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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Looking Beyond Patriotism, Politics

Author: Annie Lionberger

Middlebury is renowned for its reputation as the College on the Hill, as existing outside the reality of the real world, as a bubble. It seems most people like it that way, considering that it has taken the impending possibility of a third world war to initiate a school-wide dialogue about current events. Sept. 11 has provoked the Middlebury student body to burst its own proverbial bubble. As we are suddenly struck with political fervor and patriotic sentiments, dorm windows and student cars are laden with the American flag, forums are being held to analyze the new American war and tidbits of conversation about our uncertain future can be overheard at any given dinner table. And rightly so — life as we have known it may never be a same as a result of these events. While this sudden shift from political apathy to concern and debate about the current global situation is extremely refreshing, it seems as if we have embarked upon this transition wearing blinders.

Sept. 11 marks the day we lost our sense of national security, the day our lauded way of life was threatened. But these events were not unprovoked. The United States has a long history of economic, political and, most recently, cultural colonialism. Visions of our booming economy and images of Hollywood stars have danced in the heads of the developing world for centuries but have always remained unattainable. Our seemingly benevolent international development programs have unintentionally further exploited their targeted audience. The Middle East has not been exempt from these policies. Since World War II, the United States has acted as the moral policemen of the Middle East, particularly regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations. United States policies that have traditionally defended the Israeli state and its claim to what was previously Palestinian territory have been extremely controversial, often exacerbating relations between the two nations and fostering anti-American sentiments.

Though acts of violence such as that of Sept. 11 are rarely justified, they do not spontaneously materialize; they are not unprovoked. Patriotism is a natural and rational sentiment that has become something of a national movement since the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., last month. Supporting our government and the ideals of our political system under such circumstances is normal, if not necessary. However, we must not unconditionally support the initiatives undertaken by our government in the name of retaliation. Clearly this crisis must be dealt with, but perhaps prescribing the terrorists a taste of their own medicine is not an appropriate measure when biological warfare and nuclear power are modern realities. As Gandhi wisely stated, "An eye for an eye makes the world go blind." As the new American War progresses and we continue to bomb Afghanistan, perhaps it is time that we put on a pair of glasses to critically evaluate United States foreign policy before we blindly head into war. We should remind ourselves of the age-old saying that two wrongs do not make a right.