HuD in English

Dear Colleagues

I note that some people argue against the use of English and others for it. As an English-speaker, let me say that I hope that all of us--as friends and colleagues--can feel free to write in the language we feel most comfortable with. As scholars, we ought to be able to read in other languages--Spanish, Portuguese, French, German--especially with the help of the rapid versions prepared on this line.

It is uncomfortable enough dealing with issues that test our tolerance, as much as our perspicacity, in times of powerful history-changing events. While I usually feel so much more at ease with subjects that are hundreds of years in the past, even when morally they cut deep into my own private and family feelings, what is going on calls for all the skills of interpretation and judgment we have built up in a lifetime. And still it is not easy--indeed, it goes against so much of what I stood for as a young man standing against the Vietnam War--to realize that in this instance I find myself backing the Coalition against Terrorism.

I am for "peace" but I do not think that holding back from destroying the terrorist networks that have been built up for twenty years or more means "peace". I fail to see the logic in the proposition that, because the USA and its allies backed up Bin Ladin and helped the Afghanis defeat the USSR, these terrorists had the right to attack innocent people in New York City, a good proportion of whom were also not Americans. Since the known terrorists seem to be wealthy, well-educated Saudis and Egyptians with little or no background in religious affairs, I do not see how they can be taken as protectors or warriors on behalf of the poor, the downtrodden, and the exploited.

I certainly think history is full of contradictions, and also of profound unconscious forces, highly irrational and self-destructive. Yet not to act is to take a stance, to make a judgment, and to allow to happen events which I see as far worse than the errors of "collateral damage". But let us discuss and debate these things, and not rest easy with simple answers based on ideologies which were blown apart over the past two decades.

Norman Simms