9/11 attacks remembered with lecture on nonviolence

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Monday September 11th, five years after the infamous attacks, students, faculty, and local residents of Swarthmore crowded into Kohlberg Hallís Scheuer Room to listen to a discussion about nonviolent responses to terrorism from Professor George Lakey, Tom Hastings, and Swarthmore Alumna Lynn Steuerle Schofield.

After a moment of silence, Hastings was the first to speak. He reminded the audience that this day was not only the fifth anniversary of 9/11 but also the one hundredth anniversary of nonviolent action by Gandhi. Hasting brought up the point of the United Stateís unique place in the world. The U.S has enormous power spread across the globe which also places an enormous burden on it. The actions it takes has noticeable consequences. Once it makes a commitment, it canít retreat “like weíre an island thatís not harming anyone.”

He examined the methods of three people: Bush, Gandhi, and Bin Laden. Then he brought in the USIP(United States Institute of Peace) emphasizing the fact that the organization had comprehensive studies and research and stood ready to adviseÖwhen and if ever asked. The administration has the resources of the USIP to find a nonviolent response to the situation; it just needs the will to use it.

One of the points heavily emphasized by Hastings was communication and negotiation. He changed Bushís mantra of never negotiating with terrorists to “we always negotiate with terrorists.” In addition he advised that the U.S should stop calling them terrorists and instead “negotiating opponents.”

“We have to stop excluding the ‘radicals’ and they will stop being so radical,” Hastings said, bringing up examples of large political parties such as Hamas. He pulled down the curtain on the popular assumption that terrorists are small groups of radicals: “The vast majority of terrorism is used by leaders against their own people. We have to include leaders when we talk about terrorism.”

Hastings urged for a change of attitude, bringing to light the issue of how other nations might view the actions of the United States as unjust or reckless.

He also diverted attention away from weapons of mass destruction to the small arms. The United States is a large distributor of small arms, which creates the greatest loss of life. He said that the United States canít flood the world with arms and then step back and act shocked at what results.

“This is a a complex situation so we have to complexify our discussions,” Hastings urged.

The next speaker was George Lakey. He addressed the common notion that people have of how “we(the United States) were people doing our righteous thing and then we get attacked for no reason.” People in the U.S popularize statements such as “Osama Bin Laden hates freedom” when Lakey points out that he never actually says these things. If Bin Laden truly did hate freedom or democracy, then why didnít he attack Canada, Sweden,Öetc, Lakey asks. There must be other reasons.

Lakey also delved into the point that some of the United Stateís actions are highly dangerous and it can change them without sacrificing its highest values.

He concisely presented two behaviors to change to promote a nonviolent response to terrorism. The first was to stop unilateralism. He described it as taking action without regard to others. He explained how the more interactions and intersecting structures we create, the safer we are. He created an analogy to a small town where the more people you know, the safer you are and the more likely you are to find out who did something wrong. Global networking if you may.

His second point was “put your troops in another country.” The majority of suicide attacks are to expel invaders from their homeland. The United States has to “stop being perceived as in control of their government.” While the current focus of giving support is to the troops, Lakey urged for the support to be directed to the other organizations and people that are creating relationships and building trusts with the civilians in the area.

“We have to give up arrogance and replace it with other forms of self esteem,” he urged. Compassion, for example.

The last speaker was Swarthmore Alumna Lynn Steuerle Schofield í99 whose mother was lost in the 9/11 attacks. She told the accounts of several individuals whose family had been lost in the attacks as well. She recounted their responses, which were not of anger, but of compassion. Realizing the similarities, they reached out their hands to aid those in Afghanistan who were in a similar plight, having lost a loved one as well in the situation. She urged the audience to learn more information and take action.

The event ended with a question and answer session.

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