Public Desire to Retaliate Needs to be Reevaluated

After all, I’m sure he had good (if still unexplained) reasons for thinking that the clothes he bought in Dubai were a great costume choice. But it also sucks that there are lots of racist caricatures of Arabs out there that might lead some to jump to conclusions. It sucks that we often hold public figures, even those just in student government, under scrutiny and that his name got dragged through the mud. But it also sucks that less privileged individuals often feel like public officials and let them down. It sucks that his Muslim friend who posted the photo was shocked at its reception. But it also sucks that others’ Muslim friends were shocked at its content. It sucks that people who disagree with him on the topic of Israel politicized a presumably honest mistake. But it also sucks that, for many of the less privileged, daily life is highly political. And it sucks that he was intimidated by the checkpoint simulation on Library Walk. But it also sucks that some people have to live in a police state.

I am reminded of the aftermath of 9/11. I think the first reaction of the majority of the American people, anger, was natural and reasonable. The second response, the desire to retaliate, while perhaps still natural, was far less reasonable. It has led to a never-ending “War on Terror,” far more deaths and the monstrosity of Guantanamo. Might a more reasonable second response have been to ask ourselves what we have done to provoke the enmity of much of the Middle East? Perhaps they also feel like they must retaliate for something? Maybe we should try to understand why that is before continuing the cycle of violence.

—Rene Patnode

Ph.D., Department of Sociology