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It is a time for peace

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By Laura Winsky

Monday September 17, 2001

I have a friend who is giving of herself. She devotes all of her activities on this campus to service: through organizations, community service and her friendships. She'll sit with you late into the night, listening to your problems, no matter how trivial they may be. And she has a wonderful laugh. Her nose crinkles up and her eyes twinkle as though you just might be the funniest person in this strange world. She is so much like a rose: sweet and serene; and that's exactly how she puts herself through college, selling flowers. She sneaks some home every night just to hand them out to those who might be in need of a pick-me-up. The world should be so lucky to have a friend like her. I'd love to share her with you, so that you, too, could have a friend like that.

But I can't. She's not available right now. She's Saudi-American.

There is a restaurant in this town that has the best food this side of the river Jordan. I'm talking swordfish, steak spiced with a tangy cilantro sauce and chicken with prickly pear juices. At night, a band arrives; people dress to the nines, and the lights are turned low. The place swings. I'd sure like to share the location with you. But I can't. The music has been temporarily postponed. The owners are Lebanese-American.

The university graduated a shining star last spring. He was president of several organizations - one of which he founded - trumpeter for a successful local ska band, an advocate for human rights, a Camp Wildcat member, and also a champion volunteer.

In May, at graduation, the school recognized him as one of its best - awarding him as a leader in front of his fellow graduates. He's an eloquent orator and often a source of wisdom when the world seems unclear. His sociology degree gives him the kind of knowledge to analyze the events of the past week. If he were to be reached, his thoughts would be comforting. But I can't. He's unavailable for comment right now. He's keeping a low profile.

He's not Arab-American, but he is Sikh, and so he wears a turban.

Seth Franztman, a fellow UA student, wrote in a letter to the editor in Friday's Wildcat saying, "It's almost like the victims of this terrorism were those of Middle Eastern descent." And he's right. Long before he wrote his letter, we all knew that a Lebanese man died on the first Boston flight, bravely calling in warnings, and that three other Lebanese died in tower two as it collapsed.

The Arab-American community, like all American communities, began to mourn its losses on Tuesday. But by that night, it began a different kind of mourning. Pictures of Osama bin Laden and the word "Arab" had been splashed over the news that day, and Arab-Americans began to fear for their safety. Revenge, retaliation, random acts of bigoted crime. Would it begin to occur? Would the day's nightmare only get worse?

Americans were so brave Tuesday. Victims remained calm, calling on cell phones from doomed planes, entering unstable buildings and breathing in smoke to lend a hand to a struggling co-worker. Supporters donated blood, money and time. President Bush gave as a well-spoken, strong, emotive speech from the Oval Office. Westerners, far-removed from the victimized cities, waved their flags, sang the national anthem and burned candles.

It couldn't stay that way. Anti-Arab sentiment quickly rose. On our own campus, a freshman's head was bashed into a brick wall after leaving class. "A Third-World country did this to us Americans," a student spat at a fellow resident of Indian descent in Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall. A student was pelted with eggs at Arizona State University, according to an National Public Radio report. Sinbad's Restaurant on University Boulevard received bomb threats.

How many of us could point to Afghanistan on a map? How many of us could name three Arab nations? How much concrete information do we have at this point? How many of us are truly ready to go to war with a nation of civilians?

This is a time to grieve over loss. It is a time to focus on recovery, not blind retaliation. It is a time to be thoughtful and thorough, not impulsive. And above all, it is a time to find our Lebanese-, Saudi-, Indian-, Uzbekistani-American brothers and sisters and remind them how important they are to us.


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