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First, the language in which our trauma is packaged by the GOP must be challenged, right down to the morphing of the term, "war on terrorism," into the nonsensical but resonant "War on Terror". The word "terrorism" speaks to the means by which the trauma was inflicted; the word "terror" speaks to the resulting emotion and condition, and invokes it with every utterance. It should be pointed out that a War on Terror is a self-defeating concept, war being, as any honest soldier will admit, a terrifying endeavor.
As the object of the politics of trauma, it is imperative that John Kerry send his surrogates out to address the reality of the trauma and his opponent's brazen exploitation of it. Once again, the Democrats have let their opponents frame the debate, and then engage only within that frame. It's time to stop arguing that you're not soft on terrorists, or to rest the whole of your rejoinder on what the president has or hasn't done. Get family members of 9-11 victims to publicly express their disgust with the pouring of salt in the nation’s wounds.
Unless Kerry steps outside the frame to call his opponent on what he's actually doing--exploiting the suffering of the people--the risk remains high that the politics of trauma will win the day for George W. Bush. Win it this way once, and the politics of trauma will become the everyday politics of a generation.
Adele M. Stan, blogstress of AddieStan, has written for Mother Jones, Salon.com, and The New Republic. She is a communications specialist for the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO. The views expressed here are her own.