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October 29, 1985 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-10-29

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OPINION

Page 4

Tuesday, October 29, 1985

The Michigan Daily

I

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Missing the point of protest

Vol. XCVI, No. 39

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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

Abortion funding rerun

If at first you
try, try again ...
There's no sense
fool about it."

don 't succeed,
and then quit.
being a damn
-W. C. Fields

L EADERS OF MICHIGAN'S
"pro-life" organization have
been pretty damn foolish about
state funded abortions these last
seven years.
On Wednesday, when the
Michigan legislature voted not to
overrule a veto by Gov. James
Blanchard of a bill doing away with
medicaid funded abortions, the
group failed for the fifteenth time
.since 1978 to do away with such
funding.
The group was able to pull 72 of
the necessary 74 votes to override
the veto, but the tally was the same
last year. Although anti-abortion
leaders claim they will try again
this year to override the veto, there
is no indication they will have any
more success.
The issue of medicaid funded
abortions ought really to be
separate from the moral questions
surrounding abortion itself. While
there is still a debate raging on

whether abortion is murder, doing
away with state funding avoids the
question altogether.
Instead, abortions remain a legal
option for middle-class and
wealthy women, but not for poor
ones. While the law simultaneously
maintains that it is legal for a
woman to have an abortion, and
that it is the state's responsibility
to insure all its citizens are
provided with health care, it is
patently unjust to deny that health
care to a particular segment of
society.
In addition to threatening
discrimination, the repeated effor-
ts to pass the bill are wasting
valuable legislative time. With
countless bills never being
discussed in session at all, the
resources involved in considering
and reconsidering the medicaid
funding bill could better be used to
consider environmental, social, or
educational concerns that presen-
tly go unaddressed.
But the anti-abortionists seem
inclined to continue the game, and
they are already making plans for
a sixteenth try before the end of
next year. Some, probably, are
even getting ready for a seventeen-
th after that.

By Sandra Steingraber
and Brian Burt
In the 1960s, attending college protests to
renounce U.S. involvement in Vietnam was
nearly as commonplace as attending
classes. In contrast, recent protests here on
campus to renounce U.S. involvement in
Central America have generated a great
deal of apprehension, anger, and confusion.
Judging from recent letters to the Daily
and from conversations with our own
students, the value of protest as a vehicle for
social change is at the heart of the con-
troversy. From our informal survey, objec-
tions to the recent protests on campus
usually take one of three forms.
Many students express concern that the
disruption of a protest violates the right of
the speaker to free speech, as in the demon-
stration during George Bush's com-
memoration of the Peace Corps. It is an im-
portant concern, but in this case is underlaid
by a misunderstanding of the spirit in which
the First Amendment was written.
The First Amendment guarantees
freedom of speech to private citizens, en-
suring that this right will not be "abridged"
by the laws of Congress. (Indeed, the First
Amendment encourages private citizens "to
petition the government for a redress of
grievances.") The First Amendment was
not intended to protect governments from
their constituents. George Bush spoke on
our campus not as a private citizen but as an
official representative of our government
with unlimited access to the national mass
media. Therefore, in this case, the disrup-
tion of the protest did not violate a private
citizen's right to free speech.
A second and more frequently voiced ob-
jection to both the Bush demonstation and
the Today show demonstration is that they
were "rude." This is true. These protests
would not have won any awards from Miss
Manners.
We are intrigued by the increasing value
placed on etiquette and decorum by the
younger strata of American society. And,
indeed, as instructors, would certainly
welcome a greater concern for civility
during student-teacher interactions. Atten-
tion to manners during human exchange
Steingraber is a graduate student is
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Burt
is a graduate student in English.

protects people from our nastier instincts
and is a sign that we respect the dignity of
others.
But there are situations in which the
adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't
say anything at all" contributes to - rather
than prevents - human misery. All those
polite Germans who said nothing while cat-
tle cars carried away their Jewish coun-
trymen are one example.
But of course, hindsight makes all things
clear. It is difficult to recognize at what
point an ongoing political crisis polite
responses (writing editorials) should be
augmented by more disruptive objections
which attract more attention (interrupting
George Bush). This is the issue Carol Bly
discusses in her collection of essays, Letters
from the Country, in which she evaluates
the role of "participation politics" and
"protest politics" in effecting social change.
We contend that "protest politics" are
both justified and necessary for those who
believe that U.S. military intervention in
Central America is unconscionable. It is
justified because our government spends
one billion of our tax dollars to prop up
repressive unpopular dictatorships which
have since 1979 murdered 51,000 civilians
(El Salvador), "disappeared" 35,000
peasants (Guatemala) and kept 70 percent
of the population in abject hunger and
poverty (Honduras). Protest politics are
necessary because the U.S. government
continues to send military hardware and
advisors to these governments in spite of the
fact that the overwhelming majority of
Americans oppose U.S. military interven-
tion in Central America.
Protests are impolite by definition. To
those of you who are miffed that the
protestors' shouts drowned out Mr. Bush's
words, we ask you: how polite is it for a
government to refuse to listen to the wishes
of its constituents? to refuse to answer to the
World Court concerning its involvement in
Nicaragua? to dump napalm on Salvadoran
villages?
The third objection we have heard is that
recent protests have been irrelevant. At fir-
st, this objection seems reasonable: the
Today show came here to celebrate college
life, not to discuss its coverage of the bom-
bing in El Salavador; the vice president
came here to praise the efforts-of the Peace
Corps, not to speak on foreign policy.
"Why," one student asked, "must the
protestors politicize commemorative even-
ts?"

There is no one answer. The Bush protest,
with its accusations of hypocrisy, pointed
out to us an essential contradiction: the man
who sings the praises of American volun-
teers living among the impoverished and
dispossessed of Central America is the same
nan who channels millions of dollars into the t
hands of the business elites and military
forces who keep these people impoverished
and dispossessed. The function of the
protest was not so much to politicize an in-
nocuous celebration as it was to unveil a
government official's attempt to
depoliticize the deeply political.
In the case of the Today show demon-
stration, it seems to us, lack of relevancy
was part of the point. Many students con- *
cluded that this protest was an em-
barassed failure because it did not, after
all that commotion, even appear on the
program. We, however, found the disparity
between the real life scene on the diag (one
of chaotic protest) and the media's por-
trayal of that same scene (one of blissful
campus life) to drive the protestors' point
home in the most horrifying way. If the
camera's eye can distort reality and fulfill
its own prophesies so completely on the
University's diag, is it not also possible that
it is not giving us the complete story of
violence in El Salvador?
In El Salvador, a 1985 congressional study
found that 85 percent of U.S. aid for
"economic development" went to the
military, in contrast to Reagan Ad-
ministration claims that two-thirds of U.S.
aid was for development. In El Salvador, 30-
35 percent of the population is displaced and
living as internal refugees, many as a result
of U.S.-backed air war. These are not facts
we learn from the evening news.
The danger of political protest is that it
can, if done habitually, replace thoughtful
analysis and become self-serving, another
kind of status quo. A protest is not a
solution; it is only a disruption of business
as usual, a call for attention, and should be
employed only in situations of extreme
gravity.
We believe that U.S. policies in Central
America have created such a situation and
therefore praise the efforts of the protestors
and the bold action of our student gover-
nment to oppose George Bush's appearance
on campus. The forests of Central America
are full of bombs and shallow graves. Until
our tax dollars stop subsidizing this violen-
ce, we will not be quiet. And we may not be
polite.

Dangerous trade'

Chassy

SENATOR ALAN CRANSTON
charged earlier this week that.
China is helping five countries -
Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, South
Africa and Iran - build their
nuclear programs. In light of that
charge he asked that the U.S. not
renew its nuclear exchange accord
with Peking.
China has denied such in-
volvement with all of the five ex-
cept Pakistan, but it has long
traded through middlemen to
states such as Taiwan so as to
avoid the appearance of gover-
nmental contact. As an example, it
has used European middlemen to
trade enriched uranium to South
Africa.
Cranston is right to point out that
it is inexcusable to give nuclear
technology to such pariah states.
South Africa and Iran have
fanatical leaders who are
susceptible to being overthrown in
revolutions of their own creation.
It is unpardonable that China, a.
supposedly socialist country that
denounces apartheid as the
epitome of capitalism, would sell
the white South African minority
regime enriched uranium. Long.
beforetthe current crisis, the State
Department speculated that South
Africa might hold all of Black
Africa as "nuclear hostages" in
the event of revolution.
China has come a long way with
its reforms as the South Africa
trade gives evidence. In the 1960s,
China stood back and denounced
the U.S.-Soviet arms race from a
position of moral superiority.
China pointed out that it was the
Third World that shouldered the

burden of the arms race and that
as a developing country, it had no
interest in the arms race.
Indeed, both the United States
and the Soviet Union threatened
China with nuclear strikes. Ac-
cording to Nixon's memoirs, the
Soviets asked the United States for
permission to lauch a nuclear
"surgical strike" against China
during his Administration.
While China has since surren-
dered its credibility and moral
position on the arms race, the
superpower conflict is still the cen-
tral problem. It is important to
remember that it was the U.S. that
helped apartheid build its first
nuclear power plant and that
worked to implement similar
technology in the Shah's Iran.
Indeed, the United States' arms
race with the Soviet Union over-
shadows all others. It is ridiculous
to expect that non-nuclear nations
will stay out of the arms race while
the East and West build nuclear
weapons that are used to threaten
the rest of the world.
China is not at the root of the
nuclear arms race because it can-
not resell what the U.S. does not
sell it. Cranston's charges properly
focus the real blame on the United
States.
The United States must cease
nuclear aid to all countries, in-
cluding allies such as China. The
case of China shows that there is
no stopping nuclear proliferation
once it is started. The more
nuclear sales that occur, the more
likely it is that an Idi Amin or an
Ayatollah Khomenei will obtain
nuclear weapons, as South Africa's
floundering government might
already have.

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LETTERS:
Daily should drop military advertising

To the Daily:
"Beware Another Vietnam"
(Daily, Oct. 14). written by A.
Hernandez Lozano was a
terrifying article. It reaffirmed
my idea that the United States'
military is acting, as in the past,
criminally. Something must be
done to make our government see
this.
The protest against Mr. Bush
was a political statement that I

tons of nuclear powered sub-
marine around you, your mission
- to preserve the peace."
This is frightening propaganda
that is believed by too many
young, impressionable people
these days. We must take moral
BLOOM COUNTY

responsibility and stop this in-
sanity. Justice in the world must
start somewhere, why not here?
Refuse the military. There are
ways to cut your dependence of
this evil institution. Colleges
around the country are calling
The South End, asking how they

can stop the ads. I'm suggesting
that The Michigan Daily do this,
and continue with the ideals of
youth and morality, not the ideals
of money and hypocrisy.
-Susanne Greenlee
Oct. 17
by Berke Breathed

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