A Look at PA’s Response to Virginia Tech To the Editor: While I disagree with some of the things that Michaeljit Sandhu wrote in his Commentary piece last week, namely the fact that making the gathering optional trivialized its importance, I was nevertheless disheartened by the overly energetic condemnation he received from a vocal portion of the Andover community. Sandhu’s article presented a well-intentioned and respectful look at America’s self-centered attitude. He wasn’t asking anyone to ignore the victims of this tragic event, nor was he asking Andover students to join and commemorate a cause (Iraq) with which they might not necessarily agree. Jumping on the bandwagon to label the author “unpatriotic” and placing a copy of the article on Facebook with “God Bless America” written across it is, however, immature and a poor reflection of our values as a school. Similarly, blaming Seung-Hui Cho’s actions, however brutal, on the fact that he is “an Animal” is taking an overly simplistic view of what happened. It is terrible that so many died at Virginia Tech, but it is much more terrible to think that their deaths could have been prevented relatively easily. Supporting VT during this trying time does not mean blindly cursing Cho, nor does it mean just wearing an orange and maroon ribbon. Mourning something every day defeats the purpose of mourning; rather, let’s make a constructive effort to ensure that these tragedies, whether at home or overseas, never happen again. That is action befitting the global community of dedicated leaders we claim to be. Best, Steve Blackman ’07 Editor-in-Chief, CXXIX To the Editor: I would like to commend Michaeljit Sandhu ’09 for his Commentary article, “VT Was Not the Only Tragedy.” I agree wholeheartedly that the wearing of maroon and orange was an inappropriate response to this tragedy. This is not to say that any kind of memorial is inappropriate. The shooting was a tragic event, and the victims and their families deserve remembrance, but to commemorate the death of 33 people by wearing maroon and orange is, as the article asserts, superficial and, in my opinion, unnecessary. Michaeljit failed to mention that on April 18, two days after the Virginia Tech shooting, 233 Iraqis were killed in a string of bombings in Baghdad. This death toll makes that day one of the deadliest since the war began four years ago. In October, a Washington Post article reported that an estimated 655,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the conflict in 2003. Personally, I haven’t heard once of a day asking me to wear any color clothing to memorialize any of those deaths. Hundreds of innocent people die every day around the world due to shootings, bombings, and other unspeakable acts of violence. Our community and our country need to realize that all human lives have intrinsic worth and to commemorate the death of some and not others shows just how self-centered our society has become. Ryan Ferguson ‘07 To the Editor: I write in criticism of Michaeljit Sandhu’s recent article, “VT Was Not the Only Tragedy.” To be blunt, I found Mr. Sandhu’s comments to be not only illogical but also completely inappropriate. Sandhu’s attempt to trivialize the shootings at Tech through liberal use of the word “globalized” is both offensive and inaccurate. Including a school shooting in the same category as the Iraq War and the Darfur Crisis is self-indulgent and demeaning to those affected by any of the incidents; one cannot ascribe genocide to sheer chance, nor a school shooting to the work of governments and cultures. The international crises Sandhu referred to are the result of complicated political interactions; the shootings at Tech were horrific principally because the killer was a college student, and because everyone who has recently spent time on a college campus understands how unpreventable such a tragedy truly is. As a student at the University of Virginia, less than two hours away from Blacksburg, I am well aware of the visceral reaction the shootings caused. It is precisely the randomness of the tragedy that was most disturbing, and the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability that followed. Sandhu calls Andover’s response both inadequate and superficial and states, “…we have graduates who attended the school and must therefore commemorate the tragedy.” It may come as a surprise to him that there are those who mourn the dead regardless of which high school they attended. The wearing of orange and maroon was a striking visual statement of support on campuses across the country, especially at UVA, where nearly every student has a friend or relative at Tech. It was originally Tech, not Andover, which requested the wearing of orange and maroon; far be it from anyone to dictate how they should mourn. Sandhu writes that such actions “exemplify our inability as a society…to recognize tragedy both respectfully and ethically.” Yet the only response to the tragedy I have observed to be lacking in both respect and ethics was Sandhu’s. The administration and students of the University of Virginia, along with colleges and communities across the country, have offered sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Blacksburg community, while also allowing their students to grieve, or not, in whichever way they choose. I commend the Andover community for doing the same. Sincerely, Emma King ’06 University of Virginia ’10 To the Editor: While I wholeheartedly believe in free speech and the use of The Phillipian as a vehicle for student conversation, I found myself offended beyond words last Friday by Michaeljit Sandhu’s article “VT Was not the Only Tragedy.” I have two major complaints with Mr. Sandhu’s article. For one, I completely resent Mr. Sandhu’s statement that we do not mourn the victims of atrocities committed across the globe, particularly in Darfur and Iraq. These issues are a regular topic of conversation within the newspaper and at school sponsored events (we had an All-School-Meeting dedicated to the Darfur issue, whereas we had an optional memorial service for the Virginia Tech massacre), and they certainly receive far more attention here than in most other academic communities. Secondly, I take issue with Michaeljit’s comments within the article and on WPAA in which he explicitly called Orange and Maroon Day “materialistic.” Clearly, he had no concept of what the day was about. It wasn’t about just wearing a school’s colors because it’s a “fashionable” thing to do. The colors in the ribbons and on our clothes were simply a sign of solidarity and support for families of those who lost their loved ones to the whims of this evil man. If anything else, doing this is better than having discussions on such politically corrupted issues like gun control (unfortunately, too many vote-happy politicians have seized on this issue to promote heavier gun control to appease their bases), as these arguments take us away from what the real issue was. All we must do is show our support for the families and mourn what happened and not lead ourselves down a fruitless road of hypothetical discussion. Sincerely, Peter Schock ’08 To the Editor: In light of Michaeljit Sandhu’s column of April 27 about the Virginia Tech massacre, a small firestorm has been brewing on this campus over the intentions and patriotism of the author. A Facebook group was created that essentially labeled Mr. Sandhu un-American for marginalizing the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre and stating that “Andover’s recognition of Orange and Maroon Effect Day placed unequal importance on some lives.” Although I agree with various members of the Facebook group that the article in question seemed to diminish the loss of 33 students and professors, I believe that Mr. Sandhu was wrong only in tact, and not substance. What happened at Virginia Tech was a terrible tragedy, and it was important for us to mourn with the grieving families whose loved ones perished at the hands of a thoughtless and random act of violence. But why didn’t the administration ask us to wear ribbons on Tuesday, when the nation sullenly (and silently) marked the fourth anniversary of George W. Bush’s speech declaring “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln? In this war of choice, over 3,350 young men and women (similar in age to the Virginia Tech victims) have died. In the month of April alone, over 100 U.S. soldiers perished while serving gallantly under the American flag. Where are their profiles in national magazines and newspapers? Why didn’t our school have a memorial ceremony and a moment of silence for them? Is part of the answer the fact that a vast majority of PA students move on to cozy college campuses like the one that was terrorized in Blacksburg, VA, but only a tiny sliver of the student body serves in the armed forces? I don’t want to take anything away from the tragedy at Virginia Tech, just as I hope that Mr. Sandhu did not intend to do in his column. But before any students on this campus try to chastize my patriotism, I would like to know the last time that they reflected on the great men and women we are losing in Iraq, and ask themselves why they will not be over there joining them after graduation. Sincerely, Yoni Gruskin ’07 Reconsidering PA and Military Service To the Editor: It was with great interest that I read last week’s Commentary feature on PA students in the military. I was glad to hear the viewpoints of past, present and future servicemen and women. However, there was one equivocation which disturbed me: that of non sibi with military service. Certainly, serving one’s country in the military is a form of selflessness. But there are other ways to show non sibi which do not involve joining the armed services. Alex Green wrote that “[he] refuse[s] to believe that the ideals of non sibi are lost among the PA community.” There’s no reason to fear them gone. In reality, those ideals are alive and well at Phillips Andover, and just as Mrs. Chase said in her All-School Meeting speech at the beginning of the term, the lives of service that PA alumni lead after graduation is living proof. PA alumni serve their country and live non sibi in many different ways, from the artists and writers who challenge the way we think, to the politicians and bankers who put those visions into practice and even the stay-at-home moms and dads who rear our next generation of youth from every quarter. I do not mean to degrade those who choose to join the military. It’s just that there are other ways to show selflessness, and to follow such a myopic definition of non sibi ignores the efforts of those who help others in other lines of work. Perhaps America itself (and not just the PA community) can begin to live non sibi in a different way. We have one of the most advanced democratic governing systems in the world; instead of proving our global supremacy with guns and bombs, we need to start proving it with our words and by diplomatically bringing the rights of the individual that we enjoy in the U.S. to citizens of other countries who do not yet have such freedoms. In that vein, Mr. Doherty’s suggestion of two required years of community service after high school graduation is a good one. Although I thoroughly disagree with him that “this school [has] grown self-absorbed, selfish and surpassingly materialistic,” his vision of service and outreach is exactly the kind of mindshift that we, as a nation, need to undergo in order render war itself unnecessary. As global citizens, that’s our obligation to the world. Americans have already set the global standard for warfare. It’s now our job to set it for diplomacy. Sincerely, Anabel Bacon ’09 The Phillipian welcomes all letters to the Editor. 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