After 2001, Americans recognized the immediate danger of terrorism because it impacted people close to them. Our nation as a whole was shaken. However, almost 15 years after the attack, it seems that citizens’ concerns have abated.
At the outset of 2015, there was a tragic terrorist attack in France targeted at writers of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Here at UCSC, students reacted with alarming apathy. After the attack, there was likewise a seeming lack of concern or sympathy by the American government. Several world leaders joined millions of French citizens in a public ceremony to mourn; America was mysteriously absent.
Despite multiple American political officials’ free schedules, only a single American representative was present—a virtually unknown ambassador to France. What’s worse is that the United States Attorney General Eric Holder was present in France during the day, but was inexcusably preoccupied. Holder even had an anti-terrorism meeting a few hours earlier with French President François Hollande. Hollande, unlike Holder, was present at both the meeting and the march.
The White House admitted their mistake—a wise move considering that President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry were not present. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest apologized: “I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile.”
Back on the UCSC campus, students expressed their concerns for the attack itself, but not for the Obama Administration’s lack of attendance. When asked about the absence of U.S. leaders at the rally, a first-year student replied, “America gets involved enough in a lot of events, so it’s actually good for America to back off a little bit.”
Other students agreed. “I personally don’t find an issue with it because it’s not an obligation,” said one. He added, “In the eyes of every terrorist organization, the United States is the great evil of the world. So seeing them there, potentially, does more harm than it would do good.”
The ambiguous attitude of student reactions leads me to believe that we might be at a standstill. Students—expected to be at the helm of the public voice—are apparently numb to their government’s actions. Furthermore, students not taking issue with America’s selective interest in global affairs lets the most powerful people off the hook.