Thursday, July 07, 2005

London, 7 July

Sadness and helplessness. From my safe distance, it feels so much like 9/11, not understanding the seriousness at first, then monitoring the news from work all morning, the rising horror, the phone calls to make sure that a relative is safe: a first cousin in New York four years ago, a stepbrother in London today. Both were okay.

9/11 was more shocking, of course. The scale of the carnage was greater, and the TV images were so shattering. I'd given little thought to Manhattan and none to the World Trade Center, but it suddenly seemed like the central symbol of American aspiration and industriousness lay in smoking ruins. But I actually know London better than I know New York. I've been in Kings Cross and Liverpool Street tube stations numerous times. My private mental picture is more vivid today. And the thoughts of riding a train, feeling the blast, being in a dark tunnel with smoke and heat and panic, are plenty nightmarish.

How little progress we've made in four years.

I tried to comment on a Matthew Yglesias blogpost at TPMCafe, and the damn thing ate my post: Matthew took the opportunity to say that President Bush's remark four years ago urging us to "go shopping" after 9/11 was unfairly criticized at the time by the left. We must get back to our normal routines quickly or the terrorists win.

Well, sure, but think of the things Bush could have said to stand in for "normal" American life: Take a walk in the park. Hug your kids. Get on a plane and go visit loved ones. Make friends with a Muslim person in your town. But instead, Bush characterized us as a nation of shoppers. One day Bush was calling up the National Guard, mobilizing to invade Afghanistan, passing the Patriot Act. The next day he was telling us to go shopping, and assuring us that there was no need to cancel the big tax cuts: they were just the thing in time of war. It was an incoherent welter of slogans and no plans, betraying an unserious approach, failing to call forth the better angels of our nature.

London mayor Ken Livingstone spoke today, I won't bother to find the exact quote, but he addressed the attackers, presumably jihadists, and called London a city of dreams, where people come from around the world to fulfill their aspirations. Including "your" people, from your part of the world. They won't stop coming, and however many you kill, you can never win.

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