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Teaching & Understanding Sept 11 Mark Hamm & Paul Leighton

Brief Introduction: The Challenge of Terrorism for the Free Societies in the Global Village

Editor's update: Since posting this information, much of he attention has shifted to War in Iraq, which has no direct connection with Sept 11 or bin Laden (despite President Bush frequently mentioning them all in the same sentence). Much of this material, however is still important in understanding political violence, terrorism, the Mid East and international law. 

If you are for information specifically about Iraq, starting points include the news blog and the photograph of the moment (which will be updated in ways relevant to the conflict in Iraq). The Sept 11 contents also has good general information on background topics, and popular pages include Justice & War: The Ethics of International Conflicts; understanding anti-Americanism, including a discussion of Arab media outlet Al-Jazeera; and People of the Mid-East

Writers who are normally eloquent confess they confront their inarticulateness in discussing the events of Sept. 11. The events surprised most people, although in July a senior Bush Administration counter-terrorism official said, "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."

The suicide hijacking by Islamic terrorists and the Anthrax attacks by domestic terrorists bewildered people who had not heard of the groups which have such obvious hatred of us and put such careful study into the attack. The challenge is to help make sense of an event many feel is incomprehensible and understand how to sustain our Democratic society, which exists within a shrinking global village – a “stepchild of technology, not the flowering of community”. Indeed, in some of the excitement over ‘village life,’ “we forgot about village idiots and about chronic malcontents… Worse, we forgot about victims of injustice, real and imagined, whose resentments simmer and boil just below the surface of village life”. (scroll down for more)

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The Pro Cartoonists' Index has an extensive collection of commentary on Sept 11, drawn by artists from around the world

Photo of the Week

Some complacency and a 'new normality' have set in, but blissful ignorance - 'returning to stuff that doesn't matter' - is no longer an option. Al Quaida has been disrupted, but not shut down; bin Laden is still alive, a holy warrior seen as the hero in fights with two world superpowers. Other groups support a holy war against the U.S., share anti-American sentiment, or are deeply conflicted about the encroaching McDonaldized Western lifestyle. The perpetrator(s) of the Anthrax attacks appear to be sophisticated  terrorists who are still at large, along with an unknown quantity of supplies.

Indeed, when the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently moved the hand of its “Doomsday Clock” from nine to seven minutes before midnight, one reason was “terrorist efforts to acquire and use nuclear and biological weapons.” The Anthrax attack 

“breached previous boundaries for terrorist acts and should have been a global wake-up call. Moving the clock’s hands at this time reflects our growing concern that the international community has hit the “snooze” button rather than respond to the alarm.”

The Atomic Scientists “fully support” a statement signed by 110 Nobel laureates: “The only hope for the future lies in cooperative international action, legitimized by democracy. . . . To survive in the world we have transformed, we must learn to think in a new way.”

Sept 11 Teaching & Pedagogy

Contents & Sitemap

This book and companion website provide a starting points to think in new ways for a transformed world. The near future will provide many opportunities to remember and commemorate the events of Sept 11 and experience national solidarity, but it is crucial that patriotism not be so strong as to prevent critical reflection and probing questions. 

Major Burns on the TV sitcom M*A*S*H commented: “I believe that unless we all blindly conform and obey orders, we can never have a truly free America.” Dissent and questioning – both inside the classroom and society – should be regarded as part of what makes the Democratic experiment great, not a threat that might undermine it. 

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What Values Are We Fighting For? Fighting Terrorism and Preserving Democracy

The late Justice Brandeis commented in a case that “those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards” and “they did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.” His opinion outlines a theory of government and highlights the values that define what the country stands for at its best: 

"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. 

"They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. 

Mark Hamm (more info)
Department of Criminology 
Indiana State University 
Terre Haute, IN 47809

Paul Leighton
Dept of Soc, Anthro & Criminology
712 Pray Harrold
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI 49197

"They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.” 

Teaching & Understanding Sept 11 contents ~ Current Intro ~ 2003 Intro




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