Forgetting a national tragedy

By Amy Ledig

I’m shocked and disturbed that this year 9/11 came and went with no official recognition on Macalester’s campus. Maybe I remember better because I’m from the DC area, and my friends and I spent that horrific morning wondering if our loved ones were okay. Maybe I remember because the 9/11 hijackers came to my hometown.

Last time I checked, though, the attack was on the United States, so why doesn’t anyone else care?

Most perplexing to me was that marking the day would have taken next to no effort. How hard would it have been to send a Flash Bulletin that Weyerhauser Chapel was open for silent meditation? The worst part was that the flags on campus didn’t reflect the solemnity of the day – no half-mast, no nothing. I think that the absence of any official mention by the college is quite telling.I suppose that in the liberal desire to believe in the good of mankind and to see all religions, cultures, and choices as being equally valid and worthy of praise, it’s just easier to forget that the struggle with Islamic extremists isn’t neatly contained “over there.” This is a struggle that was brought to us when the four planes took off on the morning of September 11, 2001. I’m not trying to sound like a war mongering neo-con or anything like that, but it is suicidal to forget what happened six years ago. The targets were carefully selected, but the individual victims were not. The people who died that day were regular people, going to work, living their lives. The insidious nature of the threat we face from Islamic terrorism is that simply by being American we are targets. If we forget for a minute those people, we’re doing a disservice to both their memories and ourselves.

I also think that this campus is somewhat incapable of responding to tragic events in a rational way. The worker protest in Oaxaca gets attention, but when the Virginia Tech shootings happened last Spring, nothing was done for days. Finally, a short vigil was held, where the shooter was remembered along side his innocent, randomly picked victims. That to me is what is wrong with our community- the shooter was essentially accorded equal honor with those he senselessly slaughtered. There seems to be a basic lack of recognition of the difference between perpetrators of violence and their victim. The whole thing is summed up in the argument that the perpetrators were victims of society or overwhelming global forces. In one of my classes last year, someone began discussing how terrorists aren’t really “bad,” they’re just misunderstood, and we need to try to see where they’re coming from. Yes, I suppose to root out terrorism we do need to understand the root causes, but that doesn’t absolve the perpetrators of such violence from responsibility for their actions!

If nothing was said or done on September 11th this year because we’re too desperate trying to hide the truth of the struggle with radical Islam from ourselves, I’m concerned, but not surprised. If it was because we’re too lazy and it feels too distant to care about, I pray that you never have to know first hand what it does feel like when the war comes to you. Because I do, and I can’t just forget about it.