The PA College Republicans have responded to our (and others'; Here, here,here) criticisms of their upcoming 9/11 Day. I'll take their declarations of good faith at face value (a dubious proposition when dealing with College Republicans, I've found), and try to further explain why people find the idea of a College Republican sponsored 9/11 Day inappropriate.
They, in the person of one Jessica Thompson, write
"It is important to note that this project, even though it is commonly sponsored by College Republican groups, is not a political event in nature; anyone is welcome to participate in this event."
This is really the heart of our disagreement. I contend that when a political organization sponsors an event, the political implications are unavoidable. If students want to create 9/11 memorials at their school, fine, but for the College Republicans to attach their name to it brings unmistakable political implications. This is a simple point, and it should be apparent to student leaders of political organizations.
However, more broadly than the fact that political organizations are perceived as such, and perceived rightly to have political agendas, I want to briefly discuss the history of Republican exploitation of 9/11. This billboard, likely paid for by an enthusiastic Bush supporter, was about par for the course.
Bush used 9/11 imagery in his reelction ads (below). I remember registering voters in 2004 at college day on the parkway while the Bush people had glossy pamphlets with the twisted steel of the WTC towers as the background image.
The 2002 midterms saw a rash of Republican ads featuring shadowy images of Bin Laden juxtaposed with Democratic politicians, most notably against Vietnam war hero Max Cleland, who lost 3 limbs to the Vietcong and his senate seat to Saxby Chamblis and his Osama ads.
Finally, and most blatently, I submit the presidential campaign of Rudy Giulliani. Sen. Biden's observation that the man thinks a sentence is made of a noun, a verb, and 9/11 was barely hyperbole.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. Hell, you probably remember it. In short, the assumption that when Republicans are invoking 9/11 it is not for noble, altruistic reasons, but rather political ones, is historically justified.
In a comment at the PACR blog Mike Ubbens, PACR State Co-Chair, wrote
Interesting, this combination of “horror, sadness, and anger” is exactly what inspired us to make this a state-wide event. No campaign signs will be placed, no ‘pa college republicans’ signs will be jumping out at anyone. YAF is actually a non-partisan organization, and would frown upon these actions.
Therefore, I would like to extend an invitation to the Drexel College Democrats in co-sponsoring this event with the Drexel College Republicans.
I look forward to hearing from them!
While it's nice to know that the PACR won't be embroidering little elephants on the American flags, Mike misses the point I refer to above. Specifically though, the contention that "YAF is actually a non-partisan organization" is to miss the forest for the trees. YAF (Young America's Foundation) is non-partisan precisely the same way that MoveOn.org is non-partisan.
Why we might be suspicious of an organization sponsoring a 9/11 day project that declares "For more than thirty-five years, Young America’s Foundation has been inspiring thousands of young people to advance conservative ideas during their school years and throughout their lives." isn't really a mystery.
YAF is an advocacy organization, specifically for reactionary right wing politics on college campuses. If the 9/11 day project (that's a nice logo they have for it, isn't it?) isn't a part of that advocacy, why would they be engaged in it at all?
So in response to Mr. Ubbens invitation, and after consultation with our executive board, no, the Drexel Democrats will not be co-sponsoring any such memorial at Drexel. If the College Republicans here do, we will speak out about that as well. If the USGA (Undergraduate Student Government Assembly) passed a resolution or sponsored a memorial, I would have no such reservations.
And since we have their attention, I was wondering if the PA College Republicans were as offended by the other political invocations of 9/11 cited above as other Americans were. I look forward to hearing from them!