As Sharon points out, Jerry Falwell is an asshole. On September 13 (a short two days after the attacks in New York and Washington), Falwell told the equally offensive Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”

Yes, Falwell has since called these comments “insensitive, uncalled for at the time, and unnecessary,” but he neglected to mention that he was wrong. In an unanswered e-mail to jerry@falwell.com (sent 9/14/01), I posed the following questions:

In which context would this not sound like you were casting blame on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians” for this Tuesday’s horrible events? Were you misquoted? And if hate-mongering isn’t your objective, what is? Please, if you’re going to use religion to masquerade your political opinions, at least learn when it’s inappropriate. And when you do apologize for your comments, accept the blame completely, rather than complain that you were misrepresented. Misrepresented? I think we all know what you are.

Want to know the context in which these comments could seem like anything less than misinformed hate-mongering? Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz offers nine possibilities. Found through Alternet.

First, a brief (but, be forewarned, unedited) e-mail exchange from yesterday, and then I swear I’m going to figure out this archive script problem so I can get down to shortening the first page.

I might not like CNS News (and I think it’s perhaps a little unethical for them to hide who they used to be), but Johnson raises an interesting point. I’m not sure the government should have a right to investigate someone who registers imgoingtokillfredcoppersmith.com (I checked, it’s available), but I am not entirely sure why they shouldn’t. Is that sort of “suspicious” behavior enough probable cause? Any thoughts?

Is it wrong to be upset over trivial things in the wake of such incomprehensible disaster? Are we still entitled to any of our petty concerns? And is it okay for me to still be upset I don’t get UPN and may end up missing Buffy: The Vampire Slayer? Because, I’ll let you know, right now, that’s really what’s ticking me off.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” — William Pitt, 1783

In the wake of last Tuesday’s tragic events — the death, the destruction and the fear that comes with it — what are we willing to give up, what are we willing to become, and which freedoms will we willingly surrender for the illusion of safety? These deaths, we are told, could have been prevented, if only the FBI had known where to look, if only the internet didn’t provide such a haven for violent free speech, if only our immigration policies were more strict, if only the American people were a little more willing to let Big Brother into their lives and their homes.

Or maybe talk of Big Brother is just leftist paranoia. What good are civil liberties anyway, if they stand in the government’s way, if they just make the work of tracking terrorists more difficult? Congress wants to issue national identification cards for citizens and noncitizens alike, but nobody at Metafilter, where I discovered the story, seemed too upset about that. If it will make the streets safe and keep us alive when we board our planes and go to work…well, where’s the harm?

I don’t know. It’s a slippery slope. While I think the parallels he draws to the Reichstag Fire in pre-Nazi Germany are probably an overreaction, John Perry Barlow (of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) is right when he says that “nothing could serve those who believe that American ‘safety’ is more important than American liberty better than something like this.”

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it more than two hundred years ago: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Because I seem to be doing little else but quoting other people, Chris Colin of Salon writes: And asking people what’s next is a little like pressing squirrels about Heisenberg.

I don’t know what the consequences of last Tuesday’s attack will be, and I can only guess at the full extent of our military’s retaliation, but in all this talk of what has happened, and what will happen, where is the national discussion of why this has happened?