J and D's Corner

From the Letters Archive

To:    AV Press

Date: 09/2001

Re:    Who Are We Calling Coward?


Background:  Shortly after 9/11, non-PC commentator Bill Maher made the mistake of pointing out that those who were calling the terrorists "cowards" were way off base and suggested our previous wimpy response to terrorism went further in that direction.  He drew a big ration of you-know-what for it.


My view is wrapped up within the final paragraph of this letter:

This is to everyone who is up in arms about Bill Maher. Would you please open your dictionary (the library has them and will help you if you don't know how) and turn to the word "coward".

You will find it says something like "Coward: One who shows disgraceful fear or timidity." That's it, there is no other definition. Nothing about politics or belief or which side you are on.

Bill Maher applied this definition first to our government's previous quick-and-cheap response to terrorist attack. And he was NOT referring to the military, they just carry out the decisions. His point was, standing off 800 miles and launching a few cruise missiles at some might-be target and then packing up and going home was a pretty timid response. It was a safe and easy move which did not do the job then and will not do the job now. Did it rise to the description "disgraceful timidity"? Maybe, maybe not, but within the realm of proper debate. You make the call.

He then applied the same definition to the terrorists. You know what they did and how they did it. Did they show "disgraceful fear or timidity"?  You make the call.

One of our big problems in America is that while we mostly all SPEAK English, a lot of us don't seem to UNDERSTAND English. One of my heroes was the late Sen. S. I. Hiakawa, who said, referring to the Panama Canal, "We stole it fair and square and we ought to keep it". A complex question neatly wrapped up in a dozen English words. A lot of people didn't understand HIM, either.