Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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America as Jekyll & Hyde

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Norwalk Hour on 9/29/04 in the Letters to the Editor section. I received this in an email from my mother this morning along with this message:

Hi all,
The following letter to the editor appeared in my local newspaper this
morning. For those who know The Hour, it was quite a surprise just to
find anything so thoughtfully structured and beautifully written
within its pages. Even more than that, however, it was heartening to
see something that has so troubled me articulated so effectively.  As
the author says, the coming election is about far more than Bush and
Kerry’s personalities, it’s about the future of democratic ideals in
America. I have taken the liberty of typing it up — it definitely
deserves wider distribution!

I am sick with dread about the election on Nov. 2.  Who am I?  Just
about every civilized person on the face of this planet.  This
election is not, as many radio and TV news personalities would have
it, a horse race popularity contest between Incurious George and
Flip-Flop John.

It’s a referendum on the character of America.  Too much has happened,
and too much has come to light, for it not to be so.

By now it must be clear to every American that we are at war; not just
against terrorists, but with ourselves.  Over the last three years, we
have been battling over the right response to the 9/11 attack, and who
the right target is.  We’ve fought over who is a patriot, what
questions should or should not be asked, and what torture is and when
it is ever OK.  Our populace and our Congress remain evenly divided
and deadlocked in a deeply polarized and hostile embrace.

We present to the world the pitiful spectacle of a once-respected Dr.
Jekyll wrestling with his darker demon: a gentle soul hunched over in
painful spasms, lashing out with monstrous clenched hands and
shrieking like a tormented animal.  They watch in horror as our
collective Hyde gains dominance, and the brute mollifies his inner
terrors with inexcusable acts of inhumanity and thuggery.

I speak of the unapologetic bombing of people who did not, and could
not, harm us; of the indiscriminate torture of detainee in Guantanamo,
Iraq and Afghanistan; of the reckless imprisonment and abuse of
hundreds of immigrants innocent of terrorism and the havoc brought to
their families here at home; of the secret surveillance of our own
citizens; of our government’s labeling as “terrorist sympathizers” all
who dissent and refuse to march in lockstep.  The most frightening act
of all is the quietest: the willingness to look at all of the above,
and merely shrug it off with the attitude, “well, you gotta break a
few eggs to make an omelette.”

It is no exaggeration to say that the world will be holding its breath
on Nov. 2.  There’s a reason that their prayer is for a certain
outcome. It’s a question of which part of our American character will
emerge victorious: the thoughtful, caring and respected good doctor …
or the deceptive, unthinking and brutish liar.

Sean Hannon


September 29, 2004