Five years after our generation’s Pearl Harbor, Americans marked the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on Monday with a mixture of emotional ceremony and poignant analysis. Colgate’s commemoration of 9/11 was muted compared to some, yet offered the same combination of catharsis and discourse seen across the nation.
Sponsored by the Peace and Conflict Studies (P-Con) division of the University Studies Department, the symposium, titled “International Perspectives on Peace & Security Five Years After 9/11,” was held Monday evening in the Ho Lecture Room in Lawrence Hall. A program in two parts, the evening began with a poetry reading by Rebar Professor of the Humanities Peter Balakian, followed by a panel presentation and discussion with members of the P-Con faculty.
“Today, five years later, commemorations of 9/11 take various forms…[yet] each of these commemorations invite us further into the U.S. psyche,” Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Professor in Liberal Arts Studies and Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Women’s Studies Marilyn Thie said in her welcome.
“We must look into the larger effects, the longer-term effects,” she said, setting the stage for the evening’s international perspective. Balakian’s poetry provided a moment of reflection and established a background for the later discussion.
“Art offers a kind of response, of recourse,” he said, before reading his two original works.
“Going to Zero” told the story of Balakian’s own journey to Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 and provided a stark reminder of the widespread shock in the wake of the attacks.
“Warhol/Madison Ave./9/11” examined the emotional impact of the day, juxtaposing the speaker’s encounter with an Andy Warhol silkscreen against the acrid stench that hung over Lower Manhattan in those days.
Silence filled the room as Thie again rose to the lectern to introduce the discussion portion of the evening.
Moderator and Professor of History Andy Rotter began with a brief recount of world events since 9/11, and then ceded the microphone to a group of four faculty members with expertise in different regions of the planet.
The panelists’ comments ranged from memories of experiences on 9/11 to the change in international support for the U.S. in the aftermath of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology and Peace & Conflict Studies Nancy Ries was in Moscow with a Colgate study group on the day of the attacks.
“The human response to the events of 9/11 was very intense and very powerful,” she said, a sentiment reflected by each of the other speakers. Ries later qualified this statement, noting that unabashed support for the U.S. disappeared from Russia by November of that year.
Peace & Conflict Studies Postdoctoral Fellow Ruchi Chaturvedi noted that a series of major terror attacks in India has Indians asking the question, “Are the Kashmiri insurgents now hand-in-arm with that dark force?” referring to the Al-Qaeda network.
George R. and Myra T. Cooley Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies and Professor of Art & Art History Daniel Monk offered insight into Middle Eastern sentiments. He suggested that 9/11 was perceived in that region as “the end of American exceptionalism in the sense that Americans had now experienced terror on their own soil.”
Peace & Conflict Studies Postdoctoral Fellow Guillermina Seri rounded out the regional presentations with a discussion of the multifaceted nature of shifts in Latin American attitudes toward the United States.
Seri explained that, while many in the region identified with the pain of the American public after 9/11, several governments, including those in Argentina and Venezuela, had already been engaged in national discourses questioning the merits of their relationships with the United States. American actions in the years since have only magnified this uncertainty.
A question and answer period that followed addressed several region-specific topics, including the possibility of an Iran-U.S. conflict, global security changes and the international perception of changes in U.S. immigration policy.
To close the evening, all of the panelists were asked to comment on the developments they thought are most likely to occur over the course of the next few years. It was a last minute addition from Balakian that capped off the two-hour colloquium: “The next decade or two will show us something about the fate of liberal democracy,” Balakian said, crystallizing the discussion of the terror attacks that shook the world five years ago.