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A realization of complex questions

Do any human beings ever realize life as they live it? – every, every minute? -Emily, Act 3, “Our Town”

We have been warned: The possibility of further attacks on U.S. soil are real. People are buying gas masks, worrying about the availability of the anthrax vaccine. Four hundred people have been rounded up, as threats keep coming in.

The violence of Sept. 11 is the worst North America has experienced since the Civil War; Columbine and Oklahoma City are dim memories – America’s greatest enemy is no longer itself.

Meanwhile, Americans are buying copies of the Quran at an unprecedented rate – bookstores can hardly keep it in stock.

What does all of this mean? Are we really facing what could be the end of our “American way of life?” Will this Rome fall? Or will America, in coming together, no longer see so many of its own as the “other?” Will the disenfranchised, the poor, the uninsured and the addicted find themselves welcomed by their fellow citizens? Will “compassionate conservatism” actually play out as Americans shower their leader will approval?

So many questions, and the danger comes in having the guts to ask them. A columnist in Grants Pass, Ore., was fired recently for taking issue with our president’s puddle-jumping antics on the day of the attack. Will our First Amendment rights be forever compromised? Russia was welcomed into the coalition. Another easy vote against human rights (see: “Do You Like It”, Oct. 2, Issue 121, Volume 55). These are some of the immediate effects of Sept. 11.

Just what will happen? Nobody knows – and that is what is so scary. Residents of London and Paris and Jerusalem and Tokyo have all faced terrorism; now New York knows the awful feeling. Now, even as bombs are dropped on Kabul, we find ourselves welcomed into the fold, into the world of fear.

America is forever changed.

So what can we do? I put gas in my car. You, you can exercise your rights as a free-thinking American and stop listening to Britney Spears. You can realize another Pepsi, even a 12-pack, is not going to jump-start, kick-start, or boost the economy. I say this because when I look around the Portland State campus I see conformity everywhere, and I really do not believe that this is the American way. Maybe it istime to re-examine our lives. Yes, capitalism and democracy are based on the individual’s God-given right to free will. But the same conservative ideologues who champion this ideal have no problem supporting corporate conglomerate interests and shunning any notion of counterculture, and I am still trying to figure out what their problem is.

The president is right to say that this is a new kind of war. But let us also call it a police action – to call it a war only legitimizes the actions of the terrorists in their own eyes, only catalyzes them and, in fact, gives strength to their misguided position. The truth is, they have been fighting a war with America for a long time. We should simply treat them as the criminals they are, as the world welcomes America out of its trance.