Campus groups hold rallies to address American response to terrorist attacks
Members of the Princeton Committee Against Terrorism stood on the steps of Whig Hall on Friday quoting Thomas Paine and singing "God Bless America." On Sunday evening members of the Princeton Peace Network gathered in Firestone Plaza quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and singing "We Shall Overcome."
And in between, the bombing began.
PCAT held a rally on Friday, "In Celebration of America" attended by about 60 students and community members. "We are here to show that the Princeton Community is strong and firm," Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky '04 said. "We are here to call for peace — true peace."
With boxes of American flags to hand out red, white and blue pins, PCAT emphasized a patriotic and unified response to the Sept. 11 attacks and spoke out against claims that Americans brought the terrorist attacks upon themselves.
Citing the personal histories of the Sept. 11 hijackers, history professor and American studies program director Sean Wilentz said terrorism is caused by "money, education and privilege."
"To say that poverty explains terror is to slander those caught in poverty who choose to lead worthy lives," he said. "[Terrorists] are not the oppressed, but they are parasites on oppression."
The real cause of the Sept. 11 attacks is "the malignant and murderous philosophy of the perpetrators and their leaders," Wilentz said. "To the terrorists, America's crime — its real crime — is to be America."
Wilentz called for the defeat of America's attackers. "Our opponents must be crushed, if not eliminated — for evil will never be eliminated — then soundly defeated, he said."
History professor Harold James also spoke out against the idea that America brought the terrorist attacks upon itself.
"To accept this suggestion is to give in to some extent to the mindset that the terrorists wished to inculcate in us," he said.
The only effective response to the attacks is to demonstrate the "powerlessness" of terrorist groups through military action, James said.
"This will require a new kind of war," he added. "This war will not be a visible one, and it won't be a public relations one."
Politics professor Thomas D'Andrea said the terrorist network al-Qaeda is not a sovereign state but rather "a band of pathological outlaws."
"It is engaging . . . in a systematic campaign of wanton homicide against, at least, anyone who happens to hold an American passport," he said.
As delivery trucks rumbled by and a bell tolled the passing of classes, Mueller noted the PCAT rally was a "quintessentially American gathering," both in its size and in the sentiments expressed.
A U.S. military response to the terrorists would fulfill the requirements of a "just war," said politics professor John Mueller, though he noted that non-violent methods should be used "whenever possible."
"A celebration of America is not about jingoism. It is not about xenophobia," Rockefeller College Director of Studies Jem Spectar said. "We must be willing to stand up and defend patriotism."
Spectar spoke directly to Princeton students in the crowd: "It is very easy to make this speech," he said. "But someone has to die [in a war]. Someone somewhere just like you, 20 or 21 years old."
The approximately 70 people at the Princeton Peace Network's candlelight vigil last night, after the attacks in Afghanistan, were well aware of the deadly reality of war. "This is not being fought in our name," said Zia Main, a faculty member in the Wilson School's Program in Science and Global Security. "Grief is not a justification for retaliation and killing."
PPN will hold a rally on Cannon Green today at 11:30 a.m. to condemn the United States' war on terrorism. In partnership with Princeton Professors for Peace, PPN has called for University students and faculty to walk out of classes today to attend the rally.
At yesterday's rally, PPN members read selections from the writings of Gandhi and King in support of non-violence and condemning the U.S. military's actions.
"Affirm life," read Taufiq Rahim '04 from a poem by Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American poet. "We got to carry each other now. You are either with life or against it."
Holding candles with quivering flames, the crowd stood still in a moment of silence for "families who lost loved ones in the attack, for those who will lose their lives in the coming days and for those who will experience a much colder winter in Afghanistan than the one we are experiencing in Princeton," as introduced by Patricia Armstrong, a staff member at the Center for Learning and Teaching.
As the dusk fell in Firestone Plaza, the crowd locked arms and swayed to the singing of "We Shall Overcome."
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