What is the definition of despicable? In the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on Sept. 11, Rev. Jerry Falwell answered this question succinctly. He is.

In a series of rants with fellow man of God Pat Robertson, Falwell attacked homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union and various other groups for bringing about the attack. However one feels about these groups, we should all be appalled by these statements. Why? Falwell’s life consists of criticizing these groups, attacking gays and liberals every week, and now, in an act of supreme arrogance, he is appropriating the tragedy to advance his own partisan ideology.

I would have hoped that we as a nation could have avoided this. And for the vast majority of Americans, we have. Bush-bashers have relented in their rage from November’s election and stood by their president. Congressmen have reached across the aisle to provide a united front, a model for the country. Here on campus, everyone, right or left, has come out in waves of support, donating blood and gathering in prayer. Meanwhile, the university has done all it can to ensure that Muslims on campus feel safe, helping to unify all of the Georgetown community.

While the entire country joins together during this crisis, some still take the opportunity to divide this country by politics and creed. Some have threatened mosques and fellow Americans, simply because of their own xenophobia. On television, several news commentators have offered their own scapegoats. For example, Bill O’Reilly, between his calls to “level Kabul,” has found a way to combine the World Trade Center tragedy and his favorite hobby – Clinton-bashing. Whatever fault one may find with the Clinton administration, the reason behind O’Reilly’s rancor is clear. His criticism is not meant to provide any sort of solution or open debate on American policy abroad, bur rather to settle political grudges.

These are the most egregious examples and are simply inexcusable. However, elsewhere in the country, individuals on the right and left have, with the best of intentions, fallen into the same trap of putting their ideology before the current needs of the country and the world in general. Michael Levinson, in his Sept. 11 viewpoint (“American Government Must Live Up to Its Rhetoric” The Hoya, p.3) attacks several American policies and credits them with contributing to the current problems in the iddle East. One topic, American military policy, is a definite concern, and we need to be aware of the ramification of U.S. military action throughout this crisis. However, the other issues are exactly that – issues close to the heart of the ideological left. Debt relief and aid to indigenous groups may be laudable long-term goals, but are not necessarily germane to the problem at hand.

That being said, I would like to thank Levinson for the theme of his article, that any solution to the problem of terrorism must include more than going into some country with guns blazing. This is the concern for everyone who wants to add something useful to the national debate right now – how does one skirt the line between ideologue and mindless follower of some national will? We can’t quash debate in this country merely because we face a national emergency. In fact, we must discuss this issue, as openness is the only way to confront a problem so dark.

To contribute something useful, however, we must avoid ideological crutches and traps when dealing with this problem. Simply put, nobody called this tragedy and nobody predicted perfectly the events of Sept. 11. Everybody, right, left, center, was at least partially wrong in their preconceptions. The World Trade Center attacks should have altered our perceptions about the world and our responses to its problems. Those who didn’t find their preconceived worldview altered by the terrorist strikes need to look more closely at their assumptions about the globe.

If anything, Sept. 11 proved that our ideals, whatever they may be, cannot hold alone against the sometimes dark reality that we inhabit. None of us live in the exact world we would want, with its commensurate ideals. No one person, no one single ideology, from capitalism to socialism and so on, can eliminate this problem.

In the face of this, some recoil and lose themselves in fear. Others hide their heads, hoping the same discussions will obscure the specter of this tragedy and its consequences that hang above us. Some people, like Falwell, willingly sow this fear; others merely succumb to it.

There is no political theory or philosophy that accounts fully for Sept. 11. In many ways, the tragedy is inexplicable to the human mind. Rather, we must react not with ideology, but with the entirety of our humanity, shared in common. Only then, with the common compassion, courage and sense of justice that pervades the truly human soul, can we unite to confront this new challenge and unknown reality.

Colin Relihan is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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