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August 13, 2004

the September Project (revisited)

I've mentioned the September Project before. It's an effort to organize discussions and other civic activities in local libraries all across America on Sept. 11, 2004. I'm delighted to report that 267 libraries in 42 states are now onboard, and there are opportunities for YOU to organize in your own community.

One of the best things about America (although it's not unique to us) is our tradition of gathering in local public spaces to talk about issues and common concerns. Meeting in that spirit on Sept. 11 is a great way to respond to terrorism and violence.

Eszter Hargittai announced the September Project on Crooked Timber back in April. Virtually all the responses were negative. One person wrote, "Do these people not realise that 'earnest' is a pejorative term?" Another was offended that the list of recommended topics for discussion did not include "Islamic terrorism." A third commented:

Uh huyay yay USA, go Team Democracythats what Ill be doing on 91104, Im sure.

Libraries are best for subversive purposes, not to prop up an empire that needs to die. 911 has, ever since, been a shining example of some of the differences between liberal apologists and radical critics of power. I dont mean to be too nasty about it, Im usually a very personable fellow, but the patriotic left leaves me awfully dissapointed [sic].

It's never smart to take a few comments as representative of public opinion. However, I admit I was slightly shaken when I read these remarks several months ago. I guess I'm so deeply enmeshed in activities that resemble the September Project that I forgot how they can alienate some people. My first instinct was to wish that the person who wanted to discuss "Islamic terrorism" and the one who wanted America's empire to "die" could meet (preferably at a library, where shouting is forbidden) to hear one another's arguments. That's an awfully "earnest" hope, I realize.

(You could reasonably ask whether I plan to participate myself. The answer, unfortunately, is that I'll be sitting in a New York City skyscraper on Sept. 11, discussing "transnational student activism.")

August 13, 2004 10:06 AM | category: deliberation | Comments

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