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The post-traumatic American attitude

Thursday November 15, 2001
Illustration by Josh Hagler

On Monday, flight 587 crashed minutes after taking off from JFK airport in New York City, killing 265 people. The crash was a terrible tragedy, and if it had happened before Sept. 11, the country would have been speechless; instead, almost every American immediately asked, "Was it terrorists?"

After two days, investigators found no evidence of a bomb or of sabotage, and it appears that flight 587 has no link to terrorists. Although that assuages many logical fears of further terrorist attacks, it leaves open questions concerning the American mindset.

While the lack of emotion and media coverage of the crash doesn't necessarily suggest a desensitization of Americans, it does suggest that we have changed.

Before the attacks on Sept. 11, the crash would have held a higher priority in news coverage, but currently, we may have more pressing matters in Afghanistan. Before, Americans would have reacted emotionally to the crash, but lately, our emotional capacity may be maxed out.

If Americans have changed the way they react to tragedy in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, we have possibly changed the way we feel about a number of related issues. And if we recognize that we have changed the way we perceive, react and respond to issues, we must decide if our new attitude is appropriate.

Shane Dale

Safe enough to drive, safe enough to fly

This Thanksgiving will probably be the lightest airline travel season in the United States in recent memory. If the events of Sept. 11 weren't enough to get Americans to cancel their holiday flights, the crash in Queens Monday definitely did the trick. Be it by accident or another act of terrorism, the doom of American Airlines Flight 587 put that final nail in the coffin for many of us.

Simultaneously, the airline industry took another near-fatal blow. It was in enough trouble before Monday. There was actually one commercial flight out of Phoenix about a month and a half ago that had one passenger on board. One. How long until pilots and flight attendants talk to no one but themselves over the intercom?

Yet as nerve-racking as the thought of flying may be these days, rationality suggests that Americans still have little to worry about. Flying is still far safer than driving, and yet, far more people will be driving to their destination this holiday season than in past years.

Think about it: There is an average of roughly 14,000 flights that originate in the United States each day. Using that figure, that would make a total of 5,110,000 flights a year. Five flights have gone down in the United States this year. According to these statistics, the odds of dying in a commercial flight in America in the year 2001 is less than one in a million, whereas car accidents are the leading cause of death in America of people between the ages of 6 and 27.

Bottom line: If one feels safe enough to drive, one should certainly feel safe enough to fly.

Shane Dale is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at

Jessica Lee

A couch is just a couch

We are lucky to be a citizen of such a place. The United States: the land where streets are swept by a machine, clean water spouts from public fountains and a plethora of food is available at our fingertips. We can go to Disneyland and rent movies - there are bumper boats and delivered pizza. Anything is possible, and everyone has the same rights to the ultimate dream.

The dream of being happy.

Without digging myself into a philosophical hole, what Americans often lack is content for life. If we have everything, then why do first-world countries have the highest suicide rate? If things are so perfect, why do we all want our life to be like "Friends?"

Through the demand for health, we have created a sterile world for ourselves. Books like Jack London's "Call of the Wild" and movies such as "American Beauty" draw our attention because they remind us of what being alive is actually about.

Death is the one natural phenomenon that still dominates an artificial world.

The horrific events of Sept.11 triggered an immense emotional American response. The person with the biggest toys still dies, right?

It took mass death to remind us that we are alive. People are quitting their diets - junk food sales are up 15 percent. We are remembering to live one day at a time, because you never know when your card may come up.

In a way, we have all been reborn. Perhaps we as individuals and a nation can grip a new set of values. A couch is just a couch, and life is amazing.

Jessica Lee is an environmental science junior. She can be reached at

Mariam Durrani

Say goodbye to: innocent until proven guilty

Within minutes of the Sept. 11 attacks, the corporate media flew into a frenzy. As the coverage continued, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, along with many other journalists, tried to do their best to steer the public away from pointing fingers at any one group.

But in my heart, I was terrified someone from the Middle East was to blame. I was afraid to walk across campus that day because of the chance that someone might associate me with the terrorists.

Much to my dismay, it turned out to be the work of individuals of Arab descent.

Immediately following the verification of this guilt, media turned its previously polite Arab perspective coverage into a perspective with underlying anti-Arab connotations, which can be sensed in most of their stories.

Since the attack, Middle Eastern-looking people have been ignorantly targeted for numerous hate crimes and labeled as terrorists due to this rashly-biased coverage.

So it wasn't too far a stretch, when an American Airlines jet crashed into a Queens neighborhood killing over 200 people, that the one question on everyone's mind was: "Is this another terrorist attack?"

The psyche of the American public has been permanently brainwashed by the media's recent biased coverage portraying those with Middle Eastern looks as criminals.

So yes, the Sept. 11 attacks have changed America. Although, previously, the media was careful to avoid any finger-pointing at Arab peoples when a disaster occurred, the future seems to show direct accusations without any consideration for "innocent until proven guilty."

Mariam Durrani is a systems engineering junior. She can be reached at

Zack Armstrong

And let's not forget "Whoo-hoo!"

America has changed a lot in the months since Sept. 11, and I would have to say that the thing I've noticed that has changed the most is the amount of Frisbee playing that's been happening out on the Mall.

Seriously. The average number of players out there on any given day has nearly tripled. And these guys aren't messing around either. They are good! Really just too good. Like Wonder-dog good.

And I should know too, because I saw this competition on Animal Planet the other day, and those dogs were running and catching Frisbees and the whole poopin' deal. And those guys on the Mall are almost as good as those dogs.

I think we should try to work on getting them an obstacle course out there, because that was the next event for the dogs, and they were pretty good at that too, so· hey. It might be fun to watch.

But that's what I noticed has changed the most.

I mean I also noticed all those obvious changes like: the strangely relieved feeling that seemed to follow the recent plane crash, or the enormous increase in consumer patriotism, or Civil Rights violations or fear or whatever that strange white feeling that's always in my chest is. It can only be described not as the absence of feeling but as all feelings attacking at once, leaving behind a kind of raw, yet callused tactility. That's right, tactility.

But you guys don't want to read about that stuff, do you? No. And I don't either. I want to read about Frisbees. Go get it boy. Frisbees! Yay! Hooray! And let's not forget: Whoo-hoo!

Zack Armstrong is a creative writing senior. He can be reached at

Laura Winsky

He actually said "brown people"

A few days ago, P.J. O'Rourke was the guest on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. O'Rourke is a political satirist, and Stewart welcomed him as one of the nation's favorite, old "curmudgeons." Stewart's first question was whether the events of Sept. 11 had softened him or not.

"Have you given up your old ways? Hugging people on the streets?"

O'Rourke laughed. "Sure. Hugging people on the streets of Manhattan. Well, not the brown people."

Jon Stewart, a minority himself, looked like he had suddenly lost control of the live interview. He laughed nervously, and said·

Illustration by Josh Hagler

"Excuse me. The brown people?"

"Yeah. All the brown people. They're suspicious. No hugging for them."

The crowd did not laugh. Neither did Stewart. And to give Stewart a little credit, he did say something to the effect of:

"I can't believe you keep saying brown people. I'm going to move my chair back in case there are snipers here to shoot you."

John Stewart did what he was supposed to do; he made a little joke and kept the show rolling to try to divert the racist, bigoted conversation that had quickly emerged, because it's a different world now. One, "The Daily Show" had just won an Emmy a few nights before - it wasn't a good time to rock the boat. And two, it's now "patriotic" to use racial profiling and to doubt every person two shades too dark for the moral, upstanding American's personal taste. Or shall we say "personal safety."

So Stewart let the ass finish the interview instead of throwing him off the stage. Even someone as popular as Stewart is right now is forced to be a sheep and wave his American flag.

Laura Winsky is a senior majoring in Spanish and political science. She can be reached at


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