Letters to the editor

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at approximately 8:45 AM, thousands of people in New York City, in Washington, DC, and in four airliners leaving from Boston, Washington and Newark were plunged into a state of absolute choicelessness: they were ruthlessly killed, with no possibility of deciding to escape, to resist or to fight. We know that some heroically attempted to change the course of events — and did, in fact, nearly miraculously — and we can only assume that we don’t know the stories of dozens or hundreds of other individuals who did the same. But all was ultimately for naught, and we are now missing innumerable fellow citizens, visitors to our country and, most poignantly, friends and family.

Even in the face of the seemingly permanent rift that the terrorists opened in our world on Tuesday we are determined to go on as before, doing our work, nurturing our loves, making our decisions, and we are nourished by sharing the pain of each other’s stories, and by the beauty of people healing together. Yet I’m becoming increasingly uneasy about the way our media and even our government seems to be portraying our fragile state right now. We are being told that we have no choice; that we “have to do what we have to do.” Meanwhile, the falsely monolithic picture of American public opinion presented in the mainstream media is confusing our allies and alarming those who aren’t sure if they can trust us, but who want to try, and it has the potential to make our citizens single-minded and blind to the complexities of this appalling state of affairs. In this context, people of color, and particularly Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans and visitors, are experiencing hate speech, harassment and, in one horrible case, murder. I’m writing here to remind us that the best of our tradition, born in the Enlightenment, fed by the spirit of the Transcendentalists, is the unequivocal affirmation of a person’s right to shape his or her world as it best suits his/her self, family and community. We must affirm this tradition over and over again, publicly and strongly, or we will capitulate to the terrorists in the worst possible way.

Gail M. Newman

Professor of German

Director, Multicultural Center

Like many other Williams students, I woke up last Tuesday morning cursing the fact that I had an 8:30 class, grabbed a bagel, and scurried across campus so as not to be late. During the next hour and fifteen minutes I listened intently to my professor lecture, oblivious to the chaos that was descending upon the country. Upon arriving at my next class, I was dumbfounded. Rather than the normal pre-lecture banter – gossip from the preceding weekend or complaints about the homework – the discussion around me was heavy. I was silent as those around me pieced together the morning’s events. One commercial airplane flown directly into the Pentagon, two more crashed headlong into the World Trade Center, an unknown number of commercial jets in the air and unaccounted for. I walked home in a daze and joined my housemates in front of the television; I could not accept the pictures I saw or the interviews I heard, it all seemed too theatrical to be real.

When I saw front page of the New York Times Wednesday morning, my heart sank and I realized that it had not been a nightmare. I had been watching real life footage, not some tragedy manufactured for political gain as in the movie Wag the Dog. Though depressed by the sheer number of innocent victims, and distressed by the knowledge that anyone would choose to orchestrate such a cold-hearted attack, hearing how my fellow citizens were channeling their emotions in a constructive manner in the hours following the attack gave me some hope. The entire nation was affected by Tuesday’s events, but unfortunately as the days passed it became increasingly apparent that not everyone has contributed with a trip to the blood bank or a donation to the Red Cross. Looking at a CNN poll tracking people’s emotional response to the events of Sept. 11. I was shocked to see that nearly half of the respondents had indicated anger over sorrow or shock. As early as Wednesday morning, reports of attacks on Middle Eastern Americans began to leak out. Everyday I receive more press releases; just this morning I saw that a man has been arrested for the murder of one gas station attendant and the attempted murder of at least one more.

Despite the imploring words of many politicians, these unprovoked acts of violence continue to occur. I would like to think of the Williams community as a safe place for anyone and everyone to grieve. It is important that we make it clear that any such hate crimes, whether physical or verbal will not be tolerated on this campus or in this town. As was mentioned at the candle- light vigil on Sunday night, “You can’t fight hate with hate.”

Alix Partnow ’02

This Thursday there will be an hour for peace, from 12-1 p.m. on Chapin Lawn, weather permitting. This is an invitation for anyone who believes that a retaliatory strike is not the answer to last week’s tragedy, or at least suspects that its not. All across the nation there will be a similar hour for peace on college campuses. We hope that you will all join us.

With last week’s events we have all suffered. We have all as a nation, and as one world, been overwhelmed by this atrocity. Only in our most cold and inhuman moments could we ever reduce the mad destruction of human life to some exposition of a political theory, or thoughtlessly dismiss it as the nature of a nation, a religion or a people. Nothing can make sense of what happened, and although we should try to better understand what occurred, we are first called to mourn and aid those whose suffering is more poignant than our own. The effort to aid the direct victims of this tragedy has long been underway, and calls for all our support. But we also must remember the new victims of which more are emerging everyday. Those that are Arab, Muslim, or whose skin, features or manner or just different enough to excite hatred. We have to remember that they doubly feel this pain. We are all called to show our love and respect for them as friends, lovers, fellow American citizens and human beings. Just like we reach out to each other, and to those that survived this tragedy. This hour on Thursday is for peace. If you believe in peace, for whatever reason, please come and share that hour with us.

Paul DiBlasi ’02

While I am sorry that two of the Tyler House rooms turned out smaller than we might have preferred, I want to set The Williams Record straight and let you know that I am not ‘building a private bath’ for the affected seniors, as reported in the Sept. 11 issue. I thought I should quickly dispel that rumor before the line started forming outside my office door!

Tom McEvoy

Director of Housing