How have Americans dealt with understanding terrorism and changing perspectives of war, religion and news media?
On Thursday, a panel including politicians, academics and a radio host tried to make sense of how the world has changed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a panel discussion at Augusta State University’s Jaguar Student Activity Center, hosted by the university’s Political Science Club and the Progressive Religious Coalition, a little more than 100 audience members listened to the debates now common since 9/11.
“One might say this was cathartic for us all,” said Progressive Religious Coalition member Michael McCullen.
The panel discussion was the fifth public forum of its kind since 2004 hosted by the coalition to discuss current issues and reflect on how they affect the future.
After each panelist gave an introduction about the world since 9/11, they debated questions submitted by a moderator.
Each question, such as a discussion about whether the cost of the war on terrorism has been worth the results, sparked passionate dialog.
Sherry Barnes, past chairwoman of Richmond County Republican Party, said that when considering the cost of war, Americans also have to consider the cost of freedom. Although there have been many tragedies in the course of the war, it has also secured the freedom of Americans, she said.
“It’s just like the scale of justice,” Barnes said. “It has to be balanced.”
In rebuttal, Sudha Ratan, ASU’s political science chairwoman, explained that the price of war has not been shared equally by those involved, While civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq see violence every day, Americans don’t have the same day-to-day reality.
“To talk about this as some kind of even out spread of pain is absolutely hypocritical,” Ratan said.
The panelists also debated about how the idea of religious freedom has been affected in the U.S.
The main example discussed was the Muslim mosque that was planned to be built near ground zero and the reaction it received.
Local radio personality Austin Rhodes said it was bad manners and without common sense to move forward with the mosque after the attacks.
He compared the move to a pro-life coalition deciding to build offices near an abortion clinic that had been bombed by an extremist.
“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but in 9/11 all terrorists were Muslims,” Rhodes said.
The topic also led to the acceptance of Muslims in the U.S. and the lack of understanding many Americans have towards the differences between terrorists and Muslims.
As far as how Americans should react to terror, the panel debated whether it was appropriate for people to celebrate in the streets after the killing of Osama bin Laden versus those who danced in the streets after the 9/11 attacks.
“To kill a murderer does not kill murder,” said Omar Neal, the mayor of Tuskegee, Ala. “If we imitate what they do, why does it make it good for us?”
At the end of the two-hour discussions, hands in the audience remained raised with questions and comments.
It showed that the community needs more discussions about world issues and debate between those with different viewpoints, said Brenda Morton, who attended the event to listen to the panelists.
“It think this was very, very needed,” Morton said. “There needs to be more like this, because we do have issues and things we are so uninformed of.”