Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering a class discussion about 9/11

In my class on September 12, 2001, it didn’t seem right to plunge immediately into the scheduled subject matter. So I asked the students if they wanted to talk about the previous day’s events. One asked, “Did the attacks happen because the attackers were angry about the U.S. support of Israel?” A student who had been a soldier in the Middle East said, “That’s not the primary issue. Many are angry because of the U.S. presence in the Middle East, especially near the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.” Another said, “We ought to go into Afghanistan and send them back to the middle ages.”  The response: “That’s already been pretty much accomplished by many years of war there.” Then the question arose: “Will our country treat the attacks as crimes, or as acts of war?” We spent some time discussing the pros and cons of each approach.

The government decided, of course, to treat the attacks as acts of war. Our soldier was called up for duty. Fortunately, he later returned and graduated.

As I reflect on our discussion ten years later, I remember learning from it. And in retrospect, the students’ comments look quite insightful.


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