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July 06, 2002

AIDS Holocaust v. 911

Leo comments "Why do you have to burden a perfectly sensible and right on target commentary on how the governments of the North have turned their back on the AIDS pandemic with that dumb reference to September 11 being a footnote to history?"

Because it's a way of highlighting the unbalanced coverage of one tragedy versus the relative indifference of the public to a far larger one. As Leo knows, unlike some on the left, I never said other tragedies, even those with American culpability, excused or even explained the attack in any way. In the weeks after 911, I was actually encouraged that the pain suffered by Americans seemed to be leading to a broader focus and sympathy for others suffering poverty and violence around the world-- symbolized by the "why do they hate us" question, but looking even deeper in many commentaries.

But then a whirl of patriotic breast-beating, fear and jingoism took over, largely led by our dispicable President. One reason I despise Bush is that at no point in this whole tragedy did he ever appeal to higher emotions in the population, but only appealed to fear and hate.

It is not downplaying 911 to note that in the context of history, it is a lesser tragedy than tens of millions of Africans dying to AIDS. It was a horrific event but it should not assume some special importance because they deaths happened to rich Americans. 3000 deaths is literally an everyday tragedy in the third world-- 911 is their way of life, day after day. As this compelling graph by TruthLaidBear emphasizes, the AIDS Holocaust may be the worst tragedy of the rather insane last century.

Posted by Nathan at July 6, 2002 07:42 AM

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It is not Nathan's commendable concern for and emphasis on AIDS which draws my dissent. There is no question that it is a human catastrophe on an unprecedented order, and that there has been an inexcusable failure of political will to address it, in the North in places like Washington DC and London, and in the South in places like Pretoria. It will take more lives. it appears, than all of the wars of the twentieth century -- a virtually incomprehensible toll. But the sins of a Bush, a Blair, a Schroeder and a Mbeki with respect to AIDS are sins of omission, not sins of commission. They are failures to do what can be done to save lives. The deliberate taking of innocent human life on a mass scale is an evil of a different order, and the two should not be treated as comparable. My argument is that you do a disservice to the struggle againsts AIDS, by making this inapt comparison.

Posted by: Leo Casey at July 6, 2002 03:54 PM

AIDS is a human disaster. But does your comment like this help win converts to your side?:

"One reason I despise Bush is that at no point in this whole tragedy did he ever appeal to higher emotions in the population, but only appealed to fear and hate. "

Just an excerpt from Bush's Sept 20, 2001 speech:

"Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and fellow Americans, in the normal course of events, presidents come to this chamber to report on the state of the union. Tonight, no such report is needed; it has already been delivered by the American people.

We have seen it in the courage of passengers who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground. Passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer. And would you please help me welcome his wife Lisa Beamer here tonight?


We have seen the state of our union in the endurance of rescuers working past exhaustion.

We've seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own.

My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of union, and it is strong.

(APPLAUSE) .....

Americans are asking, "What is expected of us?"

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.

I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here.

We're in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.

I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions. Those who want to give can go to a central source of information, Libertyunites.org, to find the names of groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it. I ask for your patience with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security and for your patience in what will be a long struggle.

I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity; they did not touch its source.

America is successful because of the hard work and creativity and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11, and they are our strengths today.

And finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their families, for those in uniform and for our great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead. Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for what you have already done and for what you will do. ..."

And so on. Lots of war talk, too, but not entirely inappropriate in the circumstances.

Full speech is here:


Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 7, 2002 11:07 AM

Tom, But that speech illustrates my point; it congratulates the American people for being so wonderful. Telling people to be self-satisfied with themselves and they need not aspire to do anything more is exactly why I despised Bush's response. Yes, he added in some nice words that people should not commit racist acts, but warning against doing bad things is not the same as pointing out what people aren't doing, but should be-- a much harder moral standard to set.

Posted by: Nathan at July 8, 2002 02:14 PM

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