Fridays are usually hectic on the opinion pages, mostly because we’re producing three days worth of pages rather than just one. Yesterday had the added challenge of responding to a wave of phone and e-mail messages from readers who were distressed that the Sept. 11 paper contained not a word about the historical significance of the date. There were all the signals of an orchestrated response programmed for launch as soon as the paper hit the porch. People weren’t saying that the coverage was insufficient, or that it was tilted in the wrong direction. They were saying consistently and repeatedly that there was not a word about 9/11 in Friday’s Spokesman-Review.
Yet there on the front page, complete with two photographs, was a story about Coeur d’Alene’s Fallen Heroes memorial, to be dedicated that evening, a tribute to not only the victims of the terrorist attack eight years ago but also to local police and firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty. The story clearly and movingly pointed out that this lasting memorial was inspired by the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.
Somehow, the people I responded to just couldn’t make that connection. What I considered a timely and relevant account of how part of our community has responded — is responding still — to an iconic event, they saw as an evasion of our duty to fan the flames of resentment and hatred. Not that those aren’t appropriate emotions for the outrage perpetrated by the mostly Saudi Arabian terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks, but news is all about reporting what’s happening now in the context of what happened before. The protests we received seemed to be all about freeze-framing a day eight years earlier.
I’m in no position to psychoanalyze the people I communicated with, but I suspect their interest has less to do with honoring the victims than with fueling their hatred of the perpetrators — and maybe others who weren’t perpetrators but happen to have certain traits (religion, ethnicity, ideology) with them.
I wonder if the people of Dresden, Germany, still harbor such feelings toward the Allies’ senseless fire-bombing of their city in World War II.