Tattletales for an Open Society | The Nation


Tattletales for an Open Society

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I believe it is necessary to add myself to the ACTA list of academics who have questioned the War on Terrorism. While I am not a professor, I am a student at the Evergreen State College and I have discussed with fellow students my displeasure with countless aspects of the "war on terrorism." Since one of the basic tenets at Evergreen states is that students and faculty learn from each other, then I believe that I may have an impact on the opinions of fellow students and professors.

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Comments that I have made include criticism of the excessive loss of life in Afghanistan, of the excessive measures of John Ashcroft's Justice Department, of the spreading of the war on terrorism to the Philippines and of the US's foreign policy of repression and subjugation of other nations since the end of World War II.

Clearly comments of this nature make me dangerous and warrant my listing with ACTA.

Evergreen State College Senior


I confess that I have undermined the war effort in my classrooms, in the campus newspaper and in public forums devoted to the attacks and their repercussions. I admit I encouraged my students and the campus community to emulate the example set by Socrates when facing his execution. Dr. Cheney's wise words force me to realize that only postmodernist/relativist madness can come from statements like, "I cannot abandon the principles I held in the past simply because this event has happened to me; I respect the same principles now as before. So unless we can find better principles on this occasion, you can be sure I won't agree with you." My perverse interpretation of this claim saps the strength of the war effort. Socrates could not have meant, as I irresponsibly claimed he did, that our values should not be abandoned in the face of violence and threat. Socrates would never argue that our respect for human rights, due process and the canons of evidence, or the distinction between combatants and civilians, should survive an attack on our own people. After all, war is war, and justice is best served by protecting one's own at any cost--only those ignorant of the fundamental truths passed down by the canon of Western thought could think otherwise.

Worse, I encouraged attempts to understand the motives and beliefs of the terrorists, going so far as to write and say that they were neither evil nor insane. I foolishly thought that understanding the motives of the enemy might help us avoid future attacks, but now realize that the terrorists along with all their allies and supporters (including unwitting intellectual fellow travelers) are unquestionably, incomprehensibly evil. Worse yet, on November 18 in a forum on civil liberties and security convened by the university administration (the corruption, as Dr. Cheney knows so well, goes high), I publicly questioned the wisdom of the USA-Patriot Act as well as the wholesale detainment of immigrants, comparing the mindless fervor for security these actions represents to the Alien-Sedition Acts, the Espionage Acts of 1917, the internment of Japanese-Americans, McCarthyism and CoIntelPro. I was speaking at that meeting in my official capacity as assistant professor of political science, and expect to be properly chastised for my disloyalty to the Bush Administration, my unfashionable attachment to the ideals of an open society, my disparagement of the Attorney General and my blatant attempts to corrupt the youth of our nation.

Assistant Professor
Department of Government, University of Redlands


Yes, I am guilty, and not just of a few careless remarks. In early November 2001 I distributed to the students in my Fall 2001 Adolescent Psychology class a handout I had prepared entitled "September 11 and After" that included the following discussion topics:

"Morality. Moral maturity is generally seen as consisting, at least in part, of a principled morality, such as Kohlberg's Level III (Stages 5 and 6). To qualify as moral, a principle must be universalizable. That is, it must be a principle you think everyone, including you, should follow. The September 11 hijackers deliberately killed thousands of people as part of an ongoing campaign by those they worked with to realize their shared religious and political purposes. The United States subsequently began bombing Afghanistan and, as of early November, it appears that many innocent people, perhaps hundreds, have been killed. UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson warned in October that if the US bombing of Afghanistan continues it will soon be too late to resume humanitarian efforts before winter, in which case hundreds of thousands of innocent people will likely die of starvation. What are the appropriate principles for deciding what to do in cases of this sort and for evaluating the actions and choices of others?"

"Academic freedom. Shortly after Sept. 11, the Nebraska Board of Education rediscovered and reactivated the state's 1949 'Americanism' law by writing it into its accreditation rules. The rules now highlight the requirement that the citizenship curriculum 'includes instruction in the US and Nebraska Constitution, the benefits and advantages of our government, the dangers of Nazism, communism and similar ideologies, the duties of citizenship and the appropriate patriotic exercises.' How do these requirements square with principles of academic freedom?"

Professor of Educational Psychology
University of Nebraska, Lincoln


Were it not for open heart surgery in September, less than a week after the World Trade Center tragedy, I too might have qualified for inclusion in Dr. Cheney's and Sen. Lieberman's list, but so far my opinions have remained unaccomplished and sheltered in relative seclusion. However, I return to the classroom this spring, where an open society is always the goal, and I sincerely hope at that time to qualify fully for the honor. An alumna, in fact, has brought the opportunity to my attention, one whose intellect and informed conviction represent what education ought to be about. So I would like to tattle on my own silent thought crimes and promise my intent, that I may in some small way help weaken the links chaining us to outrageous and largely unexamined purpose. If enough of us rattle, perhaps the drone of univocality may pause, the conquest of difference may abate, the conventions of Geneva may prevail, the sacrifice of liberty to security may be questioned, and the globalized boundary erasures and targetings in Iraq and beyond may cease. Less likely is that the massive destruction at the merest scent of bin Laden's reputed former presence might be called into account. More hopeful is that in a world of words, slippage in terms like hero and terrorist might be contained. Common sense and the courage to speak have never been more needed. I look forward to lending my voice to the effort and to earning the privilege of inclusion in Tattlers for an Open Society. As Thoreau once suggested, the question for people of conscience in the presence of injustice is never why are you in jail but why are you not.

Professor of English
Austin College Sherman, Texas


As director of the Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri and instructor of a graduate course, Controls of Information, I have uttered treasonous remarks questioning Ashcroft's policies right here in his home state! I have no excuse absent a liberal indoctrination at America's left-leaning university system. As penance, I will tattoo a flag wherever The Nation deems it necessary.

Executive Director, News-Editorial
Missouri School of Journalism


As a Canadian professor of sociology living and working in the US for several years, and now at the University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA), one of the most conservative states in the US, I have found myself the target of harassment from people within and without the university because of my publicly declared stance of Nonviolence towards the events of Sept. 11th. I, along with other students, faculty and staff, initially circulated a petition letter opposing a letter circulated by the President of the University, Mark Hamilton (a former military general), who in our minds advocated strong violent retaliation, something we felt was irresponsible for someone in such a position at an educational institution. We subsequently organized a very successful all day teachin. I am now facilitating a discussion group exploring Nonviolence on my own time, and the philosophy and strategy/action of Nonviolence is incorporated into many of my sociology classes. I am saddened that US students are predominantly exposed to the history and daily experiences of violence in school but particularly through media and the political and economic US leadership. I am trying to change this.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sociology
University of Alaska, Anchorage


In a proper spirit of self-criticism, I confess that I have encouraged my students (and, occasionally, colleagues) to read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that they can be aware of the precious gifts that the Founders devised for us. I have reminded them that the authors of the Constitution were less worried about foreign threats than by an accretion of power by the federal government. In a more radical mood, I have even directed them to the Declaration of Independence, with its references to "truths to be self-evident" and "all men" (not just citizens.) And--yes, I confess it--I have quoted Benjamin Franklin: Those who think they can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Knowing of ACTA's support for the teaching of American history, I thought it was all right to do these things, but it seems that some people find American history to be a bit uncomfortable. And--I am making a full confession here--I have also turned to the lessons of WWII. On my office door is the following:

In Germany, they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew, Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak up.XXXSLTSUXXXnbsp;XXXSLTSUXXXnbsp;XXXSLTSUXXXnbsp;--Pastor Martin Niemoller

Pastor Niemoller spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp. Frightening, isn't it?

John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York


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