As an emailer said, Sarah Boxer is at it again. The NY Times culture writer assigned to the internet — lucky us — now takes it upon herself to formulate a strange Marxist (or is it Maoist?) analysis of We’reNotAfraid.com, the wonderful weblog of Photoshopped images of solidarity, stiff-upper-lippedness, and defiance to terrorists.
The site displays a range of defiant postures. Some people hold up their middle fingers, presumably for the terrorists to see. Some people posted pictures of American soldiers, presumably for Londoners and Americans to see.
But more and more, there’s a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure. Yesterday there were lots of pictures posted of smiling families at the beach and of people showing off their cars and vans. A picture from Italy shows a white sports car and comes with the caption: “Afraid? Why should we be afraid?”
A few days ago, We’re Not Afraid might have been a comfort. Today, there’s a hint of “What, me worry?” from Mad magazine days, but without the humor or the sarcasm. We’re Not Afraid, set up to show solidarity with London, seems to be turning into a place where the haves of the world can show that they’re not afraid of the have-nots.
What’s the most charitable word I can give to that: Sophomoric? Yes, that’s it.
And so what if we do want to flaunt our prosperity in defiance of those who would kill us for it? We should damn well flaunt exactly what the terrorists hate and fear most: freedom, sex, commerce, speech, women’s rights, openness, success, prosperity, tolerance. I proposed (in a suggestion the NY Times editorialists today would have really hated — see the post below about the 9/11 memorial) that we should use the now-disputed space at the World Trade Center to build not an International Freedom Center but instead a mall and a theater that shows R-rated movies. Now I say we should have Donald Trump send in a picture of himself wearing a “We’re Not Afraid” button. And pictures of women and Jews, too.
The worst of Boxer’s analysis is that it feeds right into the why-they-hate-us culture: It’s as if she’s offended on behalf of the terrorists for showing them what we have and they do not: freedom. Well, damn it, we are successful and that is what they hate most and so we should brutishly flaunt it.
Further, to hide the essence of our culture and our era — our ability to be prosperous and leisurely — is some strange signal of defeat. Should we hide our westerness, our modernity, our openness, our success, and our freedom as, say Jews had to hide their Jewishness in ’30s Germany? If we do, then it’s time to get out the burkas, ladies.
But, of course, that’s absurd.
This is the same Boxer I complained about when she wrote about Iraqi bloggers (which led to this exchange [and see my parenthetical full disclosure in the post below]).