Skip to comments.Socialist Professor Responds
Posted on 07/08/2002 4:52:12 PM PDT by commieprof
An open letter to my critics:
Let me please take this opportunity to thank you for your feedback and to clarify a few points that seem to be at issue. Thank you to those who have sent messages of support, and to those of you whose criticisms are based in argument and reasoning, rathern than in name calling and death threats. Thank you to those of you who noticed that I took care in my pledge not to identify with terrorists, suicide bombers, or Islamic regimes, but with the ordinary people around the world, including those here in the United States. And thank you, I guess, to those of you who are praying for my salvation. I tend to see a better world as being possible here on earth and am not waiting for the second coming so that the meek can inherit their due. But at least you aren't threatening my life, and I appreciate that.
To those of you who are sending me hate mail equating me with the enemy, however, let me attempt to make the following clarifications. It is true that the format of a pledge does not allow one to present arguments full-blown. People may have misunderstood my meaning and intent because of the brief and condensed nature of the genre.
I take my freedoms to dissent in this country very seriously. I do not want to live anywhere else in the world, your invitations to exile notwithstanding. I am a citizen with the right to protest what I see as unjust and inhumane policies, both economic and military. You are correct that I am relatively privileged; I would not have the same rights to dissent and protest in countries like Afghanistan, although if I lived there, I would be part of social movements to resist oppression whether in the form of Islamic fundamentalism or U.S. bombs. Activists in the countries I named often stress the importance of critique and dissent here in the belly of the beast. I feel a certain obligation, an obligation that comes with freedom, to speak out alongside of those with less freedom to speak. I pledged solidarity not with any nation's leaders or terrorist organizations, but with the ordinary people, who are not being liberated by U.S. sanctions and bombs or by U.S. support for the Israeli occupation. I see the people in Afghanistan who were bombed as they celebrated a wedding two weeks ago as being as human as those who died in the World Trade Center, for whom I also have tremendous compassion.
I should add that people in developing countries are not being liberated by the opportunites provided by U.S.-dominated world capitalism. I do not have space to go through all the evidence for these claims, but if you have an open mind, I suggest you read some Howard Zinn, especially People's History of the United States and his more recent Terrorism and War. Suffice it to say that if you have read any history you know that the U.S. either put in place or supported with money and guns the very dictators you decry today, including the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. The United States has taken part in the undermining of democratic (defined as supported by the majority of the people, not in terms of the free market) regimes in Latin American and the Carribean almost as a matter of course (Chile, Haiti and the Philippines for example), not to mention in Asia and Africa. The list is too long to recite here.
Those of you who are offended that you might have to fight and die for my freedoms clearly have misunderstood my anti-war stance. I do not want you to be sent to other countries to die or kill, because I think those actions are not in defense of our freedoms; more often it's about protecting oil profits (even Bush Sr. admitted as much about the Persian Gulf War, which resulted in more than a million and a half civilian deaths). I don't want you over there killing civilians in my name, when my freedoms are not what is being defended at all. Neither are yours. Even though you may hate me, I don't want to you die for someone else's profits.
I do not agree with the analysis that "our way of life" offers hope and salvation to those living in other countries under dictators and in poverty. When four percent of the world's population controls more than 60% of the world's wealth, when the nation states that harbor the strongest enterprises defend those interests with force, when U.S. foreign policy and economic policy are designed to drive countries into unsalvageable debt or rubble, it is impossible for me to remain uncritical. Too often, it is not the fault of bad leaders, bad values, wrong religion, or corrupt people in other nations that brings them ruin, but the policies of production for export over meeting human needs, the support of the U.S. for dictators like the former Suharto in Indonesia, who massacred more than 200,000 people but was, according to the state department, "our kind of guy" because he supported Nike and Freeport MacMoran's exploitation of the people there. I could go on. When Madeline Albright said that the deaths of 5,000 children a month in Iraq as a result of U.S. sanctions were a reasonable price to pay for U.S. foreign policy objectives, I reacted with the same level of disgust that you are bombarding me with now.
I think we have to face these hard realities about "our way of life" if we are truly to understand "why they hate us" and to prevent acts of desperation and hatred targeting civilians in the future. I am not defending terrorism (which, if defined as the targeting of civilian life in retaliation for political and economic grievances, would apply to U.S. conduct in every war it has fought). But it seems reasonable to consider that "they" (Iraqis, Palestinians, Muslims in general) might hate the United States for the havoc it has wrought in the Middle East. Some examples: First supporting and arming Hussein when he was fighting our enemies and killing the Kurds, then slaughtering Iraq's civilian population and bombing the country back to the stone age. First supporting and arming Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan when they were fighting "the communist menace," then bombing their civilian population. . . You get the idea. The support for Israel and its wars and occupations against Palestinians against United Nations resolutions and international law doesn't win our government any friends, either. It is always wrong to terrorize civilians in response to such abuses. Yet the history is part of the answer to the question and a change in U.S. foreign policy must be part of the solution.
If you cherish the freedoms of the United States, it would be hypocritical of you to be intolerant of the expression of opinions that differ from yours. I am a well-educated, thoughtful human being. I am well qualified to teach at the University ("universe"-ity), which should be a place for thoughtful and respectful sharing of diverse views. My students get trained in critical thinking: the capacity to take in a number of perspectives and weigh evidence and reasoning on their own, which they would not be able to do if there were not at least a few dissenters among us here. I mean, the business school gets the big bucks and military- and corporate-funded research dominate the campus. It's a rare class where a student would find points of view that challenge the corporate and geopolitical hegemony of the United States. So I feel sorry for the students whose parents would keep them from attending my classes or the University of Texas because of what I wrote. Don't you have faith that your children can think for themselves? Don't you trust them with a range of positions and approaches to knowledge? Haven't you prepared them to defend your family's values? Any viewpoint is welcome in my classes so long as the arguer can provide evidence and reasoning in support of claims. Contrary to popular mythology, I do not routinely fail conservative students; I do welcome their voices in class so long as respect for others and standards of argumentation are sustained. Actually, the smarter conservative students tell me that they enjoy a good challenge, which they take as a sign of respect. And believe me, I am a member of a tiny political minority on campus that is nowhere near acting like the "thought police" envisioned by the hard right. The kind of fear I hear in the emails I am receiving and on the conservative listservs I have been monitoring is based on a complete overestimation of any single professor's influence.
In sum, I am not the enemy of freedom; to the contrary, I am among its staunchest supporters. I think freedoms should be expanded, not curtailed, in this time of crisis. I worry that now with the modified Patriot Act (which allows security agencies to perform warrantless searches, detentions, and wiretaps, among other things) and the new mega- security-intelligence agency consolidation, that we may not have these freedoms to dissent very much longer. I will raise questions about U.S. foreign policy and corporate globalization as long as I can. It is my prerogative, my right, and, as I see it, my responsbility.
A brief comment on patriotism, or nationalism: To me it seems untenable to say that I have more in common with George W. Bush, Martha Stewart, or Kenneth Lay than I do, say, with a teacher in Afghanistan or a student in Iraq or a UPS driver here at home. Likewise, they might share interests with me and have little in common with Saddam Hussein or Al Quaeda. As a socialist (not a Stalinist, and there is a difference), I have a positive vision of international solidarity and struggle against greed, war, exploitation, and oppression on a world scale. In my view, patriotic fervor dehumanizes people around the world so that their deaths or their hunger or their homelessness can be blamed on them and forgotten.
It's not like me to base an argument on the words of the "founding fathers" but let me remind you that it was Thomas Jefferson (leaving aside his fondness for slaves for a moment) who believed that criticism and dissent were at the core of democracy. He even thought that the citizenry should take up arms against a government when they thought it was becoming too tyrannical. It took a revolution to make the democracy you cherish, and in my view it will take another to make real democracy (political and economic) for the majority of the world's population.
Ben Franklin wrote that when a nation prioritizes security over liberty, the consequences could be dire for democracy. Contrary to my correspondents, I do not believe that order is the ground from which all liberty springs. History teaches quite another lesson--it took a civil war, for example, to end slavery. And "order" is a god term not of democratic societies but of fascism. Unfortunately, I believe that in this extremely sensitive time people are all too willing to embrace a notion of security--not only against terrorists but also against critical ideas and thoughtful dialogue--over liberty.
I hope that this set of expanded arguments makes for more thinking and fewer personal attacks. Of course, I hoped to provoke a response and I welcome debae and dialogue. I do not feel like a victim and I am not complaining about being criticized. However, I hoped to get a *real* response, not just hate and intimidation in the name of freedom.
I encourage activists with views similar to mine to come out into the light of day. The urgency of speaking now far outweighs the flak we will get for standing up.
With best regards,
What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Have you ever flown on an airplane?
Have you ever been mugged?
Since income taxes are based on profits, is it your position that profits are obcene and so taxes are obcene?
Does it bother you that you live off taxes paid by others, based on their income or profits? When you look in the mirror do you see a leech?
Have you ever had a real job?
I could go on, but you get the point. Leeches do not mind living off the hard work of people who have real jobs.
You say capitalism exploits the poor of 3rd world countries? Tell me, if there were, say, minimum wage laws over there do you think that our companies would go that far to hire anymore? Then, tell me who will hire those out of work workers for that pay? You just starved hundreds of thousands, but at least they die "unexploited" huh?
And by "real democracy" you mean Marxism, but are not honest enough to say that. Our 'Democracy' is a most successful mix of indivual freedom, capitalism, and limited socialism. All countries could thrive if they would follow our lead, instead of the Marxist vision that you preach.
Thanks. I hope she'll reply.
Talking Points on Abortion Rights
1. Over my year shere at UT, Ive come out on these steps on many occasions. Ive come out as a lesbian, as a socialist, as someone who opposes the war in Afghanistan and supports the rights of University staff. Today Im coming out again--as someone liberated by the right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion. I gain courage from the fact that nearly half of all American women stand here with me in spirit. Nearly half of all American women will seek an abortion at some point in their lives. In 1963 my mother might have been among them, but she didnt have this choice. She sacrificed medical school , her economic security, and her independence to have me. Although I am glad to be here, if she had had the choice and used it, I would not have known the difference.
2. In 1984, I was a sophomore in college. I discovered I was pregnant by my long-term boyfriend, who, after writing me a check for $190 and dropping me off at the clinic, left me for good. I was working way through school at Penn State. I was terrified at the prospect of bearing a child. While I was ashamed at having beeb careless enough to become pregnant in the first place , I experienced the abortion as a huge relief , not at all marked by trauma or shame. In many meaningful ways, it saved my life. Childbearing and raising should be undertaken under conditions of freedom and material and emotional security. Today I have an eleven-year-old daughter . I am glad I waited until I was ready emotionally and materially to raise her without making the wilting sacrifices required of my mother.
3. I have no shame about having had an abortion. And I think our movement should have no shame either. We have, unfortunately, been shamed into hiding by the anti-choice movement and its misrepresentations of fetuses, of women who seek abortions, and of doctors who perform them. Instead of demanding the right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion, we have been cowering behind slogans like reduce the need, defend the right. Where has this retreat gotten us? 4. Abortion rights have been under attack since they were won in 1973. Nearly 90% of counties in the United States have no abortion providers. Multiple legal restrictions such as waiting periods and parental and spousal consent requirements--make abortion inaccessible to young, working, and poor women. In fifteen states there is a gag rule preventing organizations receiving state funds from mentioning abortion. Only 18 states fund abortion for poor women. Overall, states have enacted 262 anti-choice measures over the past six years. The struggle locally at Brackenridge Hospital to keep abortion services available there points up the erosion of access nationwide.
5. It is important to point out that this erosion has taken place under democratss and republicans alike. The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal assistance for poor womens abortions, passes every year regardless of which party dominates Congress. During Clintons presidency, when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, none of the promised abortion rights improvementsincluding the Freedom of Choice Act and a fight against the Hyde amendmenttook place. Instead, in a deal with Republicans, Clinton agreed to a global gag rule. Sentate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, proposed a ban on all post-viability abortions. Still NOW and NARRAL uncritically back democrats, silencing critics and alternative candidates such as Ralph Nader, who would actually defend our right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion.
6. I see an urgent need for a sustained and unashamed movement like one that won right to choose in 1973 under Nixon, it bears emphasizing, whose position on abortion resemled that of George W. Bush. The persistence of the movement pushed the political balance in favor of choice. Bush would like to tilt the balance on the Supreme Court against abortion, but a massive public outcry could be a deciding factor again in preventing him from getting away with it. In 1989, hundreds of thousands of pro-choice supporters marched on Washington. It is no accident that while Chief Justice Rehnquist was writing what he thought was a majority decision in the Webster case overturning Roe, Reagan appointee Sandra Day OConnor swung the other way. The electoral strategy has failed and an annual day of celebration like this one is not enough to defend womens lives.
7. In this context we need a movement that recognizes that abortion is a class issue as well as an issue of womens freedom. Control of women and the nuclear family are tied to economic system that prioritizes corporate greed over human need and does not provide basic necessities for families such as heath care, education, food and shelter, and transportation. It is a bitter irony that young women who get pregnant are told not to have an abortion; but they are also vilified if they seek social support in form of welfare. The very same people who want to restrict abortion want to keep young women in ignorance regarding contraception and safe sex. And our movement is in retreat; abortion is a dirty word. I clearly remember the 1995 New York Times editorial in which Naomi Wolff condemned late-term abortions, seeking common ground with the anti-choice right. We cant cave in to the misrepresentations out there . There is no such thing as partial birth abortion. This is a term opponents invented to shame women who seek medically necessary and extremely rare late-term abortions into risking their lives. We should have no shame in our support of this option in such cases.
8. In general, the right to choose when and under what conditions to bear children is not a necessary evilit is a necessary good. Nearly half of all American women will avail themselves of this good during their lifetime; it is a safe procedure and a responsible choice. The scientific and medical community maintains that the earliest age of viability remains at 24-26 weeks, while more than 98 percent of abortions take place before the end of the twentieth week of pregnancy. The embryo, fetus not a child; abortion is not murder. The anti-choice movement turns women into incubators rather than persons .
9. JFA exhibit coming backtry to shame us with their grotesque misrepresentations of abortion. Activist meeting tonight 7 p.m. Quacks 43rd and Duval
10. I am not ashamed to know firsthand what the right to choose means to American women. I am not ashamed to declare my support for free abortion on demand and without apology in public here today. I would be proud to march in the street to win back this vital prerequisite of womens freedom. Lets come out of hiding and talk back to those who would stigmatize and punish us. Lets rebuild the movement for the right to choose for all women before we have lost it altogether. I want my daughter, should she find herself pregnant, to have the same choices that I have benefited from. For her, for all our daughters, and for ourselves, lets build a n abortion rights movement that is not shackled by shame.
That's nice. Socialism is a perfectly valid workable system - for ants and bees. It doesn't work for people in numbers much beyond those which a person will normally interact with directly in the course of his life. It certainly won't work on a global scale unless and until you can remove or suppress the individuality that is part of human nature, and if that's what you're after, the you are the enemy.
You are dumb as a box of rocks, have the same arrogance as too many slackademics with leftist axes to grind. But at least you have enough guts to post here.
I long for the days when Chairman Mao used to send "intellectuals" such as you into the countryside to hoe cabbages, shovel manure for a few years or a decade. He knew what freakin' phonies you are.
The objective of an economic system is to divy up scarce resources. If the objective was to liberate then that requires either force or a change in faith, either way its something you apparently would not agree to.
You seem to have your expectations of an economic system misplaced.
Right. And it's liberals who have done everything in their power to keep us dependent on foreign oil, with their opposition to drilling in the US and hysterical fear-mongering about nuclear power.