Following 911, I was among the ones reminding people that this in itself was not a big issue. More die in traffic in North America every week, and there are far more important issues in the world, impacting far more people. I had of course sympathy for the ones directly impacted by the event, but that was a quite small group of people.
As a consequence, I repeatedly encountered people who was shocked by this attitude, including several who personally agreed but publicly wanted to hush such a perspective. (I lived in the US at the time, and this was of course different other places.)
Through this attitude of wanting to hush more reasoned and level-headed takes on the situation, these people became silent allies to (a) the stupidity in making it into something bigger than it was, and (b) the awful policies that was justified by 911. Policies that have been immensely more harmful than that one – relatively insignificant – situation, killing and injuring thousands as many people.
By trying to be “considerate” and not speaking up against stupidity, we can easily become allies of attitudes and actions that can be very harmful.
It is good to be strategical about this. To blurt out something can make people defensive. And, as mentioned above, misguided consideration and carefulness can also have its consequences.
Instead, we can find ways to get our point across in a way that is easier to digest for others. We can show our sympathy. Acknowledge the validity in their views. And then lead it into a more nuanced and level-headed perspective.
It won’t work for those who are determined to use these types of situations, and people’s fears, to push through policies they have long wanted to get through, as Bush & Co. did. And it may not work for people who see it as an opportunity to deepen an us vs them view. But it may open something up for some, and that is enough.
If more among those who had a more level-headed approach had spoken up, who knows if things hadn’t taken a different course, at least to some extent.
P.S. Here are some of my rants a couple of years after, more for venting than strategical purposes.
- not speaking up
- not important, more people die in traffic every week, far more important issues in the world impacting far more people (only a very few impacted by that situation)
- people afraid to speak up against stupidity, hushing anyone who did (within US and in other countries)
- but that stupidity had immense effects, as anyone could see it would at the time
- so by wanting to be “considerate” became an ally for stupidity and policies that harmed/killed a large number of people
And taking care of terrorist is a matter for the legal and international community, which already had systems in place for that purpose.