Friday, January 13, 2006


The Boston Globe has yet another op-ed piece on freedom of speech and dissent after 9/11. Margaret McKenna, president of Lesley University, once again bemoans the lack and/or squelching of any opinion that dissents with Bush administration policies.
(...) The managerial challenges paled in comparison to the opportunity to enhance young people's lives, to be an incubator for positive social change, and to have a bully pulpit to speak out on important societal issues. (...) (...) Much has changed in a few decades. The president's role as fund-raiser has grown. The university system and its expectations are stacked against any president providing the kind of public moral leadership that once characterized our profession. Too much risk is involved. Prospective students, donors, trustees, and alumni could be offended. Faculty may fear that a president's opinion too forcefully expressed might impinge on academic freedom. And since 9/11, dissent of almost any kind has been labeled as unpatriotic, and even reasoned debate on hot button social issues is viewed as dangerously controversial. Thus, while many of my colleagues will state positions on issues clearly affecting their campuses, like financial aid, they are loath to venture an opinion outside of academe. Who can blame them? The system demands more but wants to hear from us less. But I wonder what it would take for more of us to speak out? We will defend our students' right to financial aid, but what about basic human rights like those trampled at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? We can respond to college students displaced by Katrina, but are we willing to speak on behalf of children of undocumented immigrants? We might write our congressman to protect charitable deductions for nonprofits, but what of tax reform that disproportionately aids the rich and ignores the poor? We are eloquent advocates of academic freedom, but what of freedom to communicate free from government surveilance (sic)? (...)
Let’s face it, this is not new. It is actually one of the main political battle axes wielded by any opponent to George W. Bush. And as a battle axe, it has been obvious for a long time that it has a dulled edge. The real question is not that of a newly emerging fascism that has learned the lessons of Stalin and Hitler, and that uses more underhanded methods to swat away any speech unjustifiably deemed seditious and "unpatriotic", to echo president McKenna's frigthened article. In other words, the real issue is not one of a rapidly waning opportunity to exercise one's First Amendment rights. From Tim Robbins' speech to the National Press Club on April 15th, 2003, to Michael Moore's website, without forgetting Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside president Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, I still await for tangible proof that some kind of "X-Files"-styled witch hunt is actually taking place. The mere fact that Senators Kennedy and Schumer seem to have failed to derail Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court is not evidence that they have been kept from speaking their mind. What is taking place, however, is a political debate that has indeed lost much its civil veneer. The gap between Bush supporters and opponents has taken a dimension whose public face is the hurling of insults and the formulation of vapid political, economic and social agendas that have given up any pretense of masking a leftist origin on one side, and the total and utter ignorance of those formulations on the other. The left is not being silenced. It is only incapable of building a stable platform that could challenge the Bush White House. To wit, the Democratic loss of the 2004 presidential election, caused in no small part by Howard Dean and his political immaturity and by John Kerry's incapacity to pick up the fight, instead falling for the trap laid by Republican election strategists, and which reduced his campaign to an unprepared defense of his military service in Viet Nam. Let's put the myth of squelched dissent to rest and replace it with the reality of an unprepared, even non-existing, liberal and progressive pretense to redirect this country's policies.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home