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Collaborative Writing Journal

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 15, 2001
Latest Update: October 15, 2001

E-Mail jeannecurran@habermas.org
E-Mail takata@uwp.edu
E-Mail Olivier Urbain, Soka University

Editing Our Journal Together:
Reactions to War Continued

Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors: October 2001.
"Fair use" encouraged.



On Monday, October 15, 2001, Joseph Pavon, CSUDH, wrote:

Dear Jeanne,

First, I would like to say that I am angry in response to the bombing that happened on September 11. This incident should not have happened especially here in America, but it did. There are too many innocent people that didn't have to die; there are infrastructures and planes that didn't have to be destroyed, and for what cause-religion? I know we should not judge others according to their race or religion, that we should practice tolerance and restraint. But how far do they have to push us around before we respond properly? These others have been engaging in terrorist acts for a long time,but this time they have gone too far. I don't approve of war and killing, and if you could suggest a better way I would like to hear it. I think as long as the United States stays superior in military might and economic prosperity there will always be some jealous others that will try to pull us down.

Joseph Pavon
Sociology of Law

On Monday, October 15, 2001, jeanne responded:

Joseph, this is a good example of expressing your feelings through rhetoric. I will explain in some detail, and then I should appreciate if you, and/or others, would rephrase your position with theoretical explications.

To make it easier to follow, I'll intersperse my comments throughout your essay:

First, I would like to say that I am angry in response to the bombing that happened on September 11.

jeanne's comments
Good opening. Anger is a feeling with which you can get in touch. That sets a tone for the essay.

This incident should not have happened especially here in America,

jeanne's comments
Now you have done a good thing. You have begun to tell me why you are angry. This shouldn't happen in America. This shouldn't happen to us.

That's a good way to proceed. You're telling me why you're angry. And that should lead us into an argument as to what is causing the anger, and why we must deal with that anger. Then we could consider the anger of those who engaged in such an act, and the anger of those who were the victims.

but it did.

jeanne's comments
"but it did." Ooh. That says deep anger to me, so I was looking for some sort of working out of that anger. Emily Klug of UWP felt that way. And Vance Peavy gave her an excellent response to how to handle such feelings in Thinking Out Loud On a More Abstract Level.
but it did. There are too many innocent people that didn't have to die; there are infrastructures and planes that didn't have to be destroyed, and for what cause-religion?

This incident should not have happened especially here in America,

jeanne's comments
"but it did." Ooh. That says deep anger to me, so I was looking for some sort of working out of that anger.

My dilemma here is that you do not mention and do not seem to have consulted either Vance Peavy's essay or Emily's earlier comments. The Dear Habermas site is a forum for on-going discussions. I know that with the intensity of the last four weeks I was not able to index as I would have liked, but a quick run through the archived issues would have pulled those earlier pieces up.

But you continue with a justification for your anger: innocent people killed; valuable property destroyed. And you offer a tentative explanation: religion.

I thought we spent the last four weeks in class discussing the postcolonial effects of empire, of exploitation, of the exclusion of the "Other." We spoke of the extent of Anti-American feelings in the Middle East. We spoke of the distortion of religion through political ends. Because of this when you offer such a simplistic explanation, one word: religion, I wonder if you were present during the lectures and discussions, and whether you followed up those lectures and discussions with a perusal of the Current Issue each week.

This is what I would call missing a chance to link your reactions conceptually to classroom activities and discussions, as well as to the lectures and readings.

I know we should not judge others according to their race or religion, that we should practice tolerance and restraint.

jeanne's comments
We "should." Sounds like rules to me. And it sounds like you don't like them. Rules produce structural violence, and I think you're feeling the pressure of one of those dominant discourse rules: we shouldn't kill innocent civilians. The double use of "should" really calls attention to your anger here with more being expected of you in the way of compassion and caring than has been demanded of the terrorists.

Also the emphasis on that this should not have happened "especially here in America." Why, especially here in America? Because historically it never has happened here in America? Or because we in America have some special standing that Others do not? By depending more on rhetoric than on reasoned argument, you leave your reader unable to tell why "especially not here in America." And that means you are leaving it to the readers' imagination to interpret your statement and the unstated assumptions that produced it. That's probably not a good idea during a period of intense confrontation. The Other may assuage his/her fear and anger by presuming the worst.

But how far do they have to push us around before we respond properly? These others have been engaging in terrorist acts for a long time,but this time they have gone too far.

jeanne's comments
This is a restatement of your anger. How much do we have to put up with?

When you write an essay that is designed to measure your learning, you want to show your ability to reason effectively. To have a beginning, a middle, an end. If you restate your position in many different ways, your essay becomes a rhetoric of reaction in Hirschman's sense of the term. We shout at each other that what the other wants to do will result in calamity. And we shout that over and over and over, instead of going more deeply into the unstated assumptions that underlie our thinking.

In this case, I already know you're angry. Get on with an argument.

These others have been engaging in terrorist acts for a long time, but this time they have gone too far. I don't approve of war and killing, and if you could suggest a better way I would like to hear it.

jeanne's comments
Joseph, this reminds me of the way arrogant males used to say, "Well, if you'll tell me how I'm discriminating against women, I would like to hear it." You probably didn't mean it that way, but it comes across as horribly insincere.

Why have they gone too far this time? Is it because it was on American soil? But then we'll have to defend why something that is intolerable on American soil is tolerable elsewhere. Or is it because of the number of innocent victims? Is one innocent victim OK? Two? Twenty? Two hundred? Two thousand? Is there somewhere a magical number that draws the line between tolerable and intolerable? These are the kinds of questions we need to ponder in our arguments.

And when you ponder these details, you'll find that you covered too much territory. That's one reason it was hard for you to be specific in your argument. You must now delimit the problem. Choose one aspect of the issue to zero in on to keep your essay a reasonable length.

I think as long as the United States stays superior in military might and economic prosperity there will always be some jealous others that will try to pull us down.

jeanne's comments
It's a good idea to end your argument with something that will pull it all together. This statement can't do that because it introduces a completely new factor. Someone's always going to be jealous of our might. Well, yes. But a large part of what we've been discussing for the last four weeks is whether punishing the transgressor, especially if that punishment heightens the underlying animosities, is the most productive approach. Remember that Colin Powell has said repeatedly that we do not want to kill innocent civilians.

I guess a good rule would be to not introduce a new topic in the last sentence or paragraph. Instead restate your best argument, so the reader will go away with that argument uppermost in his/her mind.



On October 15, 2001, Myeshia Leverett, CSUDH, wrote:

Hi Jeanne, I just wanted to say hi and ask how are you doing? I just found out that my close friend was being sent to weapon camp and he is going to be in the first or second batch of troops to go in when they start sendind ground troops. I'm real upset with this war going on.

Myeshia Leverett

On Monday, October 15, jeanne responded:

Myeshia, Using what I suggested to Joseph above, try to provide some of the conceptual linking I'm looking for to show me that you have mastered the concepts and discussions that we have covered in class, as well as in the Current Issues.