Letters to the Editor: Sept. 11 Ribbon Decisions Stir Controversy

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The desire to promote inclusion in the Sept. 11 memorial is laudable. However, one cannot separate politics from the significance of the attack last year. America and Americans were specifically and deliberately attacked last year. The non-Americans injured and killed in those attacks were strictly "collateral damage" by those murderers and their supporters.

All Americans, I am sure, mourn the loss of all those who perished and unite in sympathy with their loved ones and friends, regardless of their nationalities, and recognizing their pain is appropriate in any memorial of the event. However, to admit that the attacks were horrifying, as your editorial did ("Political Agenda Damages Spirit of Memorial," Sept. 6), and not acknowledge the need of an American institution (UC Berkeley) that welcomes students of other nationalities to raise its voice in defiance and protest against the attackers is befuddled or disingenuous.

How on earth can you have any kind of meaningful memorial without simultaneously mourning the injured and dead, honoring the heroism and sacrifice of the many who fought or tried to help, and shouting, "You did not win and will not win!" to the terrorists who attacked us?

So I wholeheartedly applaud Chancellor Robert Berdahl's decision andreasoning. Besides, if any student doesn't wish to wear the red, white and blue ribbon, then nobody is going to object if he or she exercises that right.

And since when is professing patriotism an "agenda"?

Chris Larson

via e-mail

Regarding Friday's editorial ("Political Agenda Damages Spirit of Memorial," Sept. 6), caving into "a loud handful of campus dissenters" is probably what Berkeley does best.

Again and again, the UC Berkeley campus (and society) has demonstrated its willingness to cater to those who scream the loudest. Yet "liberal" speech is allowed while dissenting arguments are discounted with platitudes about democracy and free speech.

I am not defending the California Patriot by any means-it has certainly overstated its case. Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent about the colors of a simple ribbon memorializing all the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.

In fact, that is precisely what tomorrow's event should be-a memorial.

I attended last year's memorial held the day of the attacks and was very disappointed by those who felt the need to politicize that sacred event. Instead of remembering the victims, many criticized U.S. foreign policy "to propagate their (political) agendas." As imperfect as our foreign policy may be, a memorial for the victims is not the appropriate forum for these criticisms.

Lance Kim

UC Berkeley alumnus

Kudos to Chancellor Robert Berdahl! My husband and I cheered when we heard he overruled the decision to offer only white ribbons at UC Berkeley's Sept. 11 memorial service ("Campus Reverses Decision Not to Distribute Patriotic Ribbons on Sept. 11.," Sept. 6). It's refreshing to know that someone in Berkeley still has a backbone and isn't afraid to show it.

I suppose that white ribbons would be more cost efficient, but who cares? This is America-red, white and blue are our colors. If you live here, then they are your colors too, whether or not you were born here.

If you can get a message to Chancellor Berdahl, tell him that he has shown me that Berkeley isn't such a bad place after all.

Jerae Callahan

Vancouver, Wash.

Color me amazed that someone at UC Berkeley finally exercised some good judgement. Granted it did require the last minute intervention of Chancellor Robert Berdahl, but I guess it is too much to ask that anyone of a lower scope would be equipped with such high level common sense ("Campus Reverses Decision Not to Distribute Patriotic Ribbons on Sept. 11.," Sept. 6).

Whenever zealots such as Jessica Quindel attempt to force their nonconformist politics down the throats of normal people it becomes the duty of the apolitical and otherwise apathetic to rise up and say, "enough is enough." If wearing red, white and blue ribbons offends some of these activists or makes them feel uncomfortable, well, then, they should make the necessary adjustments to compensate, not the rest of America. After all, that is where everyone who will be attending the ceremonies currently resides: the United States.

I encourage sincerely those dissenters who are truly offended to wear a non-patriotic ribbon if they so choose or stay at home as a form of protest. All that I ask in return is that they don't continue to attempt through coercion or political pressure to prevent those who are proud to be Americans to demonstrate patriotism on the anniversary of the day our nation was attacked.

Chris Corsi

University of Pennsylvania student

As a former Marine Corps combat veteran of Vietnam who feels fortunate to have been educated at UC Berkeley following my tour (class of 1976), I cannot help but think that the animals have taken over the zoo at my alma mater.

On Sept. 11, I will mourn those who died in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. I will also take a quiet moment to reflect on the absurd spectacle that some have made of UC Berkeley.

Jock Nash

Washington, D.C.

In your Sept. 6 issue, Chancellor Berdahl was quoted as saying, "(Red, white and blue) ribbons don't offend anyone ("Campus Reverses Decision Not to Distribute Patriotic Ribbons on Sept. 11")." In fact, I am offended by the administration's choice to hand out patriotic insignia on Sept. 11, and I will not disappear just because Chancellor Berdahl has decreed that I don't exist.

Why am I offended? The hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 were motivated by a patriotic fervor of their own, a wish to impose their belief systems on the rest of the world. To commemorate Sept. 11 with a display of nationalism is obscene. It suggests that blind devotion to one's own culture, even when that devotion drives one to kill other people, is OK as long as it's exhibited only by Americans.

Sept. 11 was a tragedy, but the "my country, right or wrong" thinking it has provoked will result only in more and bigger tragedies. Wearing a red, white and blue ribbon may not cause the next world war, but a nation of red, white and blue citizens who can tolerate no other colors might.

Kirsten Chevalier

UC Berkeley student

Your editorial ("Political Agenda Damages Spirit of Memorial," Sept. 6), wherein you take to task the university administrators for having "caved into" the idea of wearing red, white and blue, instead of simply white ribbons, completely overlooks a very important fact and is somewhat pharisaical, to boot.

No one of whom I am aware disputes the fact that there were many victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy who were not U.S. citizens. There were, in fact, hundreds of such victims. But they were not the target of the attack-the attack was directed at the United States.

You condemn those who argued for red, white and blue ribbons, rather than simply white ribbons, as persons "attempting to further their own agenda." It seems to me that you and those of your ilk have things a bit in reverse.

Wearing the red, white and blue by U.S. citizens is a show of patriotism. Wearing the red, white an blue by persons who are not U.S. citizens is a show of sympathy for the nation that was attacked and solidarity in condemning such criminal acts. Wearing a white ribbon would show nothing at all.

It was those who attempted to bring it about who were, in fact, "attempting to further their own agenda."

Jim Shumar

Winchester, Va.

It is comforting to see that you have a chancellor like Robert Berdahl at UC Berkeley who knows who is in charge and the difference between partisan politics and American patriotism.

Some of us who have risked our lives to defend our freedoms especially loath those who would attempt to politicize Sept. 11 events for their narrow and misguided anti-American causes. Dissent is very American. Political correctness is not. It is the anthesis of "university" in the title: University of California, Berkeley.

Harold Mills

Columbia, SC

I am outraged about the student from Venezuela who doesn't like any sign of patriotism on Sept. 11 because "it makes people feel excluded ("Campus Reverses Decision Not to Distribute Patriotic Ribbons on Sept. 11, Sept. 6)."

Are you kidding? I am a retired teacher living in the Bay Area who pays plenty through my tax dollars for people like this to attend Cal.

Let's hear from those students who do support our country and their right to express themselves.

C. Grover

Danville, Calif

I am an eyewitness to some planning done by staff of the Office of the

President for the Sept. 11 memorial events. Before the California Patriot knew of the plans, I heard them with my own ears. There is no error in what has been reported by the California Patriot.

Rather, there has been an error by both Chancellor Robert Berdahl and the Daily Cal in its editorial ("Political Agenda Damages Spirit of Memorial," Sept. 6).

The Sept. 11 memorial was politicized by the planners who elected to exclude God and country from the event. The Patriot merely let America know that the planners were politicizing the event. It is cowardly to blame the Patriot for the poor decision-making of staff in the Office of the President.

I am quite disappointed in the decision the chancellor and the Daily

Cal has made in passing culpability to the Patriot, which served as an instrument to shine light in the dark places of this planning. Listen: These planners chose to politicize the event, not the California Patriot, and America knows the truth.

Paul LaFata

ASUC senator

As in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the question of what it means to be an "American patriot" is once again an issue. Events were being planned to honor those who died on Sept. 11 through a program that allows a time of reflection and a diversity of student presentations.

Yet the California Patriot and Berkeley College Republicans wrongly and unjustly labeled it an unpatriotic event because it did not initially include the distribution of red, white and blue ribbons. Instead, white ribbons were initially to be distributed as a symbol of hope and peace. Consequently, its organizers and supporters have been subject to a vicious hate mail campaign and threats to their personal safety.

Once again, self-proclaimed "patriots" have attempted to suppress the same ideals for which they claim to fight. This conservative manifestation has clouded the focus of this event, that of reflection.

There is no single way to express our grief for what occurred both on Sept. 11, 2001 and in its aftermath, nor our commitment to bring about a just and peaceful world.

This event should be representative of respect for the ideals of tolerance, diversity and exchange of ideas that are the foundation of freedom, rather than a call for nationalistic fervor.

Taína Gómez

ASUC senator

Unequal Protection

I find it outrageous that Salam Rafeedie, the Student Advocate, is treating the punishments for the Wheeler Hall take-over protest last spring, with such a lack of professionalism and integrity ("Students May Face Punishment For Protest," Sept. 4).

The very reason The Daily Californian refused to endorse Ms. Rafeedie in last year's ASUC election has reared its ugly head once again ("ASUC Elections Endorsements 2002," April 9).

Ms. Rafeedie's blind support for her student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) discredits the Student Advocate office as a place for all students to seek help.

Where is her protection for the 600 students who were disrupted during a midterm when the building was occupied? Where is her protection for students like myself, who, during the protest, had items thrown at that them and spit on them because of being Jewish? Where is her protection for the one thing all UC Berkeley students have in common, the fact that we are all here to get an education?

If we are going to have a student government we can respect, our leaders must look to their constituents above self interest, and do what is right for the school, not themselves. Rise to the challenge, Student Advocate Rafeedie; we are all watching.

Daniel Frankenstein

UC Berkeley student


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