The President went on television and called the acts “cowardly.” Amherst students, feeling very clever and superior, snickered at the broadcast. And I knew then that the real tragedy would occur right here, in Amherst, which has been called “25 square miles surrounded by reality.”
Cowardice is usually associated with quaking knees and trembling hands. But the cowardice displayed on Sep. 11 had nothing to do with fear and timidity, any more than the justice that America seeks for the responsible parties has anything to do with the impaneling of juries and the hiring of Johnnie Cochran.
Yet we at Amherst have been taught to resist that which is mainstream, those feelings which are held by so many in our country. We have been taught to “deconstruct,” to “overturn paradigms” and to “challenge assumptions.”
However, on Tuesday afternoon, in LeFrak gymnasium, we were told to do the Christian thing and turn
the other cheek. It doesn’t get any more mainstream than that. Of course, the administration, reflexively backpedaling from any mention of “God” or “prayer,” cloaked the gathering with an aura of academic contemplation.
It didn’t go down as easily as they would have liked. Professor of Political Science Hadley Arkes, who has been to many such assemblies in his 36 years here, correctly predicted that we would be told that these attacks were, at their core, our own damn fault.
And many Amherst students bought it. They began their sentences with, “Well, I can see where �”
No. You can’t. It’s impossible to see where people get off rejoicing at the suffering of others. It’s impossible to see what type of scenario makes it OK for the United States to roll over and die so as not to offend the most oppressive, the most patriarchal, the least free nations in the world.
Maybe the rest of us aren’t smart enough to engage in academic backflips while people died in hordes last Tuesday. Maybe we can’t grasp that America really is the Great Satan, that our defensiveness is a primitive response that should be repressed, turned off, so that we may enjoy how clever and amusing our colleagues are.
Maybe, as one Smith student said, they all deserved it.
You tell that to Dr. Rimmele’s family. You tell that to Maurita Tam’s family. You tell that to the firefighters and the policemen who are out there busting their butts all day, every day, in the hopes that they can save a single soul.
There will be very few Amherst students brave enough to stand up and fight for this country if we go to war. And that’s pathetic. Not to mention cowardly. Maybe that is why so many of you want to identify with the attackers, and not with your own country.
For too long, we privileged college students have looked down our noses at this country. Challenge this assumption: the United States is the most free nation on earth. We can wear what we want, say what we want, have sex with whomever we want, eat what we want, drink what we want, date whom we want, watch 150 channels of television, choose our news and information outlets, take the bus or drive our own cars; all of us over 18 can vote in any election; we are free to ridicule the president without threat of violence.
Don’t think that’s worth fighting for? You’re lucky to have the luxury of choosing whether or not you want to serve-at least, for now. The citizens living under the oppressive thumb of the Taliban are not so lucky. And neither, I might add, are those buried under tons of twisted steel.