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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ethics Center to commemorate 9/11

Published: September 8, 2006
Section: News

The International Center for Ethics, Justice & Public Life will be hosting events Mon. in honor of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
These events, running from Sun. to Wed., will begin with a moment of silence and will include speakers, films, and other opportunities to reflect on the attacks that took at least 2,973 lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.
You think about the range of ages around campus some folks were 13 when it happened, other graduate students would be older than that, said Marci McPhee, the Centers Associate Director. Different people from different parts of the countrysome from New York and some from outside of New Yorkand people from outside the country will unite to reflect on 9/11 and how it changed their world-view.
Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH), who helped organize the events with the Ethics Center and Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC), said that [we] said that we needed to have a scholarly approach to [the events]. How has [9/11] affected immigration policy? How has it affected civil liberties? And how has 9/11 affected the way we look at our past?
To achieve this end, Auslander said, the Ethics Center will host Dr. Edward Linenthal, a professor at Indiana University, author of the book Preserving Memory, and member of the Federal Advisory Committee for the memorial of United Airlines Flight 93.
He is one of Americas most important scholars in terms of memory and memorial, Auslander noted. Linenthals speech, titled The Cultural Politics of 9/11 Commemorations, will be held on Tues., and will be the first distinguished lecture for the Universitys Cultural Production graduate program.
Another event includes speeches by Prof. Shulpa Dave (AMST) and Prof. Michael Avery, president of the National Lawyers Guild and Suffolk Law School professor, which will touch upon the changes in immigration, civil liberties, and education since the attacks.
McPhee said that the speaker she is most excited about is Susan Retik, who was seven months pregnant when her husband died in the attacks. McPhee said that after a huge outpouring of public support, Retik and fellow widow Patti Quigley decided that Afghani widows, even those that may be the mothers of their husbands killers for all they know, were victims of terrorism regardless. As a result, Retik and Quigley began Beyond the 11th, a fundraising charity that raises money to support Afghani widows by organizing a cycling trip from Ground Zero in New York to Boston. This is the third year that Retik has organized the three-day ride.
That is particularly powerful because of the way these women have taken this deep personal grief and not only turned it into something good, but turned it into something that could be reconciliation and forgiveness with the same people who are in the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, McPhee said, adding that Brandeis students can volunteer to help with Retiks arrival at Wellesley High School.
Several films will also be shown on campus, including a trilogy of short films by Eva Sachs, Auslanders cousin. Were going to talk about peoples visions of the city and their ideas of New York after the events of Sept. 11, Auslander explained. We were going to use Hollywood, but I thought it would be better to use shorter independent films.
Another film, which will be shown Tuesday by the Brandeis Republicans and moderated by Prof. Jacob Cohen (AMST), is Obsession: What the War on Terror is Really About.
Obsession, according to the films website, is a documentary covering the rise of radical Islam, using images from Arab television stations and testimonies from a former PLO member and a Nazi youth commander to tell audiences that while most Muslims in the world are decent and peaceful a peaceful religion is being hijacked by a dangerous foe, who seeks to destroy the shared values we stand for.
One of the aims, according to Auslander, is to find out how Brandeis has changed since the attacks in 2001. While Auslander said that it is too soon to say, Prof. Fellman said that there is more than a usual amount of mistrust in government. He added that the Bush people have somehow pushed some envelope further than its usually pushed, irrigating the power of the President I think all of that was set in motion at 9/11.
According to Fellman, enrollment in his class War and Possibilities of Peace dropped from nearly 120 students to under 40. A lot of students gave me this, Oh, dont give me this peace nonsense, he explained.
Fellman believes that his enrollment figures increased because theres a lot of public disenfranchisement now with the Iraq war. The contempt is extraordinary, he added.
Prof. Cohen, meanwhile, remembers the campuss response. There was, of course, the expected shock and horror and anger, he said. There was a brief flurry of patriotism and flag-waving I had never seen before at Brandeis it was remarkable.” Cohen also said that I think there was nothing visible, no radical scoffing, no display of conspiracy theories that Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with it. Still, he added, Ive heard a lot of people say, after 9/11, everything has changed. I used to laugh about that one. My present sense is that very little has changed.
Cohen feels that bipartisanism faltered once more after the invasion of Iraq. The left groups, the peace groups, the radical associations against President Bush were back in business, he said. There was a very large Michael Moore imitating and applauding. Cohen believed that its because things dont change so fast that there is no longer any traction in the sense of patriotism and national agenda to oppose terrorism.
No one that I know would have thought that five years would have passed without a second terrorist attack, Cohen added. Its hard to maintain a sense of danger when nothing happens Efforts [to protect] us can be documented but thats not the same. Its harder to sell than that.
Still, many believe that the events at the Ethics Center will help reveal Brandeiss growth over the last five years. Culture is not made up of just the living, but the living and the dead, Auslander said. Americans are known for honoring their deadbut this is something different. The way we memorialize those fallen in battle doesnt seem to fit something like Sept. 11. He added, To me the most important memorial of 9/11 is to exercise our facilities and continue in our rigorous quest for emotional and human understanding.
Cohen agreed with this assessment, saying I think the Ethics Center is trying to give a diverse menu of events, not just one ideological point of viewI think thats a very good thing.
According to McPhee, however, politics are secondary to campus-wide reflection and recovery. The whole thing is intended to remember Sept. 11 and memorialize those who were lost, she said. Its meant to look forward to a better worldto make it a different world than it was five years ago.