It's not Weak to Ask 'Why?'

This week's nominee for Orwell's Dustbin is the phrase ''blame-America first.''

It's just one of the argument-avoiding insults on the right wing's long list of synonyms for ''liberals.''

To make the term sound like it carries some intellectual weight, you'll often hear right-wing brothers and sisters talk about how open-toe sandal wearin', tree-huggin,' bunny lovin', latte drinkin', terrorist-sympathizin', weak-on-defense, liberals engage in too much ''self-introspection.'' So, not only are ''liberals'' out to destroy America with their bleeding hearts and soft-headedness, they're also Jean Paul Sarte-reading navel-gazers.

Now, to see how ridiculous this is, imagine if this real-men-don't-introspect logic was applied to, say, police homicide investigations.

Detectives routinely ask why. Why would someone kill this particular person? What was the motive? In doing so, cops aren't ''justifying'' murder. They're not making excuses when they speak of what environmental circumstances provided the opportunity or the encouragement to kill.

When FBI profilers seek to understand ''the mind of a serial killer,'' they're not attempting to rationalize evil. They're looking for clues about what triggered a killing spree.

It's not ''feel-good'' utopianism to explore the roots of terrorism. It's downright pragmatic. You may not be able to change the heart of evil through knowledge. But it can lead to more effective strategies in fighting terrorism, which is why it so intellectually dishonest when conservatives accuse people interested in what fuels terrorism of wanting to ''offer therapy (to) our attackers,'' to quote Karl Rove's psychobabble.

The age-old Art of War dictum tells us to ''Know thy enemy and know thyself and you will win a hundred battles.'' Imagine that: Advice from one of the most celebrated military manuals in existence advises us to do exactly what ''liberals'' are doing. Apparently, conservative hawks take Sun Tzu's words to mean shoot first, ask questions later.

If lives weren't at stake, it would be hilarious that a handful of privileged neocons, many of whom have never been in a fistfight let alone combat, think they have some kind of profound insight into controlling violence.

Why do ''they'' hate us? The neocon answer is: They hate us because they envy our freedom. And these are the same folks who constantly talk about the ''dumbing down of America''?

I hate to point out the obvious, but there's a huge difference between understanding and rationalizing. Understanding comes from standing under the subject at hand and learning. Rationalizing is standing over the subject and, as Webster's defines it, devising ''self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for one's behavior.''

And it isn't ''justifying terrorism'' to question policies that have added fuel to the fire, as it were. To quote Webster's again, to justify is ''to declare free of blame.''

Just as GOP leaders of the Gringrich era spoke of the social and institutional forces that produce ''welfare dependency,'' liberals are trying to examine the social and institutional forces that produce terrorism dependency.

Some call it ''blame America first.'' I call it common sense.

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