the Hitler era. My mind could grasp one man’s insanity, but how could millions of Germans follow him in his hatred of Jews and twisted vision of Aryanism? Did anybody have a conscience?
This question presented itself once again when faced with the specter of terrorists so twisted that the murder of 6,000 civilians could be seen as benefiting a greater cause. Six thousand civilians, killed simply for being American, most likely by militants brainwashed with idyllic pictures of martyrdom and an eternity spent in paradise.
How can someone believe that?
Sadly enough, such a stark departure from reality in favor of the rigid attendance to a twisted ideology has revealed itself here in Madison, so blatant it too approaches the brainwashing necessary to believe killing 6,000 civilians will transport you to paradise.
These illusions are readily seen by reading the opinion section of both campus papers or by attending some of the “peace” rallies so prevalent here in Madison. What you find is a disturbing number of individuals who somehow believe America deserved this attack.
“These events are the harvest of seeds we have sown through our actions.” “We had neither our democracy nor our freedom challenged, but rather our interventional and often coercive use of military and economic capital.” “The United States itself has committed acts of terrorism through bombing, infiltration of governments, and sponsored coups.” “The American public needs to realize that the United States has done some horrible things internationally and the press altered the truth.” “The U.S. government is, without a doubt, one of the most genocidal and murderous political entities of the 20th century … our leaders are war criminals just as much as people like Hitler, Stalin and other monsters of the 20th century.”
How can someone believe that? How can someone compare the country that arguably did the most to rid the world of Hitler, to Hitler? How can someone compare the country that rebuilt Europe and Japan, utterly devastated after that war, to those whose who caused that destruction? How can someone compare the country that defended the world from the imperialism of the USSR to the brutality of Stalin, who spent the years after World War II colonizing those countries the USSR had “liberated?” How can someone blame the United States for the starvation of thousand of Iraqi’s when Saddam Hussein refuses to spend billions of dollars he has received in the UN “oil-for-food” program? How can someone fault the United States for acting in Kosovo to stop genocide, especially when our lack of action permitted the murder of hundreds of thousands in Rwanda? How is the murder of thousands of civilians morally equivalent to supporting the only democracy in the Middle East (not to mention the pouring of billions into Egypt as well)? How can we be racist against Afghans when we give more humanitarian aid to those impoverished people than to any other country in the world?
How can someone believe that?
The answer lies in a feature common to all the previous illusions — the suppression of full and free debate.
One feature common to Hitler, the Taliban and twisted regimes everywhere is the suppression of free expression. Those leading such movements are sane enough to recognize that almost any alternative viewpoint will expose the absurdity of their beliefs.
But while such censorship is usually forced on those who inspire the question of “how could someone believe that,” the disturbing thing is the anti-Americans have brainwashed themselves.
It is no small coincidence that many of these letters and many of the protesters chanting such anti-American rhetoric are the same letter writers and protesters that vilified The Badger Herald for publishing an ad that offended them. The outcry was endemic of a much larger problem – in short, unpopular or politically incorrect views have been filtered out and censored for so long that the status quo is blindly embraced and militantly defended.
And in the case of the far left on this campus, the status quo is that America is evil. Thus the haste to blame America for this tragedy serves to complete their picture of the world. But it is a picture so warped it is comparable in distortion to the viewpoint of the suicide-hijackers.
Benjamin Thompson (bthomp[email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science.