The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday September 26th

Why Did It Take Terror At Home?

I wanted to write about UNC's license agreement with software giant Microsoft Corp.

There were reasons for my hesitation: I am supposed to be a University columnist, and besides, what can I say about Tuesday's events that hasn't already been said?

But in view of the amazing response that this university has shown in the face of national tragedy, I had to change my mind. As fervent a Tar Heel as I am, I've never been as proud of UNC as I am now, not even when we beat Duke.

From Chancellor James Moeser to individual students, UNC has shown a most admirable response: a response of strength, of unity, of compassion, of thoughtfulness and of peace.

One of the best aspects of the campus reaction has been the remarkable clear-headedness that has, in general, prevailed here. Even President Bush has failed to stress adequately the message that Americans should not redirect their anger against their innocent fellow citizens, but many students at Carolina have been vocal in standing up for the rights of the local Muslim community.

When Top of the Hill restaurant displayed banners reading "God bless America" and "Woe to our enemies," within hours it had received calls questioning the appropriateness of that second message. The sign has since been taken down.

Campus and local groups jumped to the task of organizing vigils and memorial gatherings in the aftermath of the attacks. Many of these events not only helped individuals deal with the trauma, they also helped spread wishes for peace and healing.

Now that we have devoted time to those thoughts, UNC continues to respond appropriately by moving to consider questions of what will be next.

Tonight, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment will host "Understanding the Attack on America" at 5 p.m. in the Student Union Great Hall.

Then at 8:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. David Price will be on campus for a public forum to discuss the attacks and the future. The forum, sponsored by student government and the Young Democrats, will be in 111 Carroll Hall at 8:30 p.m.

Tomorrow, MASALA and the Campus Y will sponsor a forum on "Hate: A divisive or constructive force?" at 5 p.m. in Carmichael Ballroom. All members of the campus community are invited to come and discuss the response to the attacks.

And on Wednesday, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies will hold a debate on what the best response for the United States should be. That forum will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Dialectic Chambers, 308 New West Hall.

If I could criticize UNC's response at all, it would have to be by asking if there's been too much coverage, an even greater response than there should be.

After all, there are so many disasters in the news: natural disasters -- an earthquake in Turkey, a hurricane in Latin America -- and as if that weren't enough, mankind has built some disasters of our own -- ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, civil wars in Africa, and most recently, of course, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

These disasters have claimed the lives of thousands of people, affected somehow the lives of probably literally millions more. We've heard about so many disasters, we can't even get ourselves very worked up about them.

My real criticism, of course, is not that this week's response was too strong; rather, that in some other cases the response has been too weak. And perhaps that will change now that America has learned bad things can happen to us.

In any case, we are justified in having a greater response to this tragedy than to others because it will affect policies in our own country -- i.e., we'd like to know whether we are at war, and if so, with whom. The impact of last week is not greater because we value American lives more; rather, because we take a civic interest.

That's why this week's upcoming forums dealing with the next step, with local and national responses, are so important -- because in a democracy, it is necessary for ordinary citizens like us to understand their opinions on domestic policy issues.

And with that, it looks like I'm almost out of space. I guess Microsoft is getting a break, at least until next week.

Columnist Geoff Wessel can be reached at

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