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Tattletales for an Open Society | The Nation

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Tattletales for an Open Society

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Although I am an American, I have been teaching in Montreal since before September 11, 2001, so my comments on thecurrent war against terrorism have not been directly addressed tostudents in the United States. However, during a set of public addresses at universities and other locations in the United States during mid-November, Iexpressed concern over the parallels between the government's treatment ofAmerican residents summarily arrested and heldon suspicion of links toterrorism and the mass roundup of Japanese aliens following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. I have also mentioned to my students inMontreal the widespread concerns by civil liberties groups about the implications of the antiterrorism acts passed in the United States and Canada (Canada's law, Bill C-36,eases restrictions on wiretappingand on the introduction of various kinds of secret evidence in courts).

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GREG ROBINSON
Assistant Professor of History
University of Quebec, Montreal

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Thank you for offering me a confessional for the many unpatriotic comments I have made on and since September 11. On the very day of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I remarked to my entourage (months before Bill Maher, I might add) that it didn't seem particularly cowardly to me to fly a plane into a building, assuming you were awake when you did it. My fellow countrypersons at ACTA, this was no doubt a subversive statement, made in the hearing of a high school senior, my daughter.

More recently, I have wondered out loud what John Ashcroft meant when he said John Walker Lindh was being prosecuted for having rejected "our values." Would that be Enron values? How is it that I fail to understand why rejecting values is a crime? The fault certainly lies in me, and ACTA should take note.

This very week, I found myself saying that if the Salt Lake Olympic organizers had to mobilize thousands of heavily armed troops and police to "defend" the event, quite possibly it wasn't worth holding. I also found myself hoping George W. would take a pratfall on the ice as he graced the opening ceremony with his presence. (I guess his fall from the couch had made me think about fallen Presidents.) This was definitely a disrespectful thought about the leader of the Free World.

DAVE CLEMENS
The Other Side magazine, Philadelphia

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In a discussion of revenge tragedies during one of my Shakespeare classes in November, I cited Cyril Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy as an embodiment of the fundamental lesson of such plays: that when an individual appoints himself avenger of a particular evil and permits himself to kill in order to eradicate that evil, the inevitable next step is that he sees more evil and decides he is bound also to eradicate that. This process, from initial conception through to the bloody pile of corpses that ends the play, involves a human being usurping the role and power of God ("vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord," KJV) and thus embroils the revenger in the very evil he sets out to conquer. Students dutifully wrote this (or something) down in their notebooks. "This lesson was clear to the playwrights and audiences in the Shakespearean era," I continued, "and should remain equally clear today: The individual who sets out to eradicate evil is guilty initially of hubris and then of blasphemy, not to mention murder." The students' dropped eyes and uneasy shifting in their seats suggested to me that I had in fact become a candidate for the latest enemies list.

RUTH ANNE BAUMGARTNER
English Professor
Fairfield University and Central Connecticut State University

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Dear Dr. Cheney and the ACTA,
After reading your report "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It," I was compelled to write an article for Common Sense, the independent liberal newspaper serving the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College. In my article, I criticized the McCarthyistic attacks on civil liberties and free speech committed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and the ACTA. In addition to this, I have participated in many antiwar demonstrations and have criticized the actions of the Bush Administration on many occasions (too numerous to add here). I also believe in free speech. For these reasons, I am submitting my name for the consideration of the ACTA. I would be deeply honored to be included on a future list.

SARAH EDWARDS
Student, Saint Mary's College

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When I saw your notice, and the correspondence it engendered, I rejoiced. With a President who was elected by the most perversely unjust Supreme Court that the country has known, with an Attorney General who is one of the most dangerous political figures extant, with a Vice President who is up to his ears in political corruption, it is absolutely essential right now for every red-blooded American to join your list and insist unequivocally on the right to protest whenever the misdeeds of this appalling Aministration warrant it. It is not merely a matter of asserting the idea of different thinking about major matters such as the bombing of Afganistan in order to destroy "evil" (whatever that might mean) but of protecting the very right to protest, which is one of our Constitution's most precious, and seemingly frail, legacies.

George W. Bush, aside from his illegal occupancy of the White House, is also a very foolish man whose policies are pushing us each day toward the unimaginable horror of gobal nuclear conflict. He seems to relish the idea of Imperial American Power. That is a form of madness, one which we should have learned about from the examples of Napoleon and Hitler. What Bush needs most of all is a healthy dose of genuinely imaginative and comapassionate thinking about the millions of people around the globe who have been victimized by our, and his, arrogant and bullying xenophobia. No one that I have met would deny the horrors of September 11. What we need to add is that the waste of human lives that our policies in Iraq, Chile, Laos, Cambodia, Central America, East Timor--to name just a few--far outweigh the human losses in New York, as horrific as they were. It is only by recognizing and overcoming our blindess and arrogance that any hope of a peaceful world for our children can be attained. To do that, we educators have to educate, and that means going well beyond the vacuous and misleading drivel that passes for news in the common media. In that sense it means that, probably for some time, we have to be subversive. That is our responsibility. So I am very glad to join with my colleagues from all over the country, and the world, in signing on to your growing list of those who will not be silenced by Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Bush. There are strong signs that the lists are growing. That's very heartening. We should keep at it.

KEITH HARRISON
Emeritus Professor of English, Carleton College

***

Being a mere undergrad ata conservative universityinthe UScolonial possession Alaska, I fearmy indiscretions will seem insignificant to the distinquished Dr. Cheney and her elite fellow patriots. Still I feel a compulsion to confess my shameless activities since September 11. I, along with two sociology professors (who shall not be named), organized a teach-in on Islam, terrorism and nonviolent philosophy.

I contributed to the creation and dissemination of a petition objecting to a letter sent out over university e-mail by the university's president. He used the events of9/11 to justify not only the necessity of a brutal response but the building of amissile defense system (an issue that deeply concerns Alaskans, as launchingthe next arms race in space would bring more defense spending here). Furthermore, in a fit offemale emotionalityand lack of "expert" objectivity, I impudently suggested to a meeting of faculty and administration that the carpet bombing of Afghanistan, with its inevitable civilian casualties, would bean act of state terrorism that would only result in furthering the cycle of terrorist violence. In a similar state of misquided sentimentality, I wrote a letter to the local daily news claiming thatthisadministration'ssupport of Sharon's policies in Palestinian territories is American foreign policy at its worst.

And one more thing. I have knowingly goneoutside patriotically circumscribed American media to find analysis and information, sometimescritical of our government's policies--even e-mailing this information to others whose views I did thus corrupt.Nor have I repented, as I amcurrently involved with a group exploring nonviolent living and action in an increasingly violent and insane global system. Mythoughts and deedsby definition make me nofriend to the current administration--though I truly believe my actions were and remainin the service of social justice, truth and democracy. If these values are offensive to Dr. Cheney, I humbly request that she add me to her list. Confession isgood for the soul.

KATE McCLELLAN

***

I teach at a small church-related liberal arts college. We have a significant population of international students. I had the audacity to question whether it was always appropriate to display the flag on campus because I knew some of our students were puzzled and intimidated by what they saw as an aggressive patriotism. I interpreted our community as an international one. My offense was highly symbolic.

TIMOTHY A. BENNETT
Foreign Languages and Literatures, Wittenberg University

***

Although (like many of your confessors) I am not an academic, I think the ACTA might be interested in my experience. I'm a delivery driver for an auto parts distributor. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, my supervisor began distributing American flags to wave from our delivery trucks. When she handed me a flag, I politely declined. She was aghast. "Why?," she asked. "No reason necessary," I replied. "But we want the drivers to fly the flag," she said. Again I said no. She turned away, incredulous. The next day, the notorious Bush poster was tacked below my sign-out board: "You're either with us or with the terrorists." I guess the ACTA would find me in the camp of the latter. I hereby confess that I am not in the camp of the former.

CHRIS CHRISTENSEN
Portland, OR

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As a pre-emptive measure I must ask that you add my name to your list of anti-American peacenik educators. I am currently taking a French course at Brown University (hint: a potential mother lode of "weak links") as a step toward my eventual certification to teach at the high-school level. Once certified, I plan to teach my students a language spoken by foreigners who snidely disdain our country and to incorporate the overseas press and critical thinking in my lesson plans.

Recently I have written to Mr. Bush protesting our attacks on Afghan civilians and have encouraged my friends to do the same. (Yes, I do realize that an attempt to persuade our soi-disant President against the destruction of innocent lives prods the boundaries of misplaced optimism.) With my fuel-efficient Japanese car I have run over the small American flags littering Interstate 95. I must also confess to participating in a peace rally and continuing to support such backseat un-American causes as reproductive freedom and the separation of church and state. Whew, now my soul feels clean.

I'll be pursuing certification in a different state, so catch me if you can!

JENNIFER REID
Providence, Rhode Island

***

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