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Reprise: Obama’s ‘Empathy’ For Terrorists

[This is a reprise of an article we posted back on July 14, 2008.]

In one of the “very serious” articles about Mr. Obama, called “Making It,” in the current issue of The New Yorker we are treated to his response to 9/11 as published in the September 19th 2001 edition of the Hyde Park Herald:

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

“Empathy” would appear to be Mr. Obama’s watchword when it comes to talking about 9/11.

Here are his comments about the event in the revised for 2004 preface to his autobiographical tome, Dreams From My Father (pg. 2):

And then, on September 11, 2001, the world fractured.

It’s beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day, and the days that would follow-the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.

What I do know is that history returned that day with a vengeance; that, in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried-it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches my own. Not merely because the bombs of Al Qaeda have marked, with an eerie precision, some of the landscapes of my life-the buildings and roads and faces of Nairobi, Bali, Manhattan; not merely because, as a consequence of 9/11, my name is an irresistible target of mocking websites from overzealous Republican operatives. But also because the underlying struggle-between worlds of plenty and worlds of want; between the modern and the ancient; between those who embrace our teeming, colliding, irksome diversity, while still insisting on a set of values that binds us together, and those who would seek, under whatever flag or slogan or sacred text, a certainty and simplification that justifies cruelty toward those not like us-is the struggle set forth, on a miniature scale, in this book.

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair. I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder-alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware-is inadequate to the task. I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

And so what was a more interior, intimate effort on my part, to understand this struggle and to find my place in it, has converged with a broader public debate, a debate in which I am professionally engaged, one that will shape our lives and the lives of our children for many years to come.

The policy implications of all this are a topic for another book.

Again, doesn’t it sound like terrorism is the product of poverty? Whereas Bin Laden is a millionaire and his followers tend to be at least upper middle class and often highly educated.

And never mind that the 9/11 highjackers themselves have told us on videotape exactly why they made their attacks — they wanted to avenge Bosnia.

So where did Mr. Obama pick up this nonsense? Who knows for sure? But we have our suspicions.

For here his pastor and spiritual mentor’s October 2003 response to the attack on 9/11 (as first reported by us here at S&L, more than a year and a half ago):

Maybe I Missed Something!

A Message From our PASTOR, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Senior Pastor

In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just “disappeared” as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.

Anyone who has studied Mr. Obama’s writings and speeches will recognize that “empathy” is often the word he uses when he talks about the concerns of blacks and other “people of color.”

And, bottom line, isn’t this exactly what Mr. Obama is saying about 9/11? That our lack of concern, our lack of empathy is what caused it.

Is this really the man we want as President in these times?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, September 11th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Reprise: Obama’s ‘Empathy’ For Terrorists”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    Don’t tell me Barry didn’t hear Racist Wrights’ sermons for years.


  2. proreason says:

    “In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01.”

    Another kind of wake-up call is on its way.

  3. proreason says:

    It appears that Hasan is another glory of Affirmative Action.

    “Hasan “was not fit to be in the military, let alone in the mental health profession,” this classmate told CNN. “No one in class would ever have referred a patient to him or trusted him with anything.”

    The first classmate echoed this sentiment.

    Hasan was “coddled, accommodated and pushed through that masters of public health despite substandard performance,” the classmate said. He was “put in the fellowship program because they didn’t know what to do with him.”


    By the way, 14 generals and hundreds of officers were canned or disciplined because of the Tailhook incident.

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