Thursday, June 13, 2013

USA's Roller-coaster: Over-reaction -- Apathy

I've stumbled across a couple of articles this week where the writer compares, unfavourably, the attitudes of most people in the USA immediately after 9/11 events, to the attitudes of the British during attacks on their country during World War 2. Y'all cannot possibly compare events and reactions to World War 2 with reactions to the event of 9/11 2001 for goodness sake!!

Now....while the idea has often occurred to me that the people of the USA, in general, over-react - tend towards a communal paranoia on several fronts, and display a definite tendency to hyperbole on all fronts, I'd never categorised this as anything resembling cowardice, as implied in the articles I read. Take Stephen Pizzo's piece at Smirking Chimp, for instance. In referring to The Patriot Act:
Be Ashamed, Americans

Who gave them the right to do that? Well, we did. Yes we did.

In the flash, 9/11 turned cocky, self-satisfied Americans into a mob of scared school girls. We went screaming to "Daddy" demanding to be kept safe from "terrorists." Spare us the details, we said, and just get-et done, we demanded.

Stop for a moment and compare that response to how the Brits responded to years of terror weapons raining down on their cities during WW II.

"Starting on 7 September 1940, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London. Ports and industrial centres outside London were also heavily attacked; the major Atlantic sea port of Liverpool was the most heavily bombed city outside London, suffering nearly 4,000 dead."

Americans had never felt such a blow. But, unlike the Brits who, rather than panic, stood up, strapped on a pair, and just kept on keeping on, we freaked out after 9/11. Three jets, a two buildings and 3000 dead, and we went to pieces.

Be ashamed, Americans. Be very ashamed. One attack, tiny by comparison, and our first response is to offer up our freedoms in return for protection.

And so came the Patriot Act; likely the most un-American piece of legislation ever passed by Congress and signed into law by an American president. It was slapped together by panicked government employees, passed by politicians who were far more terrified of their terrified constituents than they were of actual terrorists, and signed into law by the dumbest man ever to serve in the Oval Office.

We did that. Because we let them do that.

An English commenter (L. Harrison) agreed, and adds information about the devastation of the city of Plymouth during WW 2. I'm eligible to add my own views on this. I was born in Hull, a busy east coast port which also came in for blitzing by the Luftwaffe. We never knew from one morning to the next whether we'd still be around, or whether the house next door might be a pile of rubble, especially as we lived near a park with a large boating lake, which was often mistaken by German pilots for the docks, and they sometimes dropped their bombs not far from our doorstep. I was a very young child -just a baby at the start of it all, so have only fragmented memories, but do remember seeing the devastation downtown in the city centre, later on.

Reactions during a World War are something quite different from those following a single event coming out of the blue in peacetime (or what passes for peacetime). During wartime citizens become hardened to the possibility that death is just around the next corner, or will come during the next night. They learn to live with that, little by little. They have to - what else is there? People of the USA would be the same, I believe. 9/11 came out of the blue, a shock to the system, immediate reactions were understandable. What isn't understandable is that people have not demanded during ensuing years, that The Patriot Act be reviewed, rather than renewed. Apathy descended, complacency reigned and there lay the danger. The People can never, ever, afford to become complacent. Apathy isn't cowardice, but apathy of the masses has led to the situation in the USA - on several fronts.

It's as though initial hyperbolic over-reaction and paranoia moves on to dip to the other, more dangerous extreme: apathy.


♥ Sonny ♥ said...

I Concur.. seems we have lost all sense of passion to do whats right NOW.. we cannot change or errors but we certainly dont need to continue them.

ps- may I have the apathy photo for my sidebar.? I'l like to keep that message uppermost in peoples minds who visit my blog..

mike said...

A major omission in your commentary, Twilight, is that the USA, already involved in a war in Afghanistan, elected to declare war with Iraq for harboring terrorists and weapons of mass destruction (false...oops!). The all-inclusive declaration of "war on terrorism" allowed (and still allows) the US military, FBI, and CIA to conduct war stratagems around the globe, as needed...convenient, eh?! This was against the UN council vote and led to crimes committed against the Geneva Convention rules. The Authorization of Using Military Force further declares that all US officials that "may commit war crimes" will not be punished for such acts...convenient, eh?!

Oddly, your commentary is somewhat the reverse of the situation, as the USA is the 2000s version of the Luftwaff. But I do agree with the gist of your post.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~~ I borrowed the apathy graphic from somewhere, (where I cannot recall), myself - so, of course - do be their/my guest! It's well worth sharing. :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Erm....I'm confused now!
Maybe I lost myself in what I'd meant to highlight in this post, mike....or maybe I'm not understanding your point....or maybe I am.....wait....I need more coffee....

I was debating the point some writers have made that people of the USA have displayed cowardly tendencies as compared with Brits during WW2. I outlined my view of the general public's emotional tendencies, as I've seen them during my time here.

In your comment are you meaning that the fact that the US manipulated wars (more accurately occupations) in Afghanistan and Iraq means the general population were displaying their apathy on those scores? Yes - agreed a spin-off from 9/11 - bravado at first descending into apathy later on.

As to the USA being today's version of the Luftwaffe - that thought hadn't struck me in this context, in relation to the general public's attitudes, but it's another way of looking at the picture, true! Luftwaffe with side-dish of drones - about which the majority of people have been extremely apathetic.

mike (again) said...

My point is that Britain and many other countries were victimized by the Luftwaffe and it was the actions by Germany and their Luftwaffe that instigated WWII.

The USA, by contrast, was victimized by a multi-national (actually fringe Islamic) terrorist group on 9-11-2001. The USA's response was to become like the Luftwaffe and perpetrate, victimize, and over-throw countries that had no true connections to the issue at hand. The USA's retaliatory actions had no basis in truth and has led to massive civilian losses of multiple countries, and it continues.

The citizens of the USA, by virtue of its government, have become knowing agents in creating and sustaining a war on multiple nations, not just Afghanistan and Iraq, in the name of terrorism. Peculiarly, this same war on terrorism, has created an internal war on American citizens' rights, including the right to privacy, in the name of security.

I would say that the American public reacted to their innate fear, but particularly the government's hyped fear-mongering, thus creating a security conscious population. Nationalism played a large role, too.

As you stated, the hyperbolic over-reaction has led to apathy (in the proviso of security). I would like to see the Patriot Act and the AUMF be repealed more than simply reviewed...both acts display cowardice in the face of a constitution that doesn't allow for that kind of behavior or enforcement.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Many thanks for the clarification. There are lots of ways to "frame" our current situation, and a variety of perspectives from which to view it. Yours and mine are not far apart - yours is the more informed from a US perspective.

9/11 came as such a shock and nobody knew exactly what would follow. Even in the UK we wondered whether it was merely the overture to an all-out attack on the west - maybe even on Europe and the UK as well. That feeling soon dissipated for us/me, but I can imagine that here in the US the government and media kept drumming up fear, and playing on patriotism - which in any case is/was then a built-in element in most people here.

Repealing the PA and AUMF doesn't seem like a possibility, though certainly it'd be the ideal. I'm wondering if even a single thing will change after this current story has died down. Depends what other revelations unfold, I suppose.