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Student-Led Teach-in Covers New Viewpoint

By W.S. Wang


MIT students, faculty, and staff gathered in 26-100 for the second of six teach-ins in response to the tragedies in New York and the Pentagon. The only teach-in with a student-led panel, the focus of this event was “international student perspectives.”

Aimee L. Smith G, clad in Muslim garb, said that she is “acting patriotically in fighting for freedom of religion for everyone.” She said she has found that some others were “not as friendly.”

Soulaymane Kachani G said “there is an extreme lack of knowledge about Islam, Muslims, and Arabs,” who are now all being grouped with the terrorists.

However, Presley H. Cannady ’02 said that “if they want to avoid discrimination, they better be 110 percent for America, or they will get what they deserve.”

Flag waving intimidates some

Several panelists voiced feelings of intimidation and fear towards the prominent displays of American flags.

Toh N. Win ’02 believes that the flag represents “the government, the establishment -- and people can’t connect with it.” He added that the American flag has “brought about a lot of confrontation and many feel excluded.”

For Ambreen Amjad ’02, what is frightening is when “people are waving the flag out of blind nationalism.”

Jovonne J. Bickerstaff ’02, born and raised in the United States, said “I have never seen so many flags and I have never been so afraid.”

Amjad said that America uses “lies to justify foreign policy.”

Lucy A. Porter G said that a friend of hers who lives in England said that “America is very insular. The only view in America is the American view. The U.S. is seen as arrogant and always acting in its own interest.”

Melissa A. Edoh ’02 said that “the American government needs to let people know about the motivation of attack and measures that will be taken.”

Divisive attitudes prevalent

Several panelists criticized the “us vs. them” sentiment prevalent in the American consciousness right now. Win likened the situation to a sports metaphor of with us or against us. “Why can’t you just be sorry for the dead and engage in humanitarian efforts?” he asked.

Edoh said that America “seems to treat people as children divided into the civilized vs. uncivilized or the good vs. bad.”

Bickerstaff asked questions such as, “Why shouldn’t they hate us? Why is America so quick to judge? Why are we so damn arrogant? Is this an action or reaction? When have we become so pure and pristine?” And one final question: “if I am not critical, then how can I ever make things better?”