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The Daily Tar Heel

Alumna Counters Idea That Violence Is the Only Way to Answer Attacks

Christina L. Cleland's Letter to the Editor, "Alumna Sees Present Situation As a `Killed or Be Killed' Type Scenario" (Wed. 26 Sept.) typifies the simplistic and short-sighted reaction of many Americans to the recent tragic terrorist events. The idea that the situation we are faced with is simply a "kill or be killed" scenario depends on several assumptions -- the most important of which Cleland outlines in her letter.

The main sentiment seems to be that those involved in the perpetration of the attacks are "not a civilized people" and are "nothing like us." Such terms suggest that Cleland and other like-minded Americans have fully dehumanized the "Other Side" in this conflict, called "America's New War" by jingoists everywhere.

Regardless of their deplorable actions, those involved in the attacks -- our enemies, for lack of a better term -- are indeed human beings. Dehumanizing them is a natural reaction but is an altogether too simplistic one. Highlighting our differences will not resolve underlying issues. Fighting violence with more violence does not quell the situation but rather escalates the entire cycle of hate and pulls innocent bystanders (the Afghan people, for one) into the conflict. Cleland says that since bin Laden's group "uses shocking force," we as a nation must do the same.

How exactly does this make the United States any less of an "uncivilized monster" than the attacks on Sept. 11 make bin Laden's group? Responding to terrorist attacks in a similar fashion makes us terrorists too, no?

To assume that there is no alternative to reacting in an overly violent, militaristic way is to truly compromise our intelligence and strength as a nation and as a people.

There are other ways to react to this disaster besides destroying, as evidenced by the flurry of anti-war sentiment over the past few weeks. People participating in vigils, peace rallies, teach-ins, etc., are not "obtuse" (as Cleland asserts). They are the courageous and peace-loving citizens of the United States who can and will bring this country out of its arrogant, jingoistic rut and into a peaceful 21st century. It's 2001 -- can't we do any better than this?

Jennifer Betowt

Class of `00

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