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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Post Memorial of Hope: Response to Tragedy

On October 23, students and faculty gathered in Ryan lounge to discuss the tragedy that befell our nation on September 11 and where we are today in both understanding and coping with our memories.

Professor Ester Shapiro, PhD, began the dialogue by discussing the “psychology of anxiety” in the context of an entire nation. She outlined the futility of trying to bring peace to those that lost loved ones in the attacks and to all Americans, through a dramatized war on terror. She explained, “The pseudo-scientific therapeutics for ‘working through’ stages of grief, promoted by a commercial media which profits from selling a quick fix for what ails us, prescribe immediate expression of feelings to ‘overcome denial’, acceptance of the death so as to ‘get closure’ and ‘move on.'” Further elaborating, “The media frenzy over Timothy McVeigh’s execution, justified in the name of bereaved families and their need for ‘closure,’ obscured the reality that the reality of loss unfolds throughout a lifetime of lost birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and graduations.” Rather she proposed we cherish the integrity and individuality of passed human beings as done by the Vietnam war memorial, designed by a Chinese American architect. Professor Shapiro said, “Maya Lin’s aesthetic vision created an ethical, sacred space naming each soldier while recognizing the dreadful enormity of our collective loss. Every day at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, grieving families and surviving soldiers communicate with their dead, leaving them notes, gifts, bringing them up to date on life without them.”

She also pointed out the necessity of honoring those America lost, to our society as a whole, stating, “The first priority for a shattered society after catastrophe is to rebuild the fabric that sustains every day life, restore disrupted institutions, and create public understanding of the deaths and their meaning…. For a post-conflict democracy, collective remembering and memorialization offers the opportunity to re-open pluralistic political participation.”

Professor Primo Vannicelli discussed the consequences of war beyond Iraq. Giving substance to Dr. Shapiro’s speech he related his own experience as a child growing up around World War II, and the lifelong trauma caused by seeing bombs dropped on his city. When he attended college, students that flunked out would get drafted to Vietnam. At UMB, veterans returning from that war were afflicted by the violence they had witnessed.

He explained that despite this, there is no simple solution, no obvious course to take in deciding whether or not a nation should go to war. Making an analogy to Europe threatened by Nazi Germany. The two options were to use force to destroy the threat, or to follow a course of diplomacy and appease Germany so as to remove its motive for aggression. The latter course was followed and ended up allowing for one of the most atrocious acts in human history, the Nazi’s holocaust and World War II.

Although the American administration’s current policy of might equals right is equally frightening. He said it’s sad that while the US was initially a bright beacon of hope for the future of diplomacy, its attitude has turned into “we want what we want.” This he explained will only increase the risk of future violence. In his opinion the damage has already been done. The US has sadly shown we pursue “national interest” above all others in every fields. He said, “We may live to regret the current principle that we can remove a regime because we don’t like it.”

On the topic of whether Iraq is a threat to the world he pointed out that it’s neighbors do not consider it so. Yet our actions are increasing the rift between the Muslim world and the West.

Professor Paul Atwood, of the American Studies department, discussed how we got to the current crisis and where we are going. He said “The story Bush would like us to believe is that Saddam brings insecurity to the world but the real reason behind his campaign is oil and Iraq’s strategic location on the map.”

He detailed US hypocrisy in supporting both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, which lead to millions of deaths. And also how at the height of his power Saddam Hussein was unable to defeat Iran, whose military capability was severely crippled by its recent revolution.

He talked about a recent CIA report that asserts there is “little chance Saddam will use weapons unless attacked.” And laid out the history of oil politics in the gulf: the US disappointment of Iran taking control of its oil and the possibility that Saudi Arabia may follow suit in the days to come. This he explains is the real reason for America’s heightened interest in “liberating Iraqi people.”

Ayesha Kazmi, a student at UMB, gave an informed insight to the Muslim American perspective, in light of the events of September 11. She discussed her own experience coming up against students on campus that openly and insulting said in her presence, “these Arab’s are the problem.” She talked about how FBI visited her home to question her activities and friends that had been arrested and detained, even tortured, without being charged of a crime. Incidences of severe injustice carried out by the US administration with authority granted them under the Patriot Act.

All this in light of the fact that she herself lost loved ones in the terror attack of September 11. Her eight-month pregnant cousin had been on one of the planes flown into world trade center. Innocently, on her way to a wedding, this lady had originally been placed on the FBI’s list of terrorists that committed the atrocity.

She talked about the ignorance towards Islam and it’s history in the United States, which considers itself Judeo-Christian, leaving Muslims invisible, alienated and marginalized.

Yet, Islam is not only the second largest religion in America and the world but also the fastest growing. She said, “Somehow people don’t wonder what the inspiration behind why people are converting to it at such a rate.” Instead, “Definitions of Islam are given by right wing hawks, news analysts, and experts on terrorism and Jihad.” She quoted Rev. Jerry Falwell who exclaimed, “Mohammed was a terrorist, he was a violent man, a man of war… in my opinion and I do believe that Jesus and Moses set the example for love, Mohammed set the opposite example.”

In respect to these accusations, Kazmi discussed the diversity of Islam, offering a Gay Muslim perspective, what she described as a marginalized group within a marginalized group, and their call for peace and understanding. She concluded by relating reports outlining the average Muslim Americans love for his or her country.