To the Editor:

Over the past few days there have been numerous letters and articles regarding the Durfee banner controversy (“Hate sign removed from Durfee Hall,” 10/30). All of them seem to view the banner as either 1) hate speech or 2) harmless but tasteless humor.

Now I may be reading too much into this, but to me the banner was an ironic statement representing the frustration and helplessness felt by the American people at large.

Unfortunately, we are not in the midst of a conventional war; there is no one country we can defeat and say that justice was done. Who is our enemy? Is it terrorism? Osama bin Laden? al Qaeda? The Taliban? Afghanistan? We lack a clear target on which to pin our anger, and thus Americans are left feeling frustrated and helpless.

Wouldn’t it be wonderfully simple if we could just give up responsibility to a higher power and let God sort it out? Obviously, that is not the solution. Were we to take such statements at face value, we would be no better than the terrorists themselves.

But the banner must not be taken at face value. I doubt its creators meant their statement literally, and neither is it hate speech nor simply a joke; it is an expression of the frustration and anger we collectively feel in the wake of a terrible attack by an uncertain enemy.

Joseph Frenkel ’05

November 1, 2001