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October 24, 1984 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-10-24

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I

OPINION
Page 4 Wednesday, October 24, 1984 The Michigan Daily
Why have a day for entral America?

I

By .Matthew Kopka
The Ann Arbor city Council has
declared today Central America Day. A
teach-in will be held at the University at-
tempting to shed light on the conflict in
Central America.
There was a period in our recent history, a
period which the present administration has
taken pains to tell us is finally behind us, when
television and the entire exploding range of
technological advances that followed World
War II made us participants in an experiment
of crucial importance, an experiment in the
transmission of events and in the analysis of
our society's convulsive movements whose
lessons and vast repercussions we are only
beginning to understand. That experiment is,
of course, a continuous one, part of the greater
process by which societies define the world and
are defined themselves. For a time, at least,
we became painfully aware of how great our
responsibility as masters and users of the new
technology was, and of just how prone it was to
manipulation.
Two events of that period, two of its high or low-.
water marks, depending on how we are made
to see them, and both very strongly and
ominously linked to present events, signalled
not only the coming of age of that era, but that
it had come of age in the hands of a new and
cynical elite which had learned how to stage
an event, practice the new politics of misinfor-
mation, and obscure those truths that made
them vulnerable. The two events were, of
course, the end of the Vietnam War and the fall
of the self-same President Nixon.
One of the most unfortunate results of those
two events, one of the most tragic results from
the perspective of the present, is that rather
than having been taught to take pride in them,
in our resolution of them, to see that they were
a necessary shedding of innocence (or ignoran-

ce),.and that after a long period of struggle it
was ours whose will had been restored to its
proper place over that of our leadership, we
have instead been taught to be ashamed of
them, taught that we left Vietnam defeated and
in disgrace when the leaving was in fact the
most, perhaps the only, heroic thing we had
done there. To our detriment it has been im-
plied that the corruption of President Nixon
and those in his administration was somehow
our own, that it was we who had been caught
with our hands in some kind of colossal cookie
jar committing a petty thievery for which we
could later be rehabilitated, when in actuality
Nixon's crimes and the crimes of those under
him, especially in South-East Asia, were an
enormous violation of the trust we had placed
in them.
Part of our shame at those events is,
perhaps, natural, and can be attributed to the
very distance from them that the era had
created: the passivity inculcated by watching
those events night after night without reflec-
ting on them, staring into the now electronic
river of history and at its more mundane daily
offerings until we were mesmerized, until their
significance had all but escaped us. And part of
our "loss of face" was natural, too, because it
exposed our innocence, and graphically. the
same instruments, in fact, that had been used
to put us to sleep were then turned on us,
showed us waking from that sleep, angry and
confused.
But a good part of that shame, it must be un-
derstood, has been created and cynically ex-
ploited by the same people who had led us into
those events, and let them go on so long.
And such synicism, in the hands of they and
their successors, is now using that sense of
shame and guilt that it created to make cam-
paign slogans, to its own ends, to justify actions
frightening in their similarity to those of the
era they claim to have put behind us.
The taking of the hostages in Iran, the sub-
sequent failed rescue attempt (neither of those,

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trauma had exhausted us, but for that we have
been all the more vulnerable.
And now, during this most fateful of
presidential campaigns, those same men ap-
pear to whisper soothingly to us, "America is
back," just as one year ago they said "We have
overthrown one of the enemy's citadels," using
a language of mock-heroism ever-
disproportionate and ill-suited to the grave
realities we face, telling us that we can sleep
soundly, at last, that our good name has been
cleared. And in confusion we ask ourselves
what such words can mean, recognize that there
is something false and familiar and hollow-
sounding in them, but fail to indentify it, won-
der whether we should stumble to our feet,beat
on our chests, or remain, almost hypnotized in
bed.
And why a day for Central America?
Because the part of America which we
inhabit finds itself in this state of confusion,
while another part of America, Central
America, stands innocent and helpless, and is
being prepared as a sacrifice to just such
cynicism, to a counter-productive and falsely
created need to reassert ourselves, to us. We
face the prospect that we learned nothing from
earlier events, that we awaken to the same
nightmare, history having repeated itself, the
corruption of our leadership having again been
apparent and we once again having failed to see
it.
Why such urgency? Because this time the
stakes are so much higher, the possibility of
war so much closer to home, the plans so much
better laid. Because thirty thousand of our
troops are at present poised to drag us into a
catastrophe from which we may never emerge.
Because a world that applauded us the last
time we truly awoke may never forgive us
again. And because this time our innocence
will not serve us for an excuse.
Kopka is a senior in the Residential
College.

again, events of our making), and the leverage
gained from it and used by President Reagan's
campaign in 1980, made it clear what the pat-
tern would be. Subsequent doings - the refusal
to negotiate with the Soviet Union, the invasion
of Grenada, and the continuing threat of an in-
vasion of both El Salvador and Nicaragua -
would be predicated on and justified, not
morally, not through a presentation of factual
or persuasive evidence (for there exists no
evidence to justify such actions, however many
"white papers" or overblown telephoto aerial-

view photos are produced and trotted out), but
with a low appeal to the wounded giant which
their rhetoric had so carefully prepared us to
believe America was.
And slowly we have drifted back to sleep,
staring mesmerized into that river, forgetting
to touch ourselves now and then, fallen, not into
the profound sleep of a man whose conscience
is clear, but into the troubled, evasive sleep of
one who would rather not face up to the immen-
se disturbance that a long nightmare has
caused. In fairness to ourselves, perhaps, the

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Sinclair

E q A rTPS o
MANUAL WAS WPITTFEN BY A

Tmzoa : rs

Vol. XCV, No.42

420 Maoynrd St.
Ann Arbor, M{ 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

11

Education, not politics

W HEN A university takes a formal
position on a political issue, it
should be done only after careful
deliberations. If the regents start to
vote on every issue that indirectly af-
fects the University, it sets a
dangerous precedent for politicization
of the board.
That's why a memo expressing "the
University viewpoint" on the con-
troversial nuclear-free Ann Arbor
ballot proposal was an error in
judgement. Dr. Alan Price, assistant
vice president for research, sent such a
memo to people who had expressed an
interest in joining a group to defeat the
proposal.
The Board of Regents is the only
source of "the University viewpoint"
on such an issue, and although they
discussedthe matter at lastsweek's
meeting, a formal vote was never
taken.
University President Harold Shapiro
wisely wrote in an issue of Science
magazine last summer that "a univer-
sity remains a creative part of society
only as long as it remains an intellec-
tually open community and not the ally
of a particular point of view." The cir-

cumstances surrounding any issue the
University decides to take a stand on
must be either overwhelming--as they
were when the regents decided to take
University investments out of South
Africa--or very directly related to the
University--as is the Voter's Choice
ballot proposal.
The regents were justified in taking
a stand on South Africa divestment and
Voters' Choice, but the potential
danger of doing so with the nuclear
free proposal and a host of other
proposals is great. The University
exists to promote the free exchange of
ideas, so any position the regents take
on any issue--no matter how salient to
the university--necessarily under-
mines that exchange.
Price certainly did not realize he was
doing anything wrong when he sent that
memo.Price simply gave information
to people who expressed an interest in
fighting the nuclear-free proposal.
His error in claiming "the University
viewpoint," though, points
to the dangers that
can arise if the University is thought of
as a political institution, rather than as
a strictly educational. institution.

E C
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LETTERS TO THE DAILY
The individual's responsibility for the arms race

.
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To the Daily:
The Ann Arbor Meeting of the
Religious Society of Friends, at
its regular Monthly Meeting for
Business on Oct. 21, 1984, gave
careful consideration to the
question of whether work on the
research, development, testing,
or production of nuclear weapons
should take place in this com-
munity, or in any community.
This discussion was stimulated
by the Ann Arbor community's
serious and thoughtful
deliberations about the Nuclear
Free Zone Act. Our statement,
however, is more general, and
does not refer to the Nuclear Free
Zone Act in particular.
We have based our decision on
our deeply-held religious convic-
tion that there is that of God in
every person. We attempt to
follow the injunction to "love
thine enemy, and thy neighbor as
thyself," and to act upon
the precept "thou shalt not kill."

weapons.
We ask ourselves whether we
as individuals are prepared to
launch a nuclear weapon, having
the sure knowledge of its massive
destructive power; the
knowledge that its use would
result in the suffering or death of
huge numbers of persons; and
that the use of one such weapon
runs the risk of escalation to a
major nuclear exchange, with
untold dangers for humankind,
and to God's world.
We believe nuclear weapons
must never be used. It is wrong
to use nuclear weapons; it is
wrong to threaten to use them;
and it is also wrong to design,
develop, and produce them.
We believe it is appropriate and
necessary for individual citizens,
and for groups of citizens to ex-
BLOOM COUNTY

press this message publicly, to
our fellow citizens, to our gover-
nment, and to all governments.
We are determined that a
beginning must be made,
especially in local communities,
to stop the spiraling arms race,
and then to begin the all-

important process of reducing
the world's reliance on lethal
weapons, finding non-violent
ways of providing for the peac4
and security of all peoples.
-Ann Arbor Society of Friends
October 22

Unsigned

editorials ap-
_ . _ I_ l _ _1

pearing on the left side
of this page represent a
majority opinion of the
Daily 's Editorial Board.

6

by Berke Breathed

MRg. CANPIPRT6...

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