On the John
I am not going to war. I cannot kill anyone, and I don’t wish to try. If we do go to war, I am not going. This is about the only certainty I have been able to decide on since the attack. That is my reaction to war. However, no one seems to know what is right when it comes to our country’s reaction to the attacks. Some think we should bomb the hell out of Afghanistan, killing Osama bin Laden and anyone else who happens to be there. Others think that we should try to better understand why the terrorists did what they did, and try to then work out our differences peacefully.
I recently attended an hour-long open discussion between students and faculty members at the Union. Many ideas were exchanged, and if there was any real conclusion, it was that this attack is different than any other in American history, and thus there is no precedent when it comes to solving it. It is a problem that will take much longer than an hour to solve, and it will take many people to solve it. Yet President Bush seemed oddly confident during his address to the nation last week. Bush seemed to have everything figured out: “We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them against one another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest…The only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows…We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the plans of terrorists before they act and to find them before they strike.”
It seems as if the President and his government are the only people in the country who see this as an open and shut case. We are chasing an enemy we cannot find nor see. That seems to be the first step to stopping future attacks. The problem with the decision making process for a situation that affects the world is that the people making that decision seem more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. It’s as if the government is afraid that if they do not immediately come up with a solution, no matter how temporary, the American people will deem them ineffective.
I would not like to be President Bush right now. He is faced with a problem that will drastically alter the world we know. But I would rather have a President who looks in the camera and admits that he is just as confused as the rest of us than one who assumes I want the quickest decision possible. Granted I did vote for Al Gore last November, but I don’t think he would have acted any differently.
Last November, the nation wasn’t sure who its next President would be. I remember the feel of this campus, as students became overtly political, staking their claim to two similar candidates. Now I think about campus the last two weeks, as students became overtly patriotic, with flags accompanying glum faces. The country seems to have forgotten about political parties as we all look to one man to decide the proper response. I must live with the decision President Bush makes, but I told myself last November that even if Bush won, that I would still have to make my own decisions concerning my actions.
For two weeks, the country has banded together like never before. TV stations have red, white, and blued their logos. American flags hang on houses, cover windows, fly from cars, and are worn by athletes. Celebrities are using their fame and fortune for good, and the rest of us are lifting each other’s spirits every day. But what will happen in a year or so, when the flags are put away? How long can we keep up this barrage of patriotism? How long until we see ourselves again as Democrats and Republicans, rather than members of a great nation? I wait for that day, because that will be the true defining moment of this country. That day will show the true effects of the attacks. Because it is then when every American will each make his or her own decision to continue caring for others. On that day, we will know whether or not 6,000 some lives were lost in vain. We have a chance to change how the world works, and we don’t need any suit on TV to do it for us. I am challenging myself to make the right decision, and I challenge all of you as well. This is our time to make a difference. I hope that we can.
Copyright 2001, jm silverstein
(NOTE from 7-10-09) A wonderfully written letter…though looking back at the content of my column and the argument in his letter, I think Mr. Cohen was just looking for a fight.