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Duke commerates Sept. 11 well

I'm not mad.

That I'm able to make that statement today shocks me. Weeks ago, when I saw that I had a Sept. 13 column, I immediately figured that I would be criticizing the University for failing to properly commemorate Sept. 11.

My inclinations weren't unwarranted. After attending last year's Sept. 12 vigil primarily directed at making students feel guilty for the physical and verbal harassment Muslim Americans were about to experience and being taught that America got what was coming to it, I decided that the University was amazingly out of touch with reality.

Wednesday's commemoration, however, was appropriate for the occasion; classy, respectful, and somber.A There was no romanticizing of the Islamic religion, and I heard no analogies drawn between the attacks and American foreign policy. Importantly, the focus was on remembering those that died last year.

Though I'd like to think the University realized the typical Duke student is not an ignorant bigot who would blame Muslim students for the attacks, I'm not really sure why there was such a difference. But there was one. So instead of ranting, I will make three true but politically incorrect statements about Sept. 11.

First, Sept. 11 was not a tragedy. By definition, a tragedy is an event brought about by misfortune or bad luck. On Sept. 11, evil and insidious people deliberately attacked America without provocation and killed thousands of people. From a national perspective, there's nothing tragic about that. We need to look at Sept. 11 for what it was, an act of war demanding military retaliation.

Second, the federal government went way too far with the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. On Aug. 22, the Justice Department began issuing payments to families who lost loved ones Sept. 11. The average payment was $1.85 million, $1.36 million after deductions. This really should cause some alarm. Though I have tremendous sympathy for victims' families and commend those who donated to Sept. 11 charities in the past year, I do not understand how losing a loved one Sept. 11 entitles one to massive amounts of tax money. Is an American whose father was killed by a drunk driver Sept.11 in any less pain than an American whose father worked in the World Trade Center? Absolutely not. The compensation fund, like so many other benevolent uses of tax money, was injustice done in the name of caring. I'm afraid it will set a dangerous precedent of overextension and hypocrisy.

Third, Sept. 11 proved that President George W. Bush was a great leader. On the surface, this statement seems politically correct given the cliche-like way that the media and politicians--conservative and liberal--supported him for a few months after the attacks. But the consensus among the media and liberal elites was not that Bush was a great leader maximizing his abilities, but that the attacks had suddenly transformed him into one. Said R. W. Apple of The New York Times, "you could almost see him growing into the clothes of the presidency." This theory, that Sept. 11 caused a bumbling idiot to transform into a fantastic president, is as illogical as it is pompous. But it is clear why it was offered--Bush was doing an undeniably amazing job leading our country.

I know the president hasn't made all the right decisions in the last year, and I know that the rhetoric he uses makes the distinction between good and evil seem more definable that it actually is. But he was exactly the type of leader Americans needed after Sept. 11. He was strong yet sympathetic. He was angry yet responsible. And the quiet air of confidence that he and his administration exuded did wonders for American morale.

I don't mean to say that we would now be reading the Qur'an had Al Gore won the election. But a president's wartime persona can affect a nation.A The weakness and uncertainty Jimmy Carter showed during the Iran hostage crisis was certainly detrimental to the confidence of Americans.

I will never forget how I felt when I saw my president on a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, megaphone in hand, his arm around some of the greatest heroes history has ever known. I will never forget the inspiring speech he gave to Congress or the tears I saw in his eyes as he delivered an address honoring attack victims. My president is honest, compassionate, classy and in touch with reality.

Thankfully, on Sept. 11, 2002, the same could be said about my University.

Nathan Carleton is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears every other Friday.


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