Friday, February 04, 2005
Fighting Terrorism with Empathy: a Model for PeaceTaranto comments:
The word terrorism strikes a deep nerve among Americans today--having sparked an entire nation to the defense of its country and the subjugation of those who stand in opposition. One of these men who stand in opposition is the man who planned the September 11 attacks. In November 2004, Osama Bin Laden released a tape giving his recipe for a healthy nation. This seminar would dissect his message and use audience participation in doing so. Discussion points would include counterterrorism methods, the possibility of peace, empathy etc. The aim of this seminar would be to help understand the position of Osama Bin Laden as presented in the video and explore in what ways the origins of terrorism are to be found, not in some foreign citizen, but in the actions we take out of fear, hate and retribution.
We're of two minds about nonsense like this. On the one hand, the whole thing is silly and inconsequential. If America can survive "Fahrenheit 9/11," it can withstand the blatherings of Amy Nell. Indeed, one of the great benefits of free speech is that the very exposure of such flapdoodle discredits it--and, if you have a dark sense of humor like we do, often in quite entertaining ways.But there's more at work here, as I said about the St. Olaf case last year. If you wish to teach peace, you should offer some discussion of the alternative: Is appeasement always the answer, or are there points where force is justified? You would think after the student response to Big Trunk's presentation on the lesson of Winston Churchill on appeasement at the St. Olaf forum, the organizers at Augsburg might have learned from the experience.
On the other hand, higher education is at least arguably a serious and important institution, and inasmuch as a college degree is a necessary credential for many jobs, it is also a powerful institution. In some ways society would be better off if colleges and universities were run by serious people.
Alas, the Augsburg organizers did not learn. Too bad.
Giving the talk was an emotional experience for me. To bring an image of Churchill's greatness to a receptive audience of students who knew nothing about him, to recite the words whose force brought Churchill to power and changed the history of the world, to place Jimmy Carter in a Churchillian frame of reference, were humbling and inspirational tasks.
The questions and comments from the students following the talk were engaged and responsive. What about President Bush? What about preemption? What about 9/11 and the war against the United States? When did the British public turn to Churchill? What about North Korea?
I was struck after the talk by how many of the students, mostly guys, stayed around to express appreciation. Appreciation for what? My impression was that they appreciated hearing someone articulate a point of view that expressed their own instinctive respect for the guardians of freedom.