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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 8, 2001
Latest Update: October 8, 2001


Reactions to the war

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

  • Why? Journal entry by Patiance Kitashima, CSUDH.

Journal entry by Patiance Kitashima

On Monday, October 8, 2001, Patiance Kitashima, CSUDH, wrote:

Subject: Why? Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 23:59:34 -0700

Jeanne, I have no words to explain the actions that were executed today. I can't help but feel disturbed. "We just bombed Afghanistan. The war has begun." As I looked up at the T.V., I couldn't help but feel all the emotions that any American would feel. Anger, Fear, and Revenge flowed through my mind. As I analyze the event, I think that this is all too real. When was the last time the U.S. was attacked on our home-land? World War II, Hawaii. But that was different, don't you think? The American people have put their hearts and souls into this retaliation. This is one of the first times our home-land was disturbed face-to-face. We are angered, we are sad. We want revenge!

But what are the realities of this action? Afghanistan is trying to show their strength with what little they have. The world is behind America. What will they do, what can they do? Because they are not as advanced as most of the world, you can't help but think they will execute an animal-like attack. Poison in our water, Anthrax, it's so unpredictable. The world is against them, they will have to act with determination that has no emotion, but then again - this is how they have survived this long.

I fear that our differences can't ever be understood. How can a man have so much hatred towards something he has never experienced? Religion is a powerful element. I know that there is a god because of these events. No other force could influence patriotism, faith, and unity.

God Bless America,
Patiance Kitashima

On Monday, October 8, 2001, jeanne responded:

Patiance, I'm glad you wrote. This is the point of discourse at which we most need each other. The stage at which we haven't sorted things out, we recognize the conflict of many feelings within, and we need each other as psycho-physical anchors in reality. I've always liked that term. It means that we kind of throw out an idea, like an anchor, to see what's out there, how others are feeling, what others are thinking. Of course, where we are when we toss out that anchor does make a difference, because what we find out there will be interdependent with the structural context. But it does help to tell us where we are with respect to the "dominant discourse" of the structural context in which we find ourselves. Like sticking your toe in the water to test the temperature before you dive in. Further explanation of term.

Analysis and argument, when based on accessible evidence and theoretical understanding, take time. One of the good responses of the US, after September 11, was to not strike out blindly in search of vengeance. As one of our Wisconsin students said at the time, "Let vengeance be God's, not our Government's."

Time eases the pain just enough to let us regroup to a point at which we can be rational and make choices, see alternatives. We not only don't have to take firm immediate sides on any issue, it is better that we tolerate the ambiguity of ever more information coming to us, as it is available, for then we can recalculate our position on the issue taking the new information into account. That's hard. It's easier to be certain we "know" the "truth." Difficult terms for which none of us can ever offer more than reasoned argument and our "beliefs."

You show sensitivity to the dilemma of the inequality of resources: "The world is against them, they will have to act with determination that has no emotion, but then again - this is how they have survived this long." Edward M. Said points out that same dilemma in his description of the Palestinian commitment. What can a poor people do against powerful technologically-equipped armies? And the infliction of terror is one of the answers to that question, for none are safe against terror. But then you add wisely, that they have survived by this. Yes. And as the battle has gone on, each side has become more entrenched in its own perceptions and beliefs, and ceased to practice listening in good faith.

Such reasoning will not take you to an "answer," Patiance. But perhaps an answer is not what we seek. Perhaps Fellman's "paradigm shift to mutuality" will suffice. For if we practice once again listening to one another in good faith, then perhaps we will no longer need a war. Perhaps extreme and angry positions can be edged slowly towards a more balanced give and take. Not a consensus. But why do we need a consensus? After all, a consensus can leave those who disagree as unhappy as the original conflict. Perhaps it is time to begin to see the world differently, time for a new imaginary, one in which we agree to disagree without destroying our humanity and our earth.

I'm going to answer you as you wrote, Patiance, from feelings. We'll go back and analyze our feelings later, when time provides a little social distance and much less affect. So don't take this as a teaching essay yet. Just shared notes on what I'm thinking.

Beginnings are hard. We are tentative. We have forgotten how to trust. We have forgotten how to listen. We need to listen to our thinkers. Our site is named for Habermas because of his hope that we can learn once again to hear each other, to trust each other. We desperately need theory. Theory to help us distance ourselves from the affect that has so roiled us all. Theory to try to understand how rational and non-exploitative models can survive along side the present models as we seek feasible means of transition to a kinder, gentler world, theory to suggest how on earth we can restrain greed and other crimes without destroying freedom.

Some of us find solace and comfort in religious belief. Some of us find solace and comfort in teaching. Some of us find solace and comfort in power. The flags suggest power. The flowers suggest religious belief. And forums such as this suggest teaching and learning for all the people of the world. No single approach is "the" answer. We need them all. We do need ethics and values, whether they be philosophical or religious-based. We do need power, if we are to get things done. We need leaders. And we need for all of us to think critically and reflexively in order not to repeat the terrible blunders of the past. (Habermas speaks of different systems, but this is from "feelings," remember?

War is hell. But, then, as Sartre suggests in No Exit, we are each other's hell.

If we do not wage it, there can be no war.
But if we do not wage it when an Other wages it against us,
then what will stop the Other?
And if we do wage it, what will then stop Us?

Scary, scary questions.

I hope that many of you will add your impressions and reactions to the first days of the US attack on Afghanistan.

love and peace, jeanne