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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “We, the (average) people”

    Flying back to Arizona after a summer in Pennsylvania, I was angry with the terrorists who have attacked us and are trying to attack us again. I was angry that the wrong actions of just a few people have begun insidiously to make life worse for the millions of America’s ordinary people.

    I went through the security checks at the airport, and I saw people shuffling shoeless through metal detectors. I saw people who were worried and frustrated, whose bags were being searched and whose possessions were being taken away. In a sublimely ridiculous moment, the mascara that I’d left in my carry-on luggage was also confiscated. It was a very small occurrence, but it was my first personal experience of the repercussions resulting from the many-tentacled war we are now fighting.

    I felt sorrow and pity after 9/11 but never anger, until now. The tragedies of Sept. 11 were too significant and terrible to warrant such a small and petty emotion as anger. I was not even angry over losing my mascara; I knew that the security was necessary. What made me angry was that it has become necessary for our government to suspect its own citizens, subject us to indignities and confiscate our property.

    I saw that this was both the widest and the slightest ripple that has resulted from 9/11. There were families bereaved on that day. There are good and patriotic soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan with the best of intentions who are dead or wounded or simply stripped of their sweet illusions.

    But now the effects of 9/11 have begun to touch even the smallest of America’s citizens in the smallest of ways: children flying to see Grandma, small businessmen trying to seal a contract and college students going back to school. By my estimate from Federal Aviation Administration data, 36,266,197 people will have been subject to these new incursions by the time you read this column.

    None of those travelers is utterly, consummately innocent. It is the people’s responsibility to speak out against things that are wrong, and perhaps we have not always spoken out against our government’s less scrupulous actions in the Middle East.

    But neither are we, the insignificant masses of America, deserving of retribution from the inhabitants of those troubled nations. We are people like most people: neither wholly bad nor wholly good, just looking to live from day to day, to do well in our jobs, to take care of our kids, to eat nice dinners. We are people, in fact, much like most of the people in the Middle East.

    I realized that if I could say one thing to the hijackers of 9/11 or the British terrorists who have caused these new restrictions, it would be this: We may be a different color or religion, but in the most important ways we normal Americans are very much like the normal people in the Middle East. I would say that the people who are being hurt in America are not the important people, and that if anyone is to blame for the terrorists’ grievances, it is the CEOs and politicians, who fly luxuriously in private jets. So it is as in all wars: The most culpable people will never be the ones who suffer most.

    So how could I be angry? If we average Americans are just like the average people of Iraq or anywhere else, then the average people of Iraq suffer a hundredfold what we do. We suffer from airport delays and high gas prices. According to a UN report, 5,818 Iraqi civilians died from the turmoil gripping their nation during May and June alone.

    In a press release, the United Nations under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs said that in Iraq, as well as in the Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, civilians still “”bear the full brunt of armed conflict and terror.”” Instead of anger, then, I should feel pity – pity for all people of all nations who live in worry and doubt in the dust of wars that were not of their making.

    I should hope that if the strife between the West and the Middle East inconveniences enough of us, we ordinary people will be stirred up to do something about it.

    Losing a mascara might be worth that.

    Lillie Kilburn is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She can be reached at opinions@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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