Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Overcoming our Fears and United 93

Today the film “United 93” will be shown in theaters to a general audience for the first time. This movie depicts the story behind the only hijacked airplane on September 11 to fail to hit its intended target, Washington D.C. “United 93” has created nationwide controversy over whether such a form of entertainment should have been made portraying a 9/11 event and whether now is the right time to show it to the public.

Countless individuals in academia, the media, and the entertainment industry have used the horrific events of 9/11 for a wide range of purposes. Unfortunately, some have exploited these events and their symbolic meaning for their own personal gratification or to intentionally manipulate analysis of its political implications. A professor from the University of Colorado publicly articulated that the people onboard the hijacked airplanes deserved to be victims of the terrorist attacks because of the American values they represented. Additionally, filmmakers have intentionally and systemically used manipulative footage and shoddy critical thinking skills to further their own personal agendas.

Monumental historical affairs will inevitably lend themselves to be subject to these forms of self-promotion and will allow individuals who have no other interest besides their own narcissism to shamefully disrespect the historical and moral significance of the event. However, demeaning instances such as these have needlessly taken advantage of American citizens. In essence, just because many have exploited 9/11 does not mean that one cannot try to confront it honorably through artistic expression.

The fact that filmmakers of “United 93” may reap profits from the movie does not lessen the noble message it transmits. To take a recent example, whatever one thinks of the politics of Michael Moore, he should not be criticized for making money on “Fahrenheit 9/11” and his other documentaries. Whether one defends or vilifies the filmmakers for making a profit is up to his or her own personal convictions. What people can agree on is that exploring the nature and actions of the people aboard United Airlines 93 through an artistic realm can be emotionally gripping in such a way that it is indeed possible to take an historic event and create an art form that honors those who perished.

There have been many good-faith attempts to capture the psychological, emotional, and philosophical significance of that day through political writing, but doing so through art perhaps is the most effective way of encapsulating such a day of horror.

I have only see trailers for the film, but I get chills up my spine every time I see images of that movie, which in turn gets me thinking about the heroic acts our fellow Americans committed during that day.

To overcome tyranny and stand up in the face of evil, in this day and age of Muslim terrorists, we must first conquer our fear of tyranny and evil. One of the highest moral faculties of each human being is that of recognizing fear in oneself and overcoming it. This is what happened when passengers on United 93 recognized their impending doom yet still found the resolve to strike back at the terrorists.

The question has been raised whether this is an ideal time to release this movie to the general public. Issues of timing appropriateness in this case are left to the subjectivity of the individual, so it is hard to conclude when is a prudent time to release a movie depicting a historical event, if ever. The implication of the argument of timing calls into question how and when do we, as Americans and as individual beings, confront and come to grips with appalling historical events of the past. Living life while being afraid of the present and future can deny innumerable opportunities. But living life while being afraid of what happened in the past can do just the same. Failing to take risks, whether it is through artistic or political means, limits the opportunity to look back in history and acknowledge the implications and importance of life-changing events or epochs. If we are constantly worried about the appropriateness of reacting to various historical events, we will impede our progress of learning about its political and social implications. Perhaps most importantly, it will restrict us from learning what it teaches about eternal moral issues of good and evil.

At least for a short span, all Americans should stop squabbling over the politics of President Bush and the war on terrorism to view this film. Perhaps instead of worrying about the appropriateness of the timing or the profit-making intentions of the filmmakers, all Americans can unite in remembering when our fellow Americans stood up in the face of evil. Such remembrance is the very antithesis of shameless self-promotion.

Greg Collins is a Collegian columnist.

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