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"I Am An Enemy Of Your Country"

[Shoe bomber Richard] Reid's father, Robin Reid, told the BBC in London that he loved his son and would support him "any way I can." He said his he did not blame his son for the crime. "I blame myself for not being there when he was growing up. I was in prison when I should have been there."

There are some interesting similarities between Robin Reid's view of his son and John Walker Lindh's parents' statements about their son. People jumped on Lindh's parents, taking their naive view of their son as proof that they were dangerously out of touch with reality, and extrapolated that their ultra-liberal attitude had prevented them from instilling any moral compass in their son. But Mr. Reid's statement suggests that the Lindhs' responses had less to do with their left-wing view of things and more with the psychological consequences of learning a family member was involved in an incomprehensibly heinous act.

For Americans and Brits, used to our relatively safe societies, the violence committed by al-Qaida is almost incomprehensible. The only way most of us can deal with it is to see the perpetrators as completely alien, outsiders to our entire civilization. Others with a capital O, to use anthropological terminology. It was shocking to see one of our own consorting with the enemy, suggesting that the barrier that separated Us and Them could be crossed somehow (which may explain the haste to blame his liberal upbringing -- it fit well with the charge that the left's way of thinking is dangerously alien, and removed Lindh from the "us" side of the divide). That shock must be exponentially greater when it's your own child. So the Lindhs and Mr. Reid retreat into denial, insisting that their sons are the people their parents want them to be.


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