Patriotism at a crossroads in years after 9/11

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York Community High School/Elmhurst, Ill.
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Ruth Schaefer stands at the corner of Providence and Broadway on Wednesday afternoon and urges drivers to honk for peace.
Photo by Michelle Kanaar/MUJW

Ruth Schaefer stands at the corner of Providence and Broadway on Wednesday afternoon and urges drivers to honk for peace.

COLUMBIA — A blare of horns, a flurry of anti-war slogans and the roar of a busy intersection mark the weekly rush hour peace demonstration in Columbia. The scene at Broadway and Providence Road is representative of the effects of 9/11 on patriotism in the last decade.

After the 2001 invasion of Iraq, the activists’ demonstrations have since focused

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on Medicare and the “endless wars,” according to one sign.

After the terrorist attack, trust in the government to handle international problems almost doubled, according to a 2003 Gallup poll. As then-President George W. Bush’s approval rating spiked 38 percent, some said dissent was discouraged.

Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said that until 2005, there were mixed feelings in Columbia about the demonstration every Wednesday.

“People were initially only willing to give us half a peace sign,” he said, holding up two fingers and lowering his index finger.

“There’s nothing wrong with loving your country,” Haim said. “But personally, I am much more interested in coexisting peacefully (internationally).”

Staff Sgt. Anthony Martin, an active Guard Reserve member in Jefferson City, said the reserve chooses not to talk about anti-war demonstrators. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion did not respond to interview requests by deadline.

Approaching the tenth anniversary of the attacks, hostility is still visible. A van’s passenger

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yelled obscenities at the demonstrators as the car sped through the intersection.

But Haim said he has not seen the usual animosity that represents a “destructive mindset that makes us choose sides.”

Rashed Nizam, chairman of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri in Columbia, is from Bangladesh and moved to the U.S. in 1991. When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, he did not see why he would not be loyal to the U.S.

“My land

is the land where my grandchildren will be buried,” Nizam said.

Just as the attacks on Pearl Harbor preceded Japanese internment camps, Nizam feared a similar fate for Muslims in response to

9/11. The disloyalty suspected of Muslims and anti-war demonstrators following the surge of patriotism is consistent with the outcry against the Japanese following Pearl Harbor, Nizam said.

According to the Mid-Missouri Peaceworks’ website, the group is “working for a more peaceful, just and sustainable future.” At the demonstration, signs included “End the endless war,” “Honk for peace” and “Help end the war,” as well as “Hands off my Medicare.”

“9/11 understandably evoked fear,” Lily Tinker-Fortel said. “Patriotism is working towards a truly representative democracy.”