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David Gelernter

David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, and member of the National Council of the Arts.[…]

The terrorist attack David Gelernter experienced in 1993 left his body injured, but his mind unfazed.

Question: How hasrnsurviving the Unabomber attack changed your life?


David Gelernter:rnZero.  It was my responsibility—Irnthink it would be anybody’s who had been attacked in a particularly rncowardlyrnand despicable fashion—to go on. rnIf I had said "This attack had changed me in the following 10 rnways"... I’mrnnot interested in being changed by criminals, murderers, and terrorists.  I’m interested in being whoever I wasrndestined to be as a member of my family and my community and that’s whatrn I’vernbeen doing.  It slowed me down,rnpresented physical challenges, but it didn’t change my worldview, or thern sortrnof broader sense...  Worldview in thernsense—there’s a tremendously useful German word used in philosophy:rnweltanschauung.  Worldview meaningrnnot just looking around, but how to make sense of things, how I put it rntogetherrnin a coherent way.  So, myrnworldview is the same.


Question: Has being thernvictim of an attack changed your feelings about terrorism?


David Gelernter:rnI’m not a victim.  I never was,rnnever will be.  Victimhood isrnsomething you choose, or something you reject.  I rnand so many others have done before me and are doingrntoday, they rejected, hate the tendency of society to glorify victimhoodrn and tornspeak of oppression and victimhood and persecution as some soft of badgern ofrnhonor, or something of that sort. rnI’m not a victim. 


On terrorism, on the other hand, I guess it’s fair rnto sayrnthat I had a close-up personal look at terrorism.  Irn don’t think my views have changed any.  The fact rnis, any member of the AmericanrnJewish community has relatives who lived through the Holocaust, and who rnhas morernimportant, has relatives or close friends in Israel, who were either rnattackedrnthemselves or whose family has experienced terrorist attack because rnterrorismrngoes back many centuries, but has always been a weapon of choice of rnJew-hatersrnand Israel-haters...  So, the tragicrnfact is that the reality of terrorism is fundamental cowardliness, isrnfundamental anti-human character. rnI think it's familiar to everybody... I’d should say not just in rnthernAmerican Jewish community, the fact is that America is unique in its rnsympathyrnfor Israel.  Europe certainlyrndoesn’t feel this way, Asia doesn’t feel this way.  Thisrn is not a feeling only of American Jews.  In fact,rn in many cases, the Christianrncommunity has been—has shown itself as much more interested in Israel’s rnfaternand well-being than the Jewish community, which has its own political rnaxes torngrind.  I think America in generalrnhas felt close to, in some ways, because the states are so similar—therern is nornnation in the world set up by people with bibles in their back pockets rnas a NewrnIsrael, there’s no nation that has been set up on that basis aside from rnthernUnited States and Israel.  So,rnthere’s always been the sympathy, and growing up one has the feeling, rnone had arnfeeling in this country, I mean back in the 1960s and ‘70s, that rnterroristrnattacks on Israel were hitting close to home.  It rnwas impossible not to be aware of the nature ofrnterrorism, the threat of terrorism. rnIt’s something that I’ve always lived with, tragically, as has rneverybodyrnwho has felt close to Israel.

Recorded on April 1, 2010.