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March 27, 1981 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-03-27

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OPINION

Page 4

Friday, March 27, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Revenge:

Out

of the closet

at last?

Last wveek on public radio's All Things Con-
sidered, a legal scholar was discussing a book
he had written favoring capital punishment. At
the interviewer's urging, the author launched
into a tortured, convoluted explanation why he
believed execution was the legitimate ex-
pression and act of lawful society. After five

Comin
Apart
By Christopher Potter

that an event like the execution of Steven Judy
does little more than stir up knee-jerk litanies
which each side-plus all those in the middle-
already know by heart. The dust of mutual
righteousness kicks up, swirls a bit, then settles
again.
YET LATELY one detects a metamorphosis
among the pro-execution ranks - not in basic
relief but in a new-found willingness to admit
why. One need only discard the standard super-
fluities of death penalty jargon: It gets
monotonous reiterating that there isn't a
shread of evidence suggesting that capital
punishment discourages others from violent
crime, or that executing all the murderers will
leave us with no murderers left (at least as long
as hand guns are available). The tender asser-
tion that executions will decrease the expense
of a surplus prison population is too Dicken-
sonian to merit sober discussion.
Which leaves us with one, primordial
motive: Revenge. The concept lies deep and
powerful in our collective consciousness - an
eye for an eye, let the punishment fit the crime;
an appeased sense that justice has been done
and the universe set right.

Germinal though this emotion may be, the
notion of revenge has always carried a slightly
disreputable, back-of-the-psychic-bus taint in
America. We were, after all, the land of
enlightenment and compassion, and such ancient
judicial concepts of reprisal seemed befitting
of older, more savage nations. Vengence was a
debasing lust best kept locked in owe's own
Freudian cellar; to forgive remained devine.
NOW THE AGE of Reagan has liberated our
subliminal ferocity. Revenge has come out of
the closet, breathing brimstone and demanding
satisfaction. Such a punitive revolution was an
inevitable, symbolic byproduct of our new
political mindset which insists that someone is
responsible for all our troubles. The era of Viet
Nam and Watergate, or tortured self-
examination and recrimination hasubeen blun-
tly terminated - if America has problems,
then the fault lies anywhere else but in our-
selves.
Scapegoating is now in vogue. If Americans
are out of work, it's the fault of the sneaky Japs
and their damned little putt-putts; it's the fault
of the blacks and spics who take all the jobs;
it's the fault of the blacks and spics who stay on

welfare. It's the fault of queers and abortionists
who pervert our kids; it's the fault of Commie-
symps who infest our government; it's the fault
of anti-God humanists who denigrate our
schools and our pulpits. We know who's
violating us; and we're not gonna take it
anymore: Lock 'em up, deport 'em - better
yet, kill 'em.
In truth, it's been grimly satisfying to watch
the sudden willingness of pro-executionists to
slough off their standardhyperbole of making-
society-safe-through-swift-punishment; hones-
ty is always its own reward, even in the service
of overt blood lust. I am not immune to the lure
of simple vengence any more than anyone else
is - it's an easy emotion to debunk if it hasn't
been tapped in one's own life.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, Steven Judy was an in-
vidious, remorseless punk who snuffed out
lives with impunity and left a legacy of anguish
for those left behind. Are the bereaved entitled
to retributive satisfaction? Some years back,
my mother was confronted in her own apar-
tment by armed thieves, was tied up, and had a
gun pointed at her head while her assailants
ransacked the dwelling. If her captor had

pulled the trigger, would I today be glibbly
denouncing death penalty advocates as insen-
sitive and spiteful?
I don't presume to know the agony of those
widowed, orphaned, or otherwise cast adrift by
an act of pre-meditated savagery. I can only
assert my belief that murder - even state-
sanctioned - doesn't balance out a previous
murder. My conviction springs not out of com-
passion for the killer, but out of thetbelief that if
there indeed exists a harmonious balance to
this universe - call it God or oversoul or
something purely nameless -then an actHof
murder, for any reason, rends that balance.
Capital punishment simple cannot justify It-
self. It doesn't qualify as an act of last resort; it
is a desperate, shrieking blowout from a world
that has lost faith in its own ideals. There do not
remain obvious alternatives: We can register
handguns. We can make war on poverty,
hunger and deprivation - we can love one
another. Such sentiments are hackneyed, ar-
tless, and quite out of step with the times. They
also happen to be true.
Christopher Potter is a Daily staff
writer. His column appears every Friday.

0

minutes or so of philosophizing, he abruptly
reduced his doctrine to a single rationale: "I
believe murderers should be paid back," he
said.
That is, of course, the bottom line - the only
genuine defense the death penalty camp has at
its disposal. The battlelines in this ancient
legal-moral conflict were drawn so long ago

0

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCI, No. 143,

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
High school press rights

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HE RIGHT OF a reporter not to
reveal his or her sources is being
tested again-this time involving a
high school newspaper.
A New Jersey high school newspaper
ran a front page interview with a local
drug dealer who., admittedselling
ru~s't elemetry school children.
he story ran without a byline.
Now the school's principal and the
newspaper's faculty adviser are to ap-
pear in court for refusing to reveal the
names of either the student or the drug
dealer.
No newspaper, not even a high
school newspaper, should be forced to
reveal the names of its sources. Such a
move severely jeopardizes a reporter's

freedom to gather information, and
inhibits the function of a free press-a
cornerstone of American democracy.
In this particular case, the drug
dealer was assured anonymity if he
agreed to speak with the reporter.
Releasing the pusher's name would not
only damage that' newspaper's
credibility, but may encourage the
practice in the future.
The high school principal and the
newspaper's adviser acted wisely in
not revealing the names of the reporter
or the source. Whether a high school
newspaper or The New York Times,
the rights of a reporter and a free press
must not be ignored.

Witt 's column displays .. .

She's tugging her ear

LTHOUGH THE National
Enquirer's probably not singing
"I'm so glad we had this time
together," there's a good chance Carol
Burnett is. After filing suit against the
scandal-filled tabloid five years ago,
Burnett won a $1.6 million libel
judgment yesterday.
For years the Enquirer has printed
questionable material in its pages,
severely testing the First Amendment
and freedom of the press.
Such actions have served to per-
petuate negative images of the press
across the country. These images often

have reflected on the respectability of
much more credible newspapers.
It's fortunate for Burnett that she
had the money to battle the tabloid
giant. Too often the cost of such a bat-
tle has proven prohibitive for persons
of lesser financial means.
Burnett has hit the National
Enquirer hard-in the pocketbook. It's
doubtful, but maybe this price may en-
courage the tabloid to print a more
credible-and less sen-
sational-product. That would really
make Burnett tug her ear.

Snaiv'*t...
To the Daily:
I was surprised by the naivete demon-
strated by Howard Witt in his column on
Tuesday. Surely he doesn't really believe that
"University administrators have been ear-
nestly trying to attract and retain black
students . . . redoubling their efforts in recent
years only to see black enrollment drop to a
mere 5.6 percent."
This university doesn't seem to have any
trouble recruiting the students it really wan-
ts,-like star athletes and upper middle class
white students, so what conclusions should be
drawn from its "inability" to attract black
students?
I would argue that this university has never
and still does not want black students on this
campus. Affirmative, assertive recruitment
and admission efforts which would make a
difference are overlooked while weaker
policies are tried. Administrators, explaining
the low enrollment figures have told us that
there aren't enough "qualified" black high
school students in Michigan to raise the
enrollment here.
The proposed budget cuts already threaten
services, programs, and faculty members
which would make the University the kind of
school that potential black applicants would
consider. Even the differential tuition rates
between Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, and
the University of Michigan (increasing as the
distance from Detroit, a center of the black
population, increases) make it clear who is
wanted on this campus.
So, if Howard Witt is still searching for the
answer to his question: "Why are blacks so
unhappy here?' , I would suggest that he look

to the adage: "They know where they aren't
wanted"'for the answer,
-Linda Kaboolian
March 24
"
T . llOgic...
To the Daily:
Surely we must move beyond the simplicity
and misguided liberalism of Howard Witt's
argument in "Why are blacks so unhappy
here?" (Daily, March24).
The argument he puts forth is reminiscent
of one posited by apologists of Nazi Germany:
if only Jews hadn't separated themselves
so blatantly from the mainstream of Aryan
culture, perhaps the Holocaust would never
have happened. It is even like the argument
made by misguided reform feminists of the
early seventies: if lesbians would only stay in
the closet and look more like us.
Personally, I feel outraged that proponents
of this "blame the victim" ideology linger,
thumbing their noses at history and deeply of-
fending the intelligence of people who know
better. I don't have to remind current events-
minded journalists about the University's ap-
palling affirmative action "track record."
Nor do I have to remind anyone living in this
elite community 'that most whites on this
campus have grown up knowing minorities
primarily as housekeepers and gardeners.
Unfortunately, the residue of this paternalism
is alive and well and living in the sensibility of
Howard Witt at the Daily.
-Bette Skandalis
March 26
...lgnOranCe
To the Daily:
Howard Witt's column describing black

separatism as a cause for black students'
unhappiness at the University (Daily, March
24) seems to be a clear case of blaming the
victim, i.e. black students for their problems
here. As such, his rationale ought to be
examined carefully to see how white racism
operates.
For instance, he sets up Valerie Mims as a
prominent black leader who he expects to an-
swer the problems of why black students are
unhappy here. Then he expounds on how she
spoke in generalities. Contrary to what Mr.;
Witt says, Ms. Mims made several
suggestions about academic areas that could
be improved. These included:
" The College of Engineering has a Pre-
College Enrichment Program which has
made progress in the retention of black
students. She suggested that the College >of
Literature, Science and the Arts which has a'
predominance of black students enrolled
could consider the possibility of a similar
program.
" She said that there need to be more black
faculty and staff members who care about the
problems and concerns of black students.
" She said there are too many minority
student programs in different areas and that
they need to be consolidated into one under
the supervision of a top level administrator.
I thought Ms. Mims was articulate and
clear and offered a number of possibilities to
the Regents. To say they looked properly con-
cerned and didn't have the slightest idea of
what Valerie Mims meant is to make assum-
ptions that ought to be backed up with cor~
ments from, the Regents that illustrate such
an attitude.
-The Rev. Ann Marie Coleman
March 25

rT77.. . es..

I

THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL

~1

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:

Not everyone can wear blue jeans

To the Daily:
This is in response to Blue
Jeans Day. We'd like to let the
Gay Liberation Front know we
support your cause even though
we won't be wearing blue jeans.
Some of us work in situations in
which jeans is inappropriate. We
feel you are ignoring those of us

in the University community
(and outside of it) who either
aren't students, or have com-
mitments outside our student life
which leave us little choice in this
matter.
Perhaps if a different show of
support, such as armbands, could
be used instead of or along with

blue jeans, you would get a more
accurate estimate of the support
of your cause on this campus and
in this town.
For next year, remember Ann
Arbor is a city, not just a campus.
Again, we support your cause.

Don't forget us next year.
-D. Barrett,
Nursing Student
J. Duberman,
Clerical Worker
March 26

C

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