The Conservative Contingent: 9/11 Memorial Vandalism and the Oberlin Bubble

Andrew Lipian, Nick Miller, and Ben Schild

As a member of the military, serving in the Air National Guard, I have friends who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They signed on to make a difference in the world, much like we did when we entered this college, and some of them have even had to make the sobering decision to take another’s life. Indeed, the image of peace is marred in a world of extremism and preemptive defense, and we need not all agree on the level to which our freedoms are protected by their actions. But I hope we can at least acknowledge that a conviction about the reasons for war should be penultimate in rank to a consensus conviction that innocent people were lost on 9/11, and their tragic story should not be forgotten.

Memorials, like the one established in memory of 9/11 victims in Wilder Bowl, should inspire unity, not division. The rhetoric of late regarding this memorial is missing the point: We obviously need to respect the opinions of others, but when it comes to mourning the dead, there should be no other opinions to consider. While students within the Oberlin bubble have a less than lachrymose reaction, the fact remains that nearly 3,000 innocent people died on 9/11, and real people are dying overseas each day in service to our country, committed to preventing a future atrocity of this nature.

If we use a peaceful memorial to simply resurrect the political debates of our time, we have strapped on our boxing gloves and carried them into a funeral. The only use for our fists at this time should be to raise them up in outrage over what happened to this memorial and the uninspired reaction to it, but I have yet to see that. All I have seen is a Review article minimally frowning upon the vandalism while simultaneously using it as an excuse to connect 9/11 to oil interests and neoconservative imperialism and a letter from the administration about respecting opinions.

This campus treats the issue, by its rhetoric, as just another imaginary Oberlin ideal about which we get to spout off — waxing poetically about this, that and the other demonizing political demagoguery. This dogma is wholly misdirected at a time when we should push politics and political fervor aside and examine how we should really feel about this memorial and its defilement.

Editor’s note: In case the statement that “there are lines that even a righteous indictment of neoconservative imperialism should not cross” was unclear [“Editorial: Sour Memories of 9/11,”The Oberlin Review, Sept. 17, 2011], the Review unequivocally condemns the act of vandalism perpetrated against the Oberlin Republicans and Libertarians Club’s memorial display. While we can and must have a healthy dialogue about the consequences of U.S. foreign policy, and even about the appropriateness of politicizing a terrorist attack, this dialogue must be conducted with the utmost respect for the innocent victims of such attacks, for our armed servicemembers in harm’s way and for each other’s right to free expression. The Review apologizes for any confusion our editorial may have caused on these issues.