. . . Friday September 3, 2004

Ignoring the War on Terror?

As a member the Berkeley English Department’s graduating class of 1989, I sat in the unusually hot, early summer sun in Berkeley’s Greek Theater and listened to a series of forgettable addresses.

There were the usual anecdotes about running to class with a last minute term paper and the challenges of the future. But what struck me the most was that there wasn’t a single word uttered by single speaker about what was at the time an absolutely massive story that in many ways struck at the very heart of what I thought the Berkeley experience was all about.

By the end of the ceremony, I was completely shocked that no one had even mentioned the ongoing crisis that was taking place in Tiananmen Square. Somehow there was a disconnect between our political passions and the real world.

I experienced a similar shock at the conclusion of this week’s Republican convention. No one can deny that the overriding theme of the entire convention was the war on terror and that messaging culminated on Thursday night with W’s claim that “We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer.”

One can clearly question the validity of that claim given that worldwide terrorism-related deaths are on a dramatic rise. But what really surprised me is that during this week of terror-related messaging, not a single speaker (including, most surprisingly, the President himself) mentioned a major, ugly and horrifying terrorist act that was taking place in Russia. Only hours after the President’s speech, a battle began that led to scores of deaths among the teachers and children who had been taken hostage at their school (on the first day of school) by terrorists.

Maybe I’m missing something here. But I just don’t get how you can spend a week talking about global terrorism and somehow ignore the major act of terror targetted at schoolchildren. Remember, the world is listening to these speeches. I’m not suggesting that there should have been a major focus on Russia’s struggle during the week. But to ignore it completely seems to be an unacceptable expansion of what is already a wide disconnect between politics and reality.

Concentration is important!