Colleges Don’t Need 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies

Slate Magazine | 9/11/2018 | Steven A. Miller
srqlolo (Posted by) Level 3
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U.S. flags erected to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks by students and staff from Pepperdine University at their campus in Malibu, California, on Sept. 10, 2015.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

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A couple weeks ago, the internet’s right-wing outrage machine trained its sights on the small liberal arts school in Wisconsin where I teach. Ripon College had banned 9/11 memorials, venues like the Drudge Report and the Federalist Papers declared, because they might make Muslim students uncomfortable. On Twitter, folks who’d never previously heard of the school inveighed against its reputation, suggesting Ripon must be run by anti-American communists. One professor, born in Germany, received an email calling him a Nazi. There were threats of violence, and the cleverest tweets noted, “Ripon must be a Rip-off!”

I teach philosophy here at Ripon, where, in fact, nothing was banned. On Sept. 11, our students will memorialize publicly as they do every year, hanging posters about Islamic terrorism and planting nearly 3,000 small American flags in the grass near the campus’s center. But in the wake of this short uproar, I find myself thinking maybe they shouldn’t.

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These campus commemorations aren’t unique to my college. Though student-led, they’re organized and supported by a national organization, Young America’s Foundation, whose website lists more than 200 schools where comparable commemorative events take place. The YAF was around in a similar form 17 years ago, when the towers fell, but my students weren’t. The point of memorials is to remember, but few of these students have memories of 9/11. In fact, some of the youngest didn’t yet exist. What value is there in trying to remember an event that one, in practice, can’t recall?

The pat response to a question like this is George Santayana’s most famous line, “Those who cannot remember the past...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Slate Magazine
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