“After the events of Sept. 11, we are left with more questions than answers,” communications instructor Chris Carey said to an audience of over 150 Portland State students, faculty and community members at the opening of a two hour-long panel discussion held Thursday, Nov. 7 in Smith Memorial Center.
Carey, instructor of the year-long Freshman Inquiry course Faith and Reason, was the organizer and moderator of the five-member panel entitled “The War on Terrorism: A Just War?”
The panelists come from a wide range of backgrounds, each contributing their expertise and unique perspectives to the dialogue. The focus of the talks consisted of such topics as the aftershocks of the historic event, our reactions to the terrorism, the media’s influences on society and methods for living without hatred of others.
First to speak was Lawrence Galizio of Portland Community College’s communication department. Galizio discussed the role of the press, likening the media to a watchdog, which helps to keep the public informed and the government officials performing their duties as they should. He quoted Thomas Jefferson as having said, “The media is central to democracy.”
However, after Sept. 11, Galizio claims the mainstream press is acting more like a lapdog, rather than a watchdog. Galizio suggested it’s more important than ever to seek out independent media and alternative sources of information to get a more complete view of world events.
Grant Farr, Department Chair of PSU’s sociology department, has spent over 35 years of his life living in Afghanistan. Farr discussed some of the effects that the events of Sept. 11 have had on America. He said, “It woke Americans up to the fact that Afghanistan existed. It also served as a wakeup call that we’re not well liked around the world, largely because of our culture and politics.”
Farr said, “We need to deal with why others don’t like us,” stipulating it’s not because they hate our democracy, as President Bush had said. Farr suggested this is an opportunity for Americans to consider what aspects of our culture are offensive to others, where we see our culture going, what problems we foresee and what we can change.
Jon Mandaville of PSU’s history and international studies department argued, “What drives our foreign policy is important. It shapes how people see us.” Mandaville also said that as the most powerful country in the world, all eyes are on us and they will continue to be.
Eko Noble, a Buddhist priest and the first American woman to receive her position, was the fourth panelist to speak. Noble discussed a growing kind of nationalism and separation she has seen since Sept. 11. She explained that it is perfectly logical and understandable, but stressed one should also look at the implications of such trends.
“It is too easy to fall into the position of ‘us’ and ‘them’, as we’re being instructed to do by the media,” Noble said.
Noble shared how people can use Buddhist teachings to turn away from the hatred of their enemies, transforming it into compassion. “The terrorists submitted completely to their hatred. They are slaves to their anger. The real enemy is their hatred, our hatred, their violence, our violence,” Noble said.
The final speaker was Mark West from the Seattle University communications department. West discussed a missed opportunity by the United States during the weeks after Sept. 11, specifically on Oct. 7 when the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan.
“This was a time when we could have been focusing on preventing backlash, and repairing the damage done,” West explained.
“There’s something about picking one poster child that’s sort of galvanizing,” West said. “Saddam Hussein and now Osama, using one image is a rhetorical tool used to rally people. As consumers of the media we are buying into this recurring theme.”
Throughout the evening, speakers emphasized the individual’s role in seeking out reliable news and information.
All of the panelists stressed the importance of questioning what we hear and becoming involved.
“I think the most patriotic thing you can do is to say what you think,” Farr said.