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Why a Polarized America Cannot Rely on Easy Answers

Yet some of the speakers' assertions were simply unfounded, such as the claim that the media is ignoring the issue of why so many people hate America. In fact, this theme has naturally been a major focus of all the news outlets I've seen, often with deep coverage that is very critical

of the U.S. About twenty minutes before the teach-in started, I was listening to a National Public Radio interview with Robert Kaplan and others on that very topic.

Further accusations against the media at the teach-in were strangely out of touch, and left me wondering what kind of public discussion the speakers wanted. One speaker challenged us to name one major newspaper which "unequivocally" condemned the bombing of Iraq and Serbia. Last I checked, newspapers were supposed to represent the diverse views of their communities, and thus shouldn't be opining "unequivocally" about any contentious, debatable issue. I hope that news media will not become unequivocal any time soon. NPR was routinely disparaged, with one speaker dismissing it as "National Pentagon Radio." Interesting. If anything, NPR journalists have a left-leaning bias; these are not people who voted for Bush. Amid a number of voices, NPR sometimes features Pentagon experts Is that the problem? What other voices, I wondered, should be culled from the NPR rolodex?

This one-sided event fast became a discouraged clap-trap litany of abuse against American policies, which may have been informative for some, but ultimately resorted in an unproductive and potentially harmful discourse. The speakers threw countless snide verbal barbs against their mainstream opponents, issued denunciation after denunciation, with much of the crowd laughing and applauding on. It gave an overall sense of unfocused anger, exactly what we must avoid. At one point a man sitting near me shouted, "Bulldoze the Pentagon!" Well, that task should be about one-fifth easier now, with one side down and just four more to go. How insensitive to

victims' families, not to mention that the bulldozer is the Israelis' instrument of choice for destroying Palestinian orchards and homes.

The extreme Left has a rage all its own. It is not at all immune from the dangers of Orwellian groupthink, of blinkering critical thought and drowning out dissent, nor does it seem at all inclined to challenge its own assumptions. If the rest of us are so blind to all the evil in America, might they be blind to some of the good? Do I suggest they be silent?

By no means. They have important things to teach us, and in this precarious time we must listen to all voices. We have entered upon a conflict that is difficult and complex in the extreme, a problem that defies our cozy, well-worn, pre-fabricated answers.

I certainly don't have all the answers. Currently our government is using the threat of war to try to bring some resolution to the crime perpetrated against us. How I hope that that will suffice. But I fear the decisions before us won?t become easier any time soon, and for all practical purposes, we have already been in a state of war since September 11th.

What I do know is that this week's tragedy brought forth the best of America and evoked the empathy of nearly the whole world. I pray that we act wisely and justly, and that we can preserve something of this unity throughout the struggle ahead -- whatever that may be, whatever it may bring.

Christopher Fuhrmann
Graduate Student
History

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