Friday, February 20, 1981
The Michigan Daily
Human rights: An obsolete ideal?
It didn't take Ronald Reagan long to seize
and apply the town marshall principle to the art
of world politics. Our new president may be un-
schooled in many subjects (unlike all those
sissy intellectuals), but he can damn well tell
the bad guys from the good guys.
Within a week of taking office, Reagan
publicly and pointedly castigated the Soviet
government as a cadre of thugs who would
By Christopher Patter
"commit any crime" to further their dark aims
of world conquest. Though his statement has
elicited varying diplomatic interpretations, for
domestic audiences his emotional message
gleams clear as tempered steel: America isn't
gonna take shit from anyone anymore.
THUS DOES swaggering machismo bestride
reason like a heaving collossus. At last, a
president who'll stand up for America! To the
long-moribund disciples of the old Cold War
Right, the effect has been orgasmicly
resuscitating; now revived and ceremoniously
encouraged, they once again whoop and
thump their drums while the more sober
residents of a fragile world nervously hold their
collective breath. After a 20-year hiatus, red-
baiting is "in" once more.
We chicly rattle our sabers while across the
ocean a suspicious, eternally paranoid Kremlin
waits, fidgets, and plots what moment to up the
ante in the war of words. -
It is an impetuous, deadly game. Old slogans
from the 1950s suddenly abound: "The only
thing the Russians understand and respect is
force", "You have to fight fear with fear," and
so on into the rumbling, murky future.
The heat of verbal battle has already become
so intense that few seem to notice much of the
rhetoric employed is as dishonest in motivation
as it is provocative in decree; that the
crusade's godfathers are past and current
masters of not practicing what they preach.
HOW BALEFULLY amusing it is to hear
conservative pundits excoriate the Soviet
crackdown on Russian dissidents even as our
new president moves swiftly to abrogate his
predecessor's human rights politcy. The Right
publicly wrings its hands over the hideous,
symbolic plight of Anatoly Shcharansky; at the
same moment our new director of the State
Department's Human Rights Section declares
"the U.S. has no responsibility to promote
human rights in other sovereign states." Fur-
ther, he darkly hints that the entire human
rights movement may be a veiled subversive
Why the dichotomy? Just what is it about
Communism that truly bugs the American
political Right? Do conservatives privately
weep at the helplessness of citizens or even
whole countries held captive by tryants? Are
they convulsed by the stark fact that The Soviet
Union has probably enslaved or butchered
more human beings than have all the other
governments of recorded history put together?
ARE CRIMES against humanity a dictator-
ship's worst collective sin? I submit that, for all
its breast-beating over Soviet atrocities, the
ideological Right despises Communism for two
principal iniquities: a) Communism is anti-
God; b) Communism is anti-free market.
Though the human rights issue touches both
subjects peripherally, it remains itself secon-
dary in a moral, if not practical respect. The
Russian legacy of horror is useful to conser-
vatives as a propagandistic lever,
pragmatically applied to power politics - no
more, no less.
It's no mystery why Reagan's ambassador to
the United Nations blithely asserts that a right-
wing dictatorship is always preferable to a
Marxist one. Most fascist rulers at least pay lip
service to religious ritual; more crucially,
most are willing and eager to play intimate ball
with U.S. corporate brokers.
THUS, SAYS OUR government, such tryants
possess a morality superior to that of their left-
wing, athiestic counterparts. So what if the
Shah or the Greek colonels brutalized their
people? It's a subordinate issue after all. Poor
President Somoza-we did him wrong. Jolly
old Ferdinand Marcos - his people just don't
appreciate his good works. And by golly, if
even those damn Russkies could only learn to
worship God and Exxon - well, we just might
overlook all those other nasty things they do..
Don't be against private, oblique overtures in
precisely that direction sometime off in the less
hyperbolic future. It's happened before and
could happen again - already it, peeps bet-
ween the lines of rebuke and denunciation.
FOR ALL THEIR professed mutual emnity,
the disciples of the Soviet Left and American
Right share a substantial, if subliminal kin-
ship: An obsessive fascination with the toys
and gadgets of war; a deep contempt for con-
sumer needs, rights and safeguards; a distrust
of creative intellect and individual eccentricity
except in the employ of corporate or gover-
nmental service; and a mystic, gluttonous
sense of their respective nations' mission to
mold the world according to each's messianic
Such shared aspirations needn't necessarily
be at crossed swords with each other. However
fierce and bristling the arsenals of weaponry,
military stockpiles remain a persuasive
deterrent to all-out war. Domestically, keeping
one's respective rebels and malcontents under
the thumb can bring a brutish but stable order
to both hemispheres. And though both sides
may wish to install their gospels across the
globe, this remains a very big world - con-
taining more than enough space for each side to
play God over the masses.
THERE REALLY isn't much trick to
cooperation once you've reached a lofty enough
level - it's mostly the little folks who do the
complaining. Quintessential cold-warrior
Richard Nixon became fast friends with Leonid
Breshnev once it dawned on him their respec-
tive ideologies were less than contradictory.
Will Ronald Reagan ultimately stumble upon
the same discovery? If so, it may prove
precisely the requisite, ironic tranquilizer
needed to keep our troubled old planet spinning
peacefully - if callously - a bit longer.
Stranger matings have occured.
And what of human rights? Ramsey Clark
once said, "There is no conflict between liberty
and safety. We will have both or neither," -
but everyone knows what a pinko he is.
Freedom is great stuff as far as it goes,
.but ... well, after all there are priorities.
Just ask Orwell.
Christopher Potter is a daily staff writer.
His column appears every Friday.
Edie m dtgan f Mig
Edited and managed by students ot The University of Michigan
Vol. XCI, No. 121
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
HAV YOU HEARD THE
LATEST POLISH TOKE,,
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Talking to the Regents.
T WAS INSPIRING to see more
than 150 students confront the
Regents at the public comments
session of their meeting yesterday. Not
since the Regents' Sept. 1979 South
African divestiture discussions have
students shown such a visible interest
in the body that governs the Univer-
Such an interest is vital as the
University plunges into its severe
budget-making decisions. During these
times, the need for both student input
and awareness is essential. It is also
important to let the Regents know that
students are concerned with these
Two very crucial topics were
discussed at the meeting: investing in
defense industries and possible cut-
backs in the recreational sports depar-
Although the discussion concerning
defAnse investments was tabled until
today, it was important that students
: , size their opposition to such an
a -sed decision. The Regents nust
d a -pow the University to invest in in-
-,-ti yes that benefit from the growing
A. - s race.
It was also important for Regents to
understand the students' need to main-
tain the recreational sports program.
Several students presented a concise,
well-thought presentation emphasizing
the importance of the department.
Much of the credit for the impressive
student showing at the meeting must
go to the Michigan Student Assembly.
Through effective publicity and
prudent planning, MSA helped
enlighten the Regents of these student
Hopefully the efforts of MSA and the
students present will not be brushed
aside in typical Regental fashion. But
even if the Regents do ignore the ad-
vice about defense investment and
recreational department cuts, MSA
and the students have let their voices
Unsigned editorials ap-
pearing on the left side
of this page represent a
majority opinion of the
Daily's Editorial Board.
LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Gindin ignorant of 'real world'
. . 0
To the Daily:
In his article "A Moral Defense
of the Free Market" (Daily, Feb.
17), Mark Gindin proves that he
is just as ignorant of the real
world" as the leftist intellectuals
While I also advocate a free en-
terprise system, I will reserve
judgment of President Reagan's
proposed economic legislation
until I can learn more about it. In
any case, I do not find it
necessary to label those people
opposed to these ideas the "bad
side." This kind of name calling
is not called for and will not solve
any of our problems.
If Gindin would only look around
himself, he would see that in spite
of its theoretical advantages, the
free market approach does leave
some innocent victims in its
wake. There are some groups
(even in Ann Arbor) who
legitimately benefit from, and
desperately need, government
programs besides the police for-
ce, the judicial system, and the
national defense system in order
To say that taxpayers should
support nothing besides these
three primary governmental
functions is immoral! If it were
not for government aid how
would most retirees, widows, and
handicapped people survive?
What kind of hope for the future
would these people hold without
A socialist system is said to
guarantee "freedom of outcome"
while a -free market system
provides "freedom of oppor-
tunity." If you were to tell this to
a person from a city ghetto, he
would laugh in your face.
The free market needs a little
help - from government in
providing this "equal oppor-
tunity." It is obvious that this,
country has vast resources; good
legislation just helps to ensure
that everyone can benefit from
these resources instead of a
I will admit that government
tax and regulative burdens on
American industries have been
overwhelming. Some cuts are
obviously necessary, but just
because we are facing hard
times, we should not simply
throw caution to the wind and cut
Laws regulating the disposal of
waste materials into the land,
air, and waters have provided us
with a much cleaner countryside
than would have resulted from an
unregulated industrial sector.
Laws requiring car-
manufacturing firms to install
seat belts.in each car have saved
a great many lives. The list of
beneficial regulations goes on
If you will recall the concept of
'opportunity cost' from
Economics 201, it bpcomes clear
that what we need to do is to
carefully consider which
regulations are beneficial and
which ones are not, and then cut
the ones that we cannot afford.
That is the task of our elected of
ficials in Congress.
The point is that we are now in
a position where we must decide
to cut some programs which help
some people and regulations
which do have some positive ef-
fects. This undoubtedly means
that sacrifices will have to be
So far, President Reagan has
been able to persuade labor,
farm, and minority leaders that
everyone will share the burden of
budget cuts equally. Let's hope
that this is the case.
But let's also pray that the
legislators in Washington are not
so shortsighted as to believe that
"any cut is a good cut" as Mark
Gindin suggests. This is a crucial
period in American history and
we must make our decisions
... and narrow-rninded
To the Daily:
In his article (Daily, Feb. 17),
Mark Gindin purports to defend
capitalism on the grounds of
morality. I believe that he is sin-
cere in this position, but I suspect
that it is he, and not the liberals
whom he opposes, who is "really
quite ignorant of the real world."
Gindin's narrow definition of
mnrnliyac he frPdnm tfn-,
polluted air; no one wants their
children born with birth defects
like those that blighted the
citizens of Love Canal.
Capitalism is all too often the
freedom to do to others whatever
you can get away with. Gover-
nment regulations, for all their
excesses, work to free us from
the above-listed horrors.
F~varnnP frPP to'ra in Aa hoie anr
Is U.S. double-minded.
To the a lvi
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