Nearly ten years ago, my older sister began college with an event whose impact on our generation's national consciousness remains unparalleled. As she described the way in which her fellow students congregated around Penn State's Old Main, my middle school self came to some understanding of that nebulous term "patriotism." At the very least, I admired the way in which college students came together and tried to understand the implications of a kind of suffering that, in many cases, had no direct impact on their families.
Unfortunately, as my time in college comes to an end, I cannot say the same for my experience in hearing the death of the mastermind and poster child of those attacks. I was among those at the Van Pelt Library who dropped whatever exam we were studying for and flocked to the screen downstairs. But soon my excitement dissipated, as I encountered students whose declarations of joy revealed no regard for a decade of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan, all in the name of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, terror, freedom and so on.
I first justified this lack of sensitivity as symptomatic of the heat of the moment. But on second thought, and upon further such encounters — be they in person, on Facebook or in the news — I found it to be paradigmatic of our collective attitude toward the two wars — and counting — we have unleashed since 2001. Both my sister and I witnessed this groupthink in our seemingly different eras of student activism, finding it to be particularly difficult to mobilize our classmates in protest of these wars and the destruction they have incurred.
More specifically, over the past several years, I have come to wonder why, on March 19, we do not congregate at College Hall in protest of an invasion that history has increasingly proven unnecessary and, moreover, unjust. Why do we not question more often whether it is also unjust that research funded by the Department of Defense and performed at our institution has possible relevance for drone bombing mechanisms? And when we hear about yet another slew of casualties, why do we not flock beyond our screens and to the streets?
On Sunday, I was not proud to be an American college student. Instead, I mourned the continued and widespread apathy fostered both by my nation and by my campus toward the rest of the world.
-- Nantina Vgontzas College senior and member of Penn Activists Coming Together
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