Column: Kicking it

By Brian Mellen

I strolled into my Classic Civ class the other day in an overheated English Building. I was a few minutes late so I took whatever seat was available. First thought as I sat down, “Are we serious?” The desk fit perfectly, for a preschooler.

After searching for the Playskool label somewhere on the seat, my professor didn’t even open his mouth before my mind shifted gears from the Iliad to more important issues. First, how do I get rid of the giant ape standing in between me and Naomi Watts? Second, when am I going to find time to buy new acoustic guitar strings to replace my broken E-string? And finally, the most important, why doesn’t the OC bring back Anna? I think that’ll save the show from its downward slope toward mediocrity since the second season. Anna was cool.

No, I wasn’t thinking about the NSA’s domestic surveillance program and whether it’s constitutionally justified. I wasn’t critically evaluating Blagojevich’s new proposal to benefit college students in Illinois. And I definitely wasn’t too stressed about Iran’s increasingly stubborn actions to continue pursuing nuclear technology. Like I said, I’ve got other things to muse about besides politics – like entertainment – as so often does the average American.

The Arab station Al-Jazeera recently aired a tape of Osama bin Laden, the first public statement he’s made since 2004. He warned of an upcoming attack on American soil. But the Homeland Security Department stated it has no intention of raising the nation’s terror threat-alert. Counterterror officials are still analyzing how serious a threat this warning was and as a result, are currently advising people to go about their business until more information surfaces. So the public carries on, many uninformed, unaware, and without concern.

But there is some cause for worry. After all, this is the same government that wasn’t able to prevent Sept. 11 in the first place. This is also the same fallible U.S. government that went to war in Iraq based on faulty CIA reports of WMDs in Iraq that never turned up. And people still act shocked at the government’s sluggish and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina at all three of its levels: federal, state and local. Big surprise.

Bin Laden’s threat isn’t the only problem. The bigger problem is the public’s risk of dwindling back into ignorance and antipathy. It’s been less than five years since Sept. 11 and people are forgetting that the day New York turned into a war zone wasn’t some static event that’s been resolved. The same issues that caused the event and opened the eyes of American citizens nationwide are still being addressed and fought today.

Needless to say, it’s unlikely the movie biz will be helping this summer.

Hollywood has two films slated for summer release that will draw just a wee bit of buzz. “World Trade Center” and “Flight 93” will both recount some of the events that transpired in September of 2001.

I fear people may walk into the theater with the wrong attitude. By making films out of the events of Sept. 11 there is the risk that people will identify the movie as entertainment and not a caricature of a significant historical event caused by issues that still affect the U.S. and the international community today. With some, these movies will contribute to the attitude that Sept. 11 is a thing of the past that won’t happen again. I wish I had that much faith and optimism in the Bush Administration’s ability to prevent terror.

Attention readers: Stay informed on current affairs in politics so that we can hold the government accountable for its actions. Constructively criticize to help improve public safety and defense against terrorism. It is possible to balance a liberal dose of real news and still make sure you catch the next episode of “Lost” at its regularly scheduled time.

Bin Laden seems to be alive and kicking it. It’s not completely impossible. He may just pull a fast one again.

Brian Mellen is a junior in Communications. His column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]