Monday, September 17, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 18



Stigmas cause false assumptions

Ellen Simonson

When I was a child, I absolutely trusted law enforcement. The police were my friends, there to help me if I got lost or if someone tried to hurt

As I grew up, my feelings on the matter changed, as many others' feelings do: "the cops" became a threat, people to avoid. By the time I got to
college I had heard lots of rhetoric about "the pigs."

I didn't agree with all the rhetoric, but I did experience a loss of faith in the general benevolence of law enforcement and other authority
figures. Incidents like the murder of Malice Green by Detroit police in 1992 and the recent attack on immigrant Abner Louima by New York
City police did nothing to allay my suspicions.

But last week's attack did. The acts of sheer bravery and goodwill undertaken by New York City police and firefighters after the World Trade
Center was destroyed made me realize how narrow-minded my previous views were.

Even retired and off-duty police officers and firefighters rushed to the disaster scene to help when Tuesday's attacks occurred. Current
estimates find about 80 police officers and 200 firefighters dead in New York.

Too many people performed too many acts of stunning altruism Tuesday for me to callously dismiss them. And I know now that, despite my
cynicism, people exist who would risk their lives to help me if disaster befell me. That's not to be taken for granted.

Yes, some people go into law enforcement for the wrong reasons. Yes, some people abuse the power authority positions allow them. But I
was wrong to judge the many by the actions of the few. Tuesday's events showed me that. The blind faith of my childhood may not have been
restored, but I hope the blind spite of my adolescence has finally been erased.

Which brings me to my main point. This has been said before, and worded better, by many people, but it's important to me and I want to
repeat it.

My cousin, who is Polish Catholic, recently married a man from Turkey. At the wedding reception, my relatives got wasted and boogied down
to "Love Shack" and her husband's Turkish family performed traditional wedding dances. (They courteously pretended to be as impressed by
our ceremony as we were by theirs.)

Turkey is located north of Syria, which is itself north of Israel. The country is a member of NATO, GATT and the United Nations, and it is
controlled not by a "religious regime" but by a good old-fashioned parliamentary democracy. But to many people, my cousin's husband -- by
virtue of his Muslim background, darker skin and foreign accent -- is beginning to look more and more like a terrorist.

I'm worried that Tuesday's events will lead to narrow-mindedness and isolationism, and to widespread waves of the violence against
Arab-Americans (of all backgrounds) that has been occurring since the attacks. I'm afraid my country will try to heal its wounds with hatred
and ignorance. I'm afraid I will be asked to hate a group of individuals, such as the Afghanis, who may have even less control over their
country's official workings than I do over mine.

Hatred doesn't solve anything. Violence, even the mighty violence of the United States, doesn't stop violence for long. On Tuesday, I learned
not to assume the worst about groups of people, but I fear my country has learned the opposite.

Simonson, a senior English major, 
can be reached at

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