Letters to the Editor

9/11: A Question of Focus

To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Nicole Okai’s article, “Why We Didn’t Observe 9/11,” which appeared in the Commentary section of the Phillipian last week. I admire Okai’s initiative in trying to clarify the issue, and I agree that many people continue to be affected by the events of September 11, but I simply cannot approve of the logic or the method that she used to make her point. Okai’s article responded to a letter that was submitted by Erica Harris ’09 several weeks ago, which voiced an objection to the criticism the administration had received for neglecting to officially commemorate the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Harris acknowledged the importance of remembering the tragedy, but does not condone the widespread attention it continues to receive even in the face of the obvious urgency of current issues such as Darfur, Iraq, and racial inequality. In her article, Okai quoted this part of Harris’ letter: “We did, however, help to usher in a new era where 9/11 will not be the tragic event that everyone obsesses over. Perhaps we can shift the focus to something we can actually do something about (again, Darfur, Iraq, racial inequality).” Okai condemned this an “ignorant statement,” but I believe she may have chosen to focus on Harris’ word choice instead of the meaning behind it. I know Harris did not intend to label the grief of those affected by September 11 an “obsession”; she meant, instead, to point out that our nation, as a whole, is far too concerned with an event that, while tragic, cannot be changed. Many people died, and we mourn their loss and treasure their memory; but nothing we do now can change what happened, and our energy would be better spent on defending those lives that can still be saved. America is one of the most powerful countries in the world, and this fact has contributed to a collectively self-centered attitude that cannot be allowed to flourish. I know that in saying this, I risk accusations of being unpatriotic, but nothing could be farther from the truth; I love my country, but I would far rather be proud of the United States for stepping in to save those suffering in other countries than be proud of our ability to commemorate an event that is long past. Okai’s article closes with this: “[It] merely shows how different the opinions of Andover students on 9/11 are. Then again, some of us are from America, while others are from foreign countries, say Thailand.” If this is meant to imply that Erica Harris is unable to comprehend how America feels about September 11 because she lives in Thailand, I fail to understand Okai’s logic. September 11 is almost always presented as an attack on America, but the suggestion that the grief it caused belongs solely to the American people is harmful and divisive. September 11 was not specific to one nation; it was an attack, not on America, but on humanity. Living in another country does not limit the ability to feel human compassion for innocent victims, and to intimate that nationality determines the capacity for grief truly is an “ignorant statement.” Offering an opinion—or understanding loss—should not be conditional on United States residency. It should not matter, but in this case, it isn’t even relevant: because Erica Harris, though she lives in Thailand, is American. Sincerely, Corey Simpson ‘08