Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream is different from any book I have read. (Disclaimer: I am not done yet, up to page 282.) It is a history book in some ways, but a few chapters remind me of the Howard Zinn U.S. History book, which explains things very differently from the books we read in school.

Faludi’s recounting of 9-11 and its effect on the United States was surprising . I started talking to my family about WHY I had not noticed these changes in our country and in the attitudes of people. They reminded me that I was only 9 years old when the attacks occurred and, at that time, I was living in a house that was sometimes full of terror without the presence of Muslim extremists. I was far more focused on fear inside my house than fear from other countries or airplane attacks. But I did often wonder if my school was a terrorist target.

That said, here are some reactions and thoughts I had about the first part of the book:
In the introduction, all of the information was new to me. I don’t remember a lot from TV around 9/11 and I never noticed that all of the heroes were shown as men and all of the victims in NY shown as women. I did not know that even though many of the New York victims left widowers behind, the media almost exclusively showed widows. My reaction to this is to be very angry that the media was more interested in a story and a point-of-view than in actual facts. I had that same anger at the media in several of the chapters, each time Faludi shows that they put more importance on the story they wanted to show than on the REAL story.
I am completely bewildered at why the media, the politicians and the important people in the country would think that the way to react to 19 terrorists blowing up planes and buildings is to think we need more stereotypical John Wayne men and virgin housewives. How does that make sense? I can understand if they said we need the air force to have better training and be ready to defend Washington. Or if they said we need to keep box cutters off airplanes. But how will it stop terrorists if some lady in Oklahoma stays home with her kids?

I think that the way the talk show hosts and the rest of media treated the women columnists was horrendous and I wonder if that still happens. Faludi writes about the lack of women (and especially liberal women) on the Sunday talk shows and in the columnist parts of the newspapers, but I also wonder if it is a coincidence that today in the progressive media, Colbert, Stewart & Olbermann are ALSO white men.

I think it is completely insane that the focus on the de-burka’d women in Afghanistan was on make-up and hairstyles and not on education, community and health.

I am 16, and I love experimenting with make-up and trying new hair-styles. But if anyone described who I really am and what I do, I hope they would focus on my other qualities and interests first. I bet that the Afghanistan women and girls feel the same.

We are still at war in Afghanistan and I don’t think it is going well. How are women doing over there now? Did their hair salons and make-up gifts make a difference? Is that what they really want for a better life?

Chapter 2: Donald Rumsfeld was supposed to be a sexy hero? GAG me! Brain bleach please! And George Bush? No Way! His leadership was reading to second graders (isn’t that a woman’s job?!?) and hugging girl and women victims. Those guys were supposed to STOP the attack and make the country safer by protecting the shipping ports, not by having photo-ops.

I like superhero cartoons. I watched all the Spiderman and Superman movies. I’d love to have them help keep us safe, but in the real world I want the government to do it’s job. My brother is in the army and he is a tall, strong hero-type. For much of my childhood he was like Superman to me, and some days he still is. But he and his gun are not going to protect me from terrorists —- that is what people pay taxes to the government for.

The firemen as heroes but women firefighters not seen that way is unfair. It’s similar to what is brought up in a later chapter about Jessica Lynch being seen as a poor girl victim and not as a soldier who was in a car crash. Again it is the media that chooses the story they want to present and doesn’t bother to check whether the facts fit their script. The firemen who died were heroes, but not all firemen are. And not all women want to marry them.

The most insulting part of that first section is how the 9/11 widows were treated when they did not stick to the media’s script long enough. From the “Jersey Girls” who were made to look unpatriotic to the women who were judged for having taken vacations or moved to larger houses to the widows who decided to not help publicize a book about her husband, none of them were allowed to simply grieve.

I am very grateful to Jane for sending me a copy of this book and I am amazed at how much I learned from reading it and discussing it with my family. I had no idea that the media in the United States was so biased and so invested in perpetuating myths instead of reporting facts.