Courageous people doing awful things

“In militaristic societies like the United States, it is almost axiomatic that our enemies must be cowards—especially if the enemy can be labeled a “terrorist” (i.e., someone accused of wishing to create fear in us, to turn us, of all people, into cowards). It is then necessary to ritually turn matters around and insist that no, it is they who are actually fearful. All attacks on U.S. citizens are by definition “cowardly attacks.” The second George Bush was referring to the 9/11 attacks as “cowardly acts” the very next morning. On the face of it, this is odd. After all, there’s no lack of bad things one can find to say about Mohammed Atta and his confederates—take your pick, really—but surely “coward” isn’t one of them. Blowing up a wedding party using an unmanned drone might be considered an act of cowardice. Personally flying an airplane into a skyscraper takes guts. Nevertheless, the idea that one can be courageous in a bad cause seems to somehow fall outside the domain of acceptable public discourse, despite the fact that much of what passes for world history consists of endless accounts of courageous people doing awful things.”

David Graeber, “The Bully’s Pulpit”

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