The return to normalcy is treacherous. We clamor for closure, but there are no bodies. We wrestle with vengeance, but there are no immediate targets. We turn to old comforts, but they somehow fail us.
The terrorists want it that way.
Terrorism remains a gruesomely effective political tool, not merely because of what it destroys but because of what it leaves behind: searing images of the dead, unshakable anxieties about the future and the brutal realization of vulnerability.
That is our grim new reality. We must fight it.
In three weeks, Yale will celebrate its tercentennial –a 300-year milestone that is as much a part of American history as the University’s. Administrators are, understandably, skittish about the topic. President Richard Levin and Secretary Linda Lorimer are walking a public-relations tightrope of the thinnest kind, forced to defend self-congratulation in the middle of a nascent war effort.
They should press ahead. Neither America’s course of action in the coming weeks, nor Yale’s, can be redefined on terrorists’ terms.
To be sure, there will be changes, some large, some small, in the expansive outdoor show planned for Oct. 5 at the Yale Bowl. The event is billed as a performance-based history of the University. As Levin wrote in his measured note to students, “the times may not warrant some of the expressions of exuberance that we have planned for over two years.”
But the times do not warrant an event robbed of its majesty and picked clean of its levity. That, too, would be a concession to those who have tried to lay America — and by extension, its centers of scholarship and learning — low. Framed responsibly, with a sober acknowledgement of the nation’s bewildered grief and a moment of silence for those who have perished, the event will stand as an elegant — and, yes, defiant — celebration of the values, innovations and sacrifices that exemplify Yale and America.
The tercentennial, one often needs reminding, is about more than a university. It is, in many ways, about values. For 300 years, 75 of which preceded the birth of the United States, Yale has educated and explored in the name of human progress. It has grown with and produced leaders for this nation. It has sacrificed thousands of students to its war of independence and brutal battles against communism and fascism.
Yale’s history is inseparable from America’s. To bury that message in the name of sensitivity is to deny generations of students, professors and administrators their due honor.
As a student body, we are deeply affected by the events that have unfolded in the last week. We wish to help, to understand and to stand together. For one weekend, on Yale’s 300th birthday, we must cultivate the kind of intense pride for country and for college that will give us the strength to march forth into an uncertain future.