karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Judging others

GalleyCat's coverage of the recent flap over Random House's decision to back out of a deal to publish an historical romance about Muhammad's youngest wife highlights the question of motive. Was Random House giving in to fear of terrorists out of concern for potential monetary loss or perhaps out of worry for its employees' safety?

It reminded me of that time after the September 11 attacks when anthrax letters started arriving in people's mailboxes. Everyone was on edge already, especially those of us working in the nation's capital less than a mile from the White House. And then I found an unexpected envelope in my mailbox at work—an over-sized cardboard envelope addressed to me but with an unfamiliar return address. In terms of national security, I am no one—nobody special. I don't work for the government, but my company name does sound like it could be a government agency. There was no logical reason for someone to pick me as a target for a letter full of anthrax spores. And yet here was this unexpected envelope. I finally opened it; it contained some floor plans I had requested from our company facilities folks. They had had the architectural firm send them directly to me. No big deal.

But I remember the paralyzing grip of fear, and I'm reluctant to condemn someone else for acting in a way that seemed to preserve safety, no matter how much that "lets the terrorists win." I can only answer for me. I can't answer for what other folks should do. I believe in admiring people who are brave, but I'm not sure I am up to condemning people who aren't. In any event, I'm grateful it wasn't my decision to make.

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Tags: random house

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