Column: What about the Afghans?

When U2 performed during the halftime show of this year’s Super Bowl, my eyes welled up with tears, especially when the names of the victims of Sept. 11 were projected onto a giant screen stretching into the sky.

In some strange way, halftime seemed natural and even necessary, like one big national exhalation of relief. But to be honest, it also seemed a bit wrong to me.

It seemed a bit wrong to me that as the names came up the camera panned to three screaming girls who were cheering and smiling as Bono edged near them. It seemed a bit wrong to me when Bono flashed the inside of his jacket to show us his stars and stripes. It seemed a bit wrong to me when the game just continued afterwards.

Most of all, it seemed a bit wrong to me that the names of the victims of Sept. 11 precluded those names of the innocent Afghans who have also perished in the fighting that has followed the tragic events of Sept. 11. And what of those who have been detained, who have suffered egregious losses of their civil liberties as we attempt to secure our country? Certainly, they, too, were all victims of that awful day.

We had to track down the terrorists to protect our country. And certainly I agree that we needed to respond and we needed to track down those responsible and protect our country. I’m not arguing about the military action we have taken, because I certainly have no knowledge or experience to suggest what the nation’s alternative could have been.

I attended the Kalb Report this past Monday in which a panel of journalists discussed what it was like to be war correspondents. One journalist twice asserted that she didn’t think Americans cared about the Afghans who had been killed. I hope she is wrong.

But much like the way the game went on after that rousing halftime, I feel like we are, in some ways, treating this war and the Afghan people as though they are just another channel on television we can switch to. Or just another Super Bowl we can play next year.

Patriotism is not a halftime show; it’s not a cheerleading routine; it’s not propaganda. To me, being an American is about democracy and justice. Without compassion, neither democracy nor justice would work because none of us would care about what happened to anyone else but ourselves. To truly mourn the tragedies of Sept. 11 is to feel compassion for all of those impacted.

-The writer, a junior majoring in anthropology, is a visiting GW student from Wellesley College.

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