Letters to the Editor

· Sep 18, 2001 Tweet

Timing of Friday memorial disrespectful to Muslims

I was disgusted with the poor timing of the “Program for Reflection and Remembrance” on Friday. While I was pleased to see UW-Madison organize an event such as this, Friday is the Muslim holy day, and prayer is always held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. This is not a random time; it is laid out in the Koran, and it cannot simply be changed to coincide with other events.

Many spoke of community-building and healing at Friday’s program. Would it have been impossible to plan this event for 1:30 p.m. so that the Muslim people in our community could have had the option to attend and heal with the rest of us? How can we come together if an important part of our community, especially considering the accusations surrounding the terrorist attacks, is prevented from attending? Over the past week several UW officials have spoken of respecting all people and of being kind and considerate toward those who may seem different from us. How can I believe that these sentiments are genuine when a glaring oversight such as this exists? Or must American- Muslims be forced to choose between their religion and their country?

I have felt blessed to see and feel the compassion of so many on this campus over the past week, and while I applaud UW for trying to bring us together, I feel an apology is owed to the Muslim students at UW. This situation may not have been intentional, but simply because the UW was unaware that Muslims pray at 12:30 p.m. on Fridays does not excuse them from having to take responsibility. We need to learn to be accountable to each other.

Reannon Peterson,
UW junior

Stick to the Constitution when dealing with terrorists

People believe that if they part with their “inalienable rights” guaranteed by the Constitution, the government will be able to more easily and efficiently defeat the new enemies who struck the United States last Tuesday. Unfortunately, if people allow the government to discontinue guaranteed rights, freedoms and privileges, the terrorists have already won.

Many times in this nation’s short history the government has revoked certain rights of individuals, or disregarded certain sections of the Constitution completely.

This country prides itself on being the leader of the democratic world. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights were unprecedented documents during the times in which they were drafted. Yet the United States routinely uses the Constitution when the government deems it convenient to do so. During most wars or other military excursions, the Constitution is often bent or broken. President Bush, during the Gulf War, kept our troops in the Middle East far longer than the Constitution; Supreme Court or legislative acts gave him the power to do so. Bush based his power on the War Powers Act, yet this act was partially deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

In this time of pain, anguish and possible war, citizens must remember how this country became so great: through civil liberties and rights of the individual. The Constitution provides us with the blueprint for success, and the dry-erase board for adaptability through the amendment process. We cannot arbitrarily decide when to follow this document. Do not give up your freedoms. The best way to fight back is to stand united as one free nation, with liberty and justice for all.

Chad Novotny,
UW junior

Re: Friday was a sham

Professor Joe Elder’s speech Friday was entirely appropriate. He stressed not killing innocent people in retribution for Tuesday’s attacks and not blaming those whose religion or ethnic background may be shared with the perpetrators of last week’s violence. I can’t imagine what kind of justification anyone would have for feeling to the contrary of these two opinions.

Keith Hennings,
UW senior

War is only possible option

War following the terrorist attacks perpetrated against the United States is not just one of many options, it is the only option. In a time like this, America will be judged on how it reacts. It could, as it has on previous occasions, roll over and let the courts handle this matter. It could rely on diplomacy and attempt to broker peace. Both of these options are fatally flawed. Precedent has shown that life imprisonment is not the suitable punishment for those who would die for their cause anyway. Those convicted of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings might be in prison, but that has not deterred others from attacking the U.S. Diplomacy is perhaps an even worse option. In order to come to a diplomatic solution, it requires that both parties act and think rationally. I do not think I am the only one who believes terrorists to be irrational. This leaves the only other option as war. And not one of Clinton’s wars where missiles are fired at targets from long distance. What is needed is an all out ground and air attack. These terrorists, who hide in caves and bunkers like the cowards they are, will be flushed out in the open and dealt with accordingly. In this case, violence really is the answer.

Richard S Girga,
UW junior

How do we love our enemies in these dark days?

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are faced with a seemingly impossible task to love those who perpetrate great evil. Terrorism, like all evil, seeks to blot out the light. If we give in to hate, to our natural desire for revenge, we are furthering the cause of evil. Evil is not defeated by greater evil; this only exacerbates the problem. The only force capable of overcoming evil is Love.

Love is much more than a syrupy, romantic emotion: it is an act of the will. In fact, according to Christian, Hebrew, and Islamic scriptures, God is Love. When seemingly everything in us cries out for blood, for revenge, we must reach beyond ourselves and ask for Divine assistance to endure the pain, to forgive and to love our enemies. The spirit of justice grows out of a forgiving and loving heart. Before we even consider any response, militarily or otherwise, we must engage in the painful, morally and spiritually difficult work of removing the log of hatred from our own eyes so that we can see clearly the just action to be done.

James M. M. Hartwick,
UW Ph.D candidate

WAA acting anti-American

I certainly didn’t expect to be insulted and embarrassed by the Wisconsin Alumni Association. In my mail today I received a horrendous invitation from Sheri Hicks, Director of Alumni Travel, to visit the communist nation of Cuba. For more than 40 years Cuba has sheltered terrorists, hijackers and other enemies of the United States. Now my alumni association invites me to visit this way-station of international terrorism. In the pamphlet they also encouraged me to visit the Monument to the 1959 Communist Revolution in Havana! What mailings should I be looking forward to in the future? Possibly a luxury tour to Afghanistan to see the camp of terrorist Osama bin Laden, so I can see the place he planned the attacks that murdered thousands of Americans? Better yet, why not a world tour so that all loyal alumni of UW-Madison can visit North Korea, China, Nigeria, Somalia and Bosnia. You could market it as the “We Hate the USA” tour.

If Ms. Hicks is not fired from her position for gross lack of judgment, I will be writing to the governor of Wisconsin and the state legislature to share with them the incredible gall of the Wisconsin Alumni Association officials, and to ask them to seriously review all future budgetary requests from the university. Obviously the patients are running the asylum in Madison.

G. Michael Fritz III,
Gilbert, AZ

Show tolerance to the intolerant

I agree the women that displayed the banners at the memorial service went beyond discretion into poor taste. However, I also found the responses of some at this event to be very hypocritical. We were there not only for a memorial service, but to participate in and celebrate our freedoms of peaceful assembly and free speech.

The intolerance shown those few women was appalling. Many of those who attend and work at the UW would like to describe themselves as open-minded and tolerant, when in fact they are close-minded and intolerant of those who hold views other than their own.

There was a lot of applause when the Hispanic gentleman read the poem about not continuing with hate and intolerance, yet that is exactly what was demonstrated by the crowd after these women appeared.

I would have recommended those women display their banners off to the side and remain silent until the end of the event, out of respect, as an alternative way of exercising their rights of free speech.

But I also would have recommended that the young man who assaulted one of the women (as the crowd cheered him on) leave it up to the authorities on site to handle the disturbance (which they ultimately did). He had better hope she doesn’t press charges. And shame on you all that cheered him on.

Do you see what I’m saying about the hypocrisy of those who would preach tolerance and then not demonstrate tolerance toward those they don’t agree with?

Mark Castillo,
UW Financial Specialist

Vigilante crowd control

As I walked back to my office after the “Program of Refection and Remembrance” on Library Mall, I heard many people express their irritation over the disruption caused by three young women who crossed in front of the podium carrying large banners and shouting “You will go straight to hell.” While I also found this intrusion annoying, I was much more disturbed by the inappropriate response of men in the crowd who took it upon themselves to silence these unpopular protestors.

These large men wrestled the banners from the women and rendered the women physically helpless by wrapping long arms around them and dragging them off like cave men conquering prey. This raw display of vigilante force was repeated twice before the women were escorted away by police. (One could argue that the men were more deserving of removal since they had actually physically accosted other humans, but that is not my point here).

I will be grateful if the student body will respond to these questions. Where did these men learn these behaviors? Do they think that this is the appropriate way to settle their differences with women or small people? Why did none of my fellow walkers leaving the program of remembrance comment on the men’s behavior? Does freedom of speech on this campus depend on size, gender or popularity of the views expressed? Do we approve of vigilante crowd control by those who attend public functions?

Perri Morgan,
Lecturer, Physician Assistant Program

Don’t make military strikes first course of action

One would have thought watching ravenous citizens eagerly rend Clare Fehsenfeld limb from limb would dissuade any but the most masochistic of readers from submitting a similarly spirited letter. In their bloodlust, however, those that submitted feedback were moved to attack the messenger rather than the message.

At the risk of inviting the same fate, I must say that both our government’s and the media’s account of how to deal with terrorism is baffling. They talk as though “terrorism” were some ideology people ascribed to simply because they thought it a good and right thing in and of itself, analogous to communism. However, the analogy doesn’t hold. Terrorist acts are done because those who do them are frustrated and enraged with some state of affairs – they strike back either in anger or to send a message (usually both).

Interviews with bin Laden and many Palestinians and Arabs show that they perceive the United States as allowing and promoting the systematic oppression and destruction of their people. The instances commonly cited are unconditional backing of Israel, bombings that affect civilians and crippling embargoes. The funny thing is, right after the news airs these taped statements nobody discusses these people’s arguments. But if you want to eliminate terrorism, you have to address these issues since they are what fuel terrorism! Merely killing those who perform terrorist acts will not change these people’s views. In fact, it will only cause them to despise the United States even more and fuel the desire of some to strike back with more terrorism.

Others do see this point. One of the main reasons many European leaders are starting to hedge their support of the United States is this fact. Now, perhaps this won’t be sufficient and in the end military force of some sort will be necessary, but we cannot assume that from the start. Actually discussing these people’s concerns and at least reconsidering our foreign policy can only help, not hurt the situation.

If this point is sound, then ignoring it will almost certainly have severe, unwelcome consequences. Leveling personal attacks against those who argue as such, as good as it may feel, will not change this fact.

Joshua Thurow,
UW Graduate Student


This article was published Sep 18, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 18, 2001 at 12:00 am


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