Coping With A Changed World

Experts have had--and will continue to have--a lot to say about the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Informed perspective and complete context are important. But it also seems important to listen to fresh voices. The events will impinge profoundly on the younger generation, a generation that grew up in peace, expected to inherit prosperity, felt little threat to personal safety, and found self-expression partly through ironic detachment. Just as the United States was preparing its first strikes against Afghanistan, Duke Magazine convened two discussion groups among students. The exchanges are presented here in merged and edited form.

In speaking of the war on terrorism, President Bush has said that we have defined our mission and our moment. Do you think these are defining or galvanizing events for your generation?

Chris Paul: If this question had been whether or not this has been the defining moment of George Bush's presidency, I don't think there is any doubt. As far as it being the defining moment of our generation, I hope not. I hope this doesn't escalate into a world war. But there's no doubt that September 11 will remain in our minds throughout our lives.


Above: Luke Bergmann '02, a physics major, is photography editor for the yearbook. An Angier B. Duke Scholar, he received a Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in science.


Below: Julie Norman '02 has a self-designed curriculum on media in education and social activism. She is a resident adviser, coordinator of a service-learning organization, and a tutor in the public schools.

Neil Gupta: I do think it reflects the new reality of globalization, of an increased ease in communication and of populations moving back and forth across borders.

Chris Paul: I really like Neil's point that we're seeing the problems of globalization along with its good side--the international collaboration, the sharing of information among those who are trying to fight terrorism. I think this could be a turning point where globalization is put to work for the better.

Luke Bergmann: If as a country we want to view this in some way as an attack on who we are--and I'm not sure about the case for that--the very least we owe to ourselves is not to destroy those very values that we claim for ourselves.

Martin Barna: If this wasn't an attack on who we are, then what was this an attack on? This was an attack on America and on Americans. What struck me was the solidarity with America from the rest of the world, the outpouring of sympathy toward America and disgust and anger with the terrorists who did this to America. The terrorists targeted an American symbol and they chose to make a statement. And I think we need to make a statement in return.

Luke Bergmann: I would say it was a heinous, hateful, murderous, entirely reprehensible act. But recognizing that doesn't help us understand how we came to this point and where we can go in the future to avoid other consequences.

Mark Freeman: When Tom Brokaw talks about the "Greatest Generation," he's referring to a World War II generation that actively participated in a worldwide conflict. In this case, actions are being taken at the level of the government. But we're told that the best thing Americans can do is just go about their daily lives as if nothing happened, and maybe to spend money to boost the economy. I don't really sense involvement at the level of the individual.

To what extent has September 11 and the aftermath affected your personal sense of safety and security?

Christine Varnado: The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were motivated by a desire to get at the very echelon of society from which most Duke students come. I spent the summer in New York, and in that sense it feels personal. I was talking with a friend the day of the attacks, and we said to ourselves, there's probably not a person on this campus who doesn't know someone in New York or Washington.

Lala Qadir: As an American citizen, I felt a sense of invasion and an attack on my ideals. This summer, I interned for the State Department, and I strongly identified with the U.S. government because of its ability to do good domestically and internationally. As a Muslim, the repercussions of these events were another facet that was quite terrifying. All across the country there are a lot of Muslims who have been harassed and physically beaten, and there was a CNN poll that said that 31 percent of Americans would like to see Arab-Americans in detention camps. So there's a cascade of events from the original atrocious acts that are affecting innocent lives.

Dana Vachon: One of my favorite things that I've held on to is a September 11 copy of The New York Times--a time capsule from when the world was normal. And the front page of that issue announces that it's Fashion Week in New York. When I look at that, I always think, what a luxury. Maybe it's interesting to examine our compulsions. Now I read that Times over and over. I remember sitting in the Duke Gardens the Sunday after the attacks, when they had grounded all the airplanes, and something was flying over the gardens. It was red--a color you wouldn't normally see on a plane. And I said, "Oh my God, is that a crop sprayer?" I was genuinely concerned. Feelings that once would have probably caused you to seek counseling now make sense in this odd world that we've been handed. 

Christine Varnado: Seeing those publications now is so spooky. They're from a different planet from the one we now inhabit.


Above: Neil Gupta '02, majoring in cognitive neuroscience, is editor of The Duke Mind, a student journal. He had a South Africa internship through Public Policy's Service Opportunities in Leadership program.


Below: Allison Brim '05, a B.N. Duke Scholar, is contemplating a self-designed major in peace studies. She is a research assistant in the Nicholas School of the Environment, a campus organizer for the U.S. Student Association, and a member of the Environmental Alliance, the Duke Progressive Alliance, and the Student-Employee Relations Coalition.

Luke Bergmann: We've been reborn. But it's not as if we weren't already living in a violent world. We just didn't realize it until September 11.

Allison Brim: The threat to my physical well-being hadn't really registered until I learned of the attack by the U.S. on Afghanistan. It just made it clear that there could be further attacks on our soil.

Julie Norman: When I first heard about the attacks I was definitely shaken up. I don't think I feared for my own safety here at Duke. But I have family members in New York and Washington, D.C., and it all hit so close to home.

Dylan Ashbrook: It was sort of surreal watching those planes just cut through those buildings. Every time I've driven to Duke from home, that's what I've looked at--the view of the New York skyline from the New Jersey turnpike. It's almost hard to connect those images to my everyday life because they were so incredibly horrific.

Neil Gupta: I don't feel a personal fear from what's happened. But what it's really highlighted is what people around the world live with on a daily basis; they have to put up with social oppression and with acts of terrorism. Because of what America has now experienced, we can better speak to the world on issues of oppression and terror.

How have the attacks influenced your thinking about your own future?

Dana Vachon: I spent the summer in New York and will probably go back there next year. Right after the attacks, I caught myself in this sort of heuristic, where I was trying to figure out if I could avoid New York while still achieving my goals. Before the process was over, I said, no, I can't do that. But when my father saw the Trade Center get hit, the first thing he thought was, "I work next to Grand Central Station."

Christine Varnado: These are particularly painful events for people of our age, who are just getting to the point where the world awaits us. I'm having a lot of anxiety about where I'll be traveling or working next year. I'd always planned to go to the Caribbean or West Africa; I always saw myself as unrestrained in terms of where I could go and what I could do. I believe in the ideals of a global community. But I'm having a lot of problems working out these issues right now. To me it would be a tragic thing if our world were to shrink to places that we can drive to from our hometowns, or places that are far from major population centers, because we're worried about terrorism. 

Luke Bergmann: This has made me think much more seriously about going directly to graduate school; that seems to be the safest, most stable place I can think of.

Patty Chen: My plans haven't changed at all. I'm still planning on taking a year off and working, hopefully in a Pacific Islander community, perhaps with a Vietnamese refugee community. There are still people living in poverty after September 11, and since those needs haven't changed, my plans haven't changed.

Chris Paul: I'm personally interested in humanitarian issues. I think that field won't change; in fact, more importance will be placed on it. And hopefully these events will cause people of the United States to think about what it means for us to be so economically dominant in the world.


Above: Christine Varnado '02, majoring in English, is an Angier B. Duke Scholar and the recipient of a Truman Scholarship for public service. She has edited VOICES, a feminist literary and opinion journal, has been a coordinator at the Community Service Center, and has worked with the LEAPS service-learning program.


Below: Chris Paul '05, one of the first Robertson Scholars, is a student in the Humanitarian Challenges at Home and Abroad FOCUS program. He's planning a self-designed curriculum on Eastern Asian environmental policy.


What are your reactions to the upsurge of patriotism and to the prominent display, including on campus, of the American flag?

Chris Paul: National mourning is very important, and in part the flag is a symbol of that. I'm hoping that these events will produce an international unity and not just a national unity. I'd like to see an emphasis on the positive values of the flag and the things we want it to stand for, like freedom. And I'd like to see us remember that freedom should not be exclusive for Americans.

Neil Gupta: Flying the American flag does have different connotations; one connotation is that you're either with us or you're against us. If people are flying the flag to represent the ideals of America, why hasn't it always been flown? Why does it take catastrophic events like these to make us realize, or present, those values that we hold so close to us?

Luke Bergmann: I think any person who doesn't want to fly a flag doesn't act with a conscious disrespect for those who have died. I think those people probably felt that they didn't want to see more Americans dying, that a way to honor our ideals was not to go forward into a war.

Allison Brim: As part of a community that is for peace and very much against war, I consider myself patriotic. I would almost hesitate to display the American flag for fear that somebody would think that it's just a symbol of togetherness in war. But I certainly would like to see the country being brought together.

Julie Norman: When I see the flags flying on campus, I'm not as moved as I am when I see the flag flying in the neighborhoods of Durham. That's not a belligerent use of the flag; people are thinking of the flag in terms of what they see America standing for--freedom and democracy.

Martin Barna: I don't see the flag as a symbol of war at all. I see it as a symbol of solidarity in this very tough time. To me, the flag is a symbol of freedom, and I don't think there is a more appropriate time to fly it than now.

Dana Vachon: I think the flag is sacred. There are a lot of people who have given their lives for that flag. The only moment I thought was excessive was when I looked at a cover of People magazine and it said something like, "Hollywood Shows Its Support," and Goldie Hawn was wearing a flag bustier. The market is too frothy and people have probably stopped considering the flag for what it is.

Luke Bergmann: With respect to solidarity, what I don't understand is what the word means to us. Does it mean that we should not disagree with one another? Does it mean that we shouldn't debate? Does it mean that we should fall in line? There is, in my mind, nothing scarier in a democracy than to have dissent pushed aside, because then it's no longer a democracy. There are few issues in life that are so black-and-white that you don't want to subject them, in good conscience, to democratic debate.

Martin Barna: To me, this is a very black-and-white case; we need to respond to these attacks, and we need to respond by using force. I don't think there's any question about that. And I haven't seen anywhere in this country where dissent really has been stifled. No one is talking about Sedition Acts.

Christine Varnado: The issue for me, as a patriotic American, is reclaiming the flag to represent the ideals that each one of us believes in as Americans. And for me, that's pluralism.

In the midst of a national crisis, there's talk of broader permission for wiretaps and for detention of suspects. And whether you're entering an airport or a football stadium, you're being subjected to more aggressive security searches. How accepting are you of constraints on your personal liberties in the interest of security?

Dana Vachon: Is it Tennyson who said, "Better a rotten borough or two than a city of flames"? I sort of feel that way. Better to sacrifice a little bit to help the state temporarily than to have a city in flames. I don't want to build detainment camps, but if you want to search me and to tap my phone, I'm willing to give up those privacies.

Martin Barna: After September 11, we should realize that Big Brother isn't watching much at all. Big Brother didn't see those two planes coming into the World Trade Center. I've never really had that fear that government is going to be on our backs and looking at our communications all the time. And I still don't. The ones who should have a fear of being monitored are those who are involved with terrorist acts.


Above: Lala Qadir '02 is a double-major in chemistry and public policy. She's a leader of Spectrum, a multicultural student group, and is co-president of the Duke Muslim Student Association.


Luke Bergmann: That's the logic that has led to every oppressive and authoritarian regime. The people who in the end will suffer most are those in social movements that have had a long, well-documented history of being targeted by our own government. We write our history books now, and we say that they, and not the government, were in the right at the time. There's the implication that terrorists are the people who have the most to fear from new government authority. But if you were to apply that logic to history, then you'd have to label Martin Luther King a terrorist.

Martin Barna: Not at all. What are the specific laws that the Attorney General has proposed? He's mentioned having it so that if you've got a wiretap on one person's phone line, that authority can be extended nationally on other lines used by that person. You still have to have evidence to obtain that initial wiretap.

Patty Chen: One thing we have to recognize is that when we talk about limitations on civil liberties, it often starts with a certain ethnic minority. When people say "American," the notion that comes to mind is the white, privileged American. The Japanese internment during World War II--that was all about "protecting Americans."

Dana Vachon: When I hear the CIA's George Tenet say that the agency cannot conduct effective intelligence while still wearing white gloves, that we need to do business with dirty people to catch dirty people, I say hurrah, great. The only rule of the international system is anarchy. And I think we need to re-evaluate the space that we live in here in America, because America has become, to some degree, an international battlefield. War has been declared upon us, and we are, for the first time, fighting a war on our own soil.

Lala Qadir: No one here disagrees that some action should be taken to monitor suspected terrorists. The question is, how are we going to stop ourselves from marginalizing a certain segment of the American population? Maybe you can take the premise that international politics is a realm of anarchy. But we have to work toward making sure that domestically we don't go toward a state of political and legal anarchy. 

Mark Freeman: I was talking to my grandparents the other day. They were saying that there are going to have to be sacrifices made in this way as there have been in every war. In the past Americans have had to sacrifice their living standards or even the lives of their loved ones in war. But I don't think our rights and liberties have ever come up on the chopping block.

Chris Paul: Well, there certainly were a lot of losses of liberties during the world wars, including restrictions on free speech. 

Dylan Ashbrook: It's important to remember that the enemy we're fighting is the product of a society that's restrictive of the civil liberties of its people. And we have to watch the small restraints that the government says are being done for patriotic reasons. We should be very sure that no one is perverting our freedoms by arguing that for our own safety, we need to sacrifice them.

Americans are registering a lot of trust in government: According to one survey, it's at the highest level since the 1960s. Do you find yourselves more trusting of the government during this tense time?

Chris Paul: My simple answer is, no. Certainly there's a national-security interest in keeping military operations secret. But as a citizen, I'm concerned that some of the choices we make may have bad consequences in the long run. I hope that if mistakes are made, we'll find out about them and be able to analyze them in order to make better choices in the future.

Mark Freeman: I do trust the administration and how they're handling the current situation. I also think the public can't be told everything for the sake of protecting military operations. At a certain level, we have to trust that the government is operating in the interests of its citizens. 

Neil Gupta: Is this faith in the government a result of the actions that the administration is taking, or is it more of a desire to back whatever the government is doing in these circumstances?

Mark Freeman: I specifically trust this administration. I think the government is taking the right steps. It was right for George Bush to go before Congress and the American people and say we are going to be fighting terrorism over a long-term period. And his actions since that time have been very measured and calculated.

Allison Brim: One of the things that disturbed me most was in Bush's address to the nation after the attacks. He made the comment that this was going to be a different kind of war; this was going to be a war that we might not know everything about, there might be battles that the American public would never find out about. That scares me.


Above: Dylan Ashbrook '04 is an English major. He's a staff writer for TowerView, which is a Chronicle supplement, and a member of the Duke Union Major Attractions Committee.


Martin Barna: The New York Times did a fantastic editorial where they talked about why Americans probably shouldn't see and the media probably shouldn't report all of the evidence in the case against bin Laden. If you're going to wage a war against terrorists, it's like any other war throughout history: You can't pass out the battle plans to CNN before you're going to attack. It's nice to sit down in the corners of academia and prattle for days about what a utopia looks like. But the rest of us have to live in the real world. You have to govern and you have to lead and you have to make tough choices, and you have to do things that don't necessarily fit with a perfect ethical framework.

Christine Varnado: Right after the attacks, a grassroots peace movement began forming in New York made up of some of the families of the people who died in the World Trade Center. And the only place you'll read about it is in The Village Voice. That's a perfect example of the viewpoints that you haven't seen represented.

Allison Brim: Hasn't the media already been silenced to some degree? I was at the peace protest in Washington, D.C., and there were about 15,000 people there, and none of the major media covered it.

Martin Barna: It was on the front page of The Washington Post the next day.

Christine Varnado: It wasn't on CNN's nightly news.

Martin Barna: Well, there are so many other things going on that you shouldn't have expected to see it everywhere. They had Susan Sontag on Nightline saying things that made this gentleman from the Heritage Foundation almost keel over. It was great to see her making those statements, and I don't think the national media is silencing other viewpoints.

Luke Bergmann: And Susan Sontag was receiving death threats.

Martin Barna: It's tough if you have a minority viewpoint when 80 percent of the population has a different viewpoint, and in this case is supporting President Bush. Who would have thought that 80 percent of this country, which was so divided last November, would be backing President Bush and agreeing with him on a course of action?

Allison Brim: It's difficult for the media to show the dissenting viewpoints when 80 percent of the American population is behind Bush. But I believe that the mainstream media very much played a role in that 80 percent by not showing the range of viewpoints from the beginning.

Martin Barna: We had lots of viewpoints. We had the plane coming from this angle, from that angle, and first one building collapsed and then the next.

Christine Varnado: That's precisely what we're talking about.

Martin Barna: Precisely 5,000 people were killed. And a lot of Americans felt that it was time to do something about that.


There's another survey on a much different theme. A couple of days after the attack, nearly four out of five people said they were more likely to be drawn to prayer or to be attending religious services. Has your religious faith comforted you during this uncertain period?


Above: Patty Chen '02 is a double-major in biology and mathematics. Formerly president of the Asian Students Association, she is chair of an upcoming East Coast Asian Student Union Conference. She's president of the Few Quad Council and a worker in the Literacy Through Photography program.


Luke Bergmann: One thing I've noticed is that a number of people who turned to their faith have found a lot of conflicts with it. They feel as religious believers different from how they feel as Americans. There are competing subjectivities: People will say my religion tells me one thing, but as an American I can't help but to feel differently.

Allison Brim: To build on that theme of conflicts, I find it interesting that everything from religious figures I've heard focuses on a non-violent reaction to terrorism. And the overwhelming majority of Americans, though they're attached to some faith, seem to be for some kind of military effort.
Martin Barna: In my personal faith, I'm Greek Orthodox. I haven't necessarily found myself feeling more or less religious as a result of the attacks. A lot of my friends who are not religious have asked me how I can believe in God when something like this happens. Of course, I go back to the standard line, which is, God doesn't manipulate how the world works every day.
Christine Varnado: In the aftermath of an event this traumatic, when everyone is feeling so psychologically adrift, one of the things that happens is that people really think about what is important to them. I think people find out what they want to commit to. On September 11, I think it was very significant that I felt I wanted to go to class. I felt that learning was our common purpose at this university, that I wanted to be engaged in that. And it strengthened my resolve to make a life in the academic world. A lot of people felt that the appropriate place for them was to be in a place of worship, and they may have discovered something about themselves.
Allison Brim: I definitely looked inside myself at my own spirituality. I think that's very important for people to be doing now; I feel that my spirituality dictates how I act.
Lala Qadir: This is a complex question. Muslims have sort of gone back to the basics and asked, what does Islam say about these things? In talking with people on campus about what Islam says, what it means to be Muslim, I've learned a great deal. If you believe in your faith and you learn more about it, it's a positive reinforcement. These terrorist attacks are completely anathema to the doctrine of Islam. In Islam, we have the Koran, which is the revelation from God, and we have the actions of prophet Mohammed, and we're supposed to embody in our actions what he said and did. Based on the teachings of Islam, there are very clear statements that when you engage in war, you can't harm innocent men, women, and children. And you can't hurt the environment or poison wells, which is an early statement against bio-chemical terrorism. When you see these people who, in some warped way, represent your faith, it's even more critical for you to understand yourself, what it really means to be part of that faith.
Chris Paul: I was pleased that there were interfaith services after the attacks. If there's anything positive to come out of this, I hope it will come from people looking for common points among religions.
Patty Chen: We need to realize that there are other religions in play, like Buddhism and Hinduism. It's interesting that when Duke held its interfaith service on the Chapel Quad, it had Islam and Judaism represented along with something like fifteen denominations of Christianity. But it didn't have a single Buddhist or Hindu represented.
Dylan Ashbrook: I can't understand how this would make anyone turn to God. The fact that the terrorists did this in the name of God would make me wonder about devoting your life to serve a higher power. If something very terrible happens to you, I don't understand how you benefit in talking to a higher power; I think the best thing to do is to look at how you can solve the problem with reason.
Mark Freeman: Religion doesn't dictate that God is going to make a perfect world. And religion isn't really based on logic. So a lot of people have turned to God in this situation, and I do think that it probably is a fleeting religious fervor. There is nothing rationally you can do if someone is flying an airplane into your building. But you need something to hang onto.
Neil Gupta: A distinction we need to make is between supporting a religion or turning to religion on an ideological basis or emotional basis. If we are talking about the terrorists, they were rationalizing their action by misusing religion. That's different from a religious person finding security in his faith.
Mark Freeman: These terrorists hate Americans. One of bin Laden's lieutenants was talking about U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, and he said, "We just want to kill all Americans." When I hear that, I can't equate that person and his feelings of religiosity and normal people's feelings of religiosity.


Above: Martin Barna '02 is a double-major in history and public policy. Former editorial page editor for The Chronicle, he continues as a columnist and as film editor for the weekly arts and entertainment supplement. He has acted in numerous Duke Players productions.


Below: Mark Freeman '03, an Alumni Scholar, is a biology major. A Howard Hughes Research Fellow, he does neuroscience research.

Can you see sacrificing yourself or compromising your style of living for the sake of something bigger than yourselves--say, some great national cause?
Chris Paul: I would put myself in harm's way to work in a humanitarian situation, to try to provide humanitarian aid.
Mark Freeman: Everyone struggles with the fear of being shipped off to fight and with the knowledge that we wouldn't have this country to enjoy had people not sacrificed their lives in the past.
Dylan Ashbrook: I don't think unwarranted aggression is a good thing. However, I don't think I'd feel right enjoying all the benefits that our way of life provides if I weren't going to stand and fight for them if called upon. It would be useful to look into the historical reasons for why these seeds of hatred were planted. But when terrorists crashed those planes, they overstepped the bounds of civilized behavior, and you can't rationalize it on the basis of the U.S. planting a McDonald's in some other country.

There's a lot of talk about how September 11 may have affected art and entertainment, about the public reaching for a less frivolous spirit and a less ironic tone. What are you now looking for in your entertainment options?
Christine Varnado: One of the important functions of art has been to provoke thought on an abstract level. And that's what I see my friends and I being drawn to. I've also seen some really fascinating black humor; it's very interesting how, almost immediately after the attacks, we began to use that sort of thing to defend ourselves psychologically, to heal ourselves, and to try to put to rest these unthinkable events.
Luke Bergmann: Normally, I sit and laugh at The Onion. Right after these attacks, I was terrified by The Onion--it was vengeance without thinking, or "let's think about it, then blow them up."
Dana Vachon: Before the attacks, a lot of my friends and I were wrapped up in reality programming. I really enjoyed it. Since then, I've been reading a lot of fantasy. I've gotten into the Tolkien books; the Hobbits are these people who live in the Shire, and they love the Shire and want to do nothing but eat and get fat and smoke pipes--which is very much America during the Nineties. I've retreated away from irony, I've retreated away from reality and have gone into this fantasy realm where individuals can fight great evils and be successful. That's brought me a good deal of comfort.
After September 11, we've seen commentaries in The New York Times and elsewhere question the relevance of intellectual trends like postmodernism and postcolonial studies. Those are perspectives that deny the existence of absolute truths and question the superiority of Western values in particular. Have you rethought any lessons from a Duke classroom?
Dylan Ashbrook: I know this is a hard thing to say, but I think we have a better society than they do. People who would say that we need to respect a culture that allows for suppression of rights and executes people at will--I think that's horrible.
Neil Gupta: We should shift the conversation to why people around the world are upset with U.S. culture and U.S. policy. I heard a quote by a professor who said, "The three biggest exports of the U.S. are Washington, Hollywood, and Las Vegas." To an Afghani, ours may appear to be a decadent society.
Dylan Ashbrook: I don't doubt that if the Afghani people were shown the benefits of capitalism and of the opportunity for upward mobility, they would be in favor.
Neil Gupta: Maybe we don't have a policy of exporting American values, of making the world into another America. But I think that American policy and American culture are behind insidious, creeping forces that are the source of a lot of underlying frustration around the world.
Has America's new war compelled you to think differently about your courses?
Chris Paul: I'm in the "Humanitarian Challenges at Home and Abroad" FOCUS program, the freshman seminar program. Our entire program revolves around issues directly related to the terrorist attacks. Part of what we hope for in academia is to understand events like these on a real level and not just as a topical discussion on TV. I hope that universities can help lead a public discussion about the root causes of these events.
Neil Gupta: I'm really wary of over-intellectualization of the situation. A lot of times we here at Duke or at other universities will attempt to make ourselves feel better about an issue by talking about it, as if that were going to accomplish something--which it usually doesn't. I feel that futility a lot and get frustrated by it.
Chris Paul: After September 11, I was struggling with the question, what went wrong? What happened? How can I change it? I can't go and work in Afghanistan now, and not all of us can aspire to be in high policy positions. But it did hit me that the simple saying that you see on bumper stickers, "think globally, act locally," is so important. 


Above: Dana Vachon '02 is a political science major. A former humor columnist and now associate news editor for The Chronicle, he's a member of Duke University Improv.


Christine Varnado: I've had some amazing discussions in my classes about these events; I've never felt more fortunate to be a part of the university than I do right now. I haven't encountered a single member of this community who would dispute the assessment that the slaughter of thousands of innocent people is wrong. That said, the discussions I've had have expanded my perspective. We've deconstructed The New York Times coverage, and we've looked at how even the physical organization of the paper--how the photographs are used--reflects an ideology. We've been talking about the decline of the nation-state and the postmodern shape of war, a war that's not being fought over land and where the enemy is not even a nation. 
Lala Qadir: In my "Public Health" course, we've been discussing the ramification of September 11, albeit from a perspective of health and global social welfare. Our conversations started after we began to introspectively analyze the determinants of health, and the direct correlation of health to economic, social, and political stability. In our readings, we discussed the effects of war on children, women, and the refugee crisis. The horrific sights of death that children are witness to are factors in perpetuating a vicious cycle of hatred and instability. We need to be aware of this. 
Luke Bergmann: I've done research with the Santa Fe Institute, which is a leading institution for the study of complex systems in science and beyond. One very interesting thing that was going around was that the institute should promote the understanding that this is a complex system, and that the world now requires an entirely different logic than the more simple, causal logics.
Patty Chen: My "Race and Equity" class turned into a class on a very personal level about racial profiling. How would we feel if we saw, for example, an Arab American acting a little bit suspiciously? Would we want that person searched in a particularly thorough manner? Some of us said yes, and some of us said no.
Martin Barna: In my "History of Science and Technology in the Ancient World," the professor talked about the contributions of Muslims, and he went on quite eloquently about the consequences when religion is perverted. Outside of class, some friends who graduated recently and I have a book club on the Web. We read a book and discuss it for a month. We were ten days into our discussion of Saul Bellow's Ravelstein when the tragedy happened. And we wove the themes together. 
Dana Vachon: I've drawn from Ravelstein as well; it's about a very intelligent person facing death. There's a passage where he talks about how he's waited his entire life to just see a brief glimpse of what living is all about. That's something that I've personally taken to heart in this time. To Ravelstein, death comes because of AIDS. You know, if it's AIDS or a building that collapses on you, it doesn't negate the importance of living well. And maybe that means not going to Wyoming and working on a dude ranch. Maybe that means just continuing with the plan to be in New York next year. 


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