Sept. 11 was not the simple “tragedy” the Yale administration peddles; America is at war. Woodbridge Hall and the people at the vigil treat this autumn of tears as though it were the product of an earthquake in downtown Manhattan. Make no mistake: 7,000 people were killed in acts of war by a collection of Islamic fundamentalists who hate America and dream of, and plot, our destruction.
Seven thousand lives were ended, a catastrophic loss for those who grieve “a face and a voice gone forever.” We must mourn those who have died. At the same time we must also resolve that these dead will not have died in vain. If our mourning is to have meaning, and if from the carnage something good can come, we must commit our country to a broad campaign against America’s enemies.
Islamic fundamentalists have been killing Americans for many years, but the scale and location of these attacks stirred the American people’s resolve, finally. Perhaps this is because the acts of war on our own soil were uniquely American — the masses of people killed, the size of the buildings destroyed, the enormity of the economic damage.
Our response to the attacks must be equally American in size. Cruise missiles and mile-high bombing will not work. What is needed is a long, earnest campaign against terrorists and terror; Americans must be willing to pay the dreadful price of casualties and bear any economic burden — because this is a war to maintain our noble republican experiment.
The self-proclaimed defenders of human rights rush to the streets to protest an American military response. We should give peace a chance, they say. Is peace possible when the enemies we face are people who fly airplanes into crowded, soaring office buildings? It is hard to believe these insane, determined men will desist from their evil acts because of a vigil for peace.
The people at the vigil, along with their sympathizers in the academy, suffer from a cancerous guilt and a destructive naivete that would cost us all dearly if they were to seize control of the ship of state. Thankfully, the American people are too moral and shrewd to fall for the dubious academics and the irrelevant vigils.
The American people do not have tenure to fall back on; they live in a world where words have meaning and acts have consequences, where “evil” cannot be deconstructed to mean “good.” Never before has the gap between the academy and the people been so wide and so important; if what most professors teach and proclaim had any relevance whatsoever, this country would be in grave danger.
The American people do not share the defeatist view of the academics and the self-proclaimed defenders of human rights. The great majority of Americans — those who hoist flags in front of their homes, wrap yellow ribbons around their trees or dash to defend their country — are demonstrating they are the ones who cherish the sanctity of life, not the passive vigilizers.
Their course lets the terrorists roam free to murder more innocent people; to think that a vigil and candle will stop the scourge of terror endangers the civilized world. Only American resolve will save lives.
A beautiful Lockean nationalism — patriotism with democratic pride, self-seeking individuality with a sense of national purpose — sweeps across the land. Americans want to make money and play with gadgets. But when it became clear on Sept.11 that the foundation of our existence — the sanctity of life, the freedom to live — was under attack, Americans were quick to recognize the priorities of the moment and the calling of history.
The essential generosity, morality and bravery of America has risen once again to fight a great evil on behalf of civilized humanity. Either we survive, or the terrorists do. Either we destroy them or they destroy us.
Davi J. Bernstein is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.