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January 09, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-09

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91

OPINION

Page 4

Monday, January 9, 1989

1st

Amendment:

freedom

to

By Jeff Gauthier
The column by Brent Taggart and Ken-
neth Sparks ("Protect Tagar & CFF,"
12/22) assails the -Michigan Student As-
sembly's (MSA) recent attempts to
derecognize the Christian Cornerstone
Fellowship (CCF) and Tagar as a serious
threat to freedom of expression on cam-
.'pus. Although there is certainly room for
legitimate debate on these issues, Taggart
and Sparks leave the erroneous impression
that MSA's actions amount to no more
than a dogmatic attack on civil liberties. A
closer examination reveals a far more
complex picture.
Taggart and Sparks emphasize that the
protections of the First Amendment extend
beyond popular points of view. I'm sure
that those involved in the fight against
homophobia and racism must be shocked
to find their long and frustrating struggles
labelled "popular." In a culture where ho-
Jeff Gauthier is a philosophy graduate
'tudent and the Rackham Representative to
MSA.

mophobia and racism (to say nothing of
sexism and classism) are. celebrated as the
norm in literature, art, and the mass me-
dia, violence against minorities is
systematically unrecognized, making the
fight against it extraordinarily difficult.
Anyone who thinks it's "popular" to
challenge a homophobic or racist remark
ought to try it sometime.
By cashing out the events on the Diag
as a clash of more or less "popular view-
points," however, the First Amendment
interpretation fails to do justice to the
critical points at issue in this debate. The
First Amendment defense of freedom of
expression rests on two vital assumptions
for its plausibility. First, it assumes that,
barring state restrictions, all persons have
free and open access to expressing their
points of view. Secondly, it assumes that
removing state restrictions, all persons
have free and open access to expressing
their points of view. Secondly, it assumes
that removing state restrictions will bring
about an atmosphere of freedom and open-
ness essential for the development of free
individuals. (C.A. MacKinnon, Feminism

Unmodified, p.129) When a culture en-
dorses an ideology of oppression against
certain groups through its art, its media,
and even the structure of its language,
however, the social conditions necessary
for freedom of access simply do not exist.
So long as messages of oppression are a
part of the social fabric, opposing "points
of view," are systematically silenced.

ment rights are quick to point out that it
is impossible to draw the line between
those speech acts which are to count as
acts of violence and those which are pro-
tected speech. This argument evokes two
responses. In the first place, it seems that
a doctrine which is blind to the difference
between someone singing "God hates
queer" on the diag, and the political

The Michigan Daily
silence
symptomatic of a culture where social si-
lencing and domination characterizes its
institutions. (As a Tagar member aptly
noted at the MSA hearing, in using the
expression "Arab terrorism," Tagar was
following the lead of such cultural icons
The New York Times.) In either case,
however, it is clear that the goal of a
society where individuals may freely de-
velop and express their own points of
view is not advanced by a policy of First
Amendment absolutism.
The critics of MSA attack its efforts at
derecognition as a threat to freedom on
this campus. If their goal is an authenti-
cally free campus, however, one where a
person's race, gender, or sexual preference
- does not exclude them from self-expres-
sion, then this will not be achieved merely
by allowing social forces to take their
course. Where the historical conditions of
a society are such that the voicing of a
"point of view" may constitute an act of
violent suppression, a community gen-
uinely committed to freedom must express
its intolerance of such an act.

'When a culture endorses an ideology of oppression against
certain groups through its art, its media, and even the structure
of its language...the social conditions necessary for freedom of
access simply do not exist.'

Moreover, to the extent that protected
speech contributes to the perpetuation of
these conditions by reinforcing an ideol-
ogy of domination, it foments fear and si-
lence rather than freedom and individuality.
Freedom of speech becomes, ironically,
the freedom to silence.
' sOf course, defenders of First Amend-

activities of Students for a Democratic
Society, is an odd one to guide a society
ostensibly committed to freedom and
equality. On the other hand, to borrow
from Catherine MacKinnon's remarks on
pornography, if civil libertarians have
trouble distinguishing violent speech acts
from everything else, perhaps this is

e £irIiu i ftjj
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Snapshots

from Zion

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. IC, No.70

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Free films document U.S. involvement in Latin America:
Alternative education

By Sandra Steingraber
Envisioned as the New Zion, Utah was
established by Brigham Young as an inde-
pendent Mormon state in 1849. Complete
with the largest standing private army on
the continent, settlers organized a society
in which to live while waiting for the
second coming of Christ.

to be the only two women walking to-
gether.
As "gentiles" (non-Mormons), we are
not allowed inside the Temple. So we tour
the Visitors Center. Diaramas re-enact the
persecution and martyrdom of the early
saints. Mormon women are depicted as
happy wives and mothers.
"Do you want to see the giant Jesus?"
asks Emily, steering me up a white spiral
staircase overrun with children. At the top,
under a blue, domed firmament, looms a
great white figure with arms outstretched.
Richfield and Capitol Reef
The red canyons of southern Utah are
populated with strings of small Mormon
towns which once served as military out-
posts for the defense of Brigham Young's
utopia. More recently, its residents
brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against
the federal government for the excessive

pointed and guarded. She notes that
women here must choose to find strength
within a patriarchal, theistic culture or risk
almost complete isolation.
I think of feminist Sonia Johnson who
led Mormons for the Equal Rights
Amendment and was excommunicated
from the Church in 1979.
Dugway Proving Grounds
We drive from Ogden, home of the Hill
Air Force Base and birthplace of the Min-
utemen and Titan II missile systems,
down around the Salt Lake and into the
western desert. We are heading toward
Dugway. Coming down out of the snow
and sagebrush-covered hills, we can see the
gates and fences from a long way off.
Here they test the nation's arsenal of
chemical weapons. There have been some
terrible accidents. Open-air tests of live
pathogens have spread diseases among

THIS YEAR CUBA celebrat-s the 30th
anniversary of its revolution. Prohib-
ited by the U.S. government from
travelling to this island only 90 miles
off the coast of Florida, few North
Americans have even the slightest no-
tion of what Cuban society is like.
And not too many U.S. citizens have
paid a visit to El Salvador, a nation
which receives $1.5 million every day
from the U.S. government. And how
;:many North Americans know that
Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, is
the last remaining colony in the hemi-
Jphere (in spite of an order from the
Vnited Nations to the United States to
* get out)?
The U.S. people are starved of
knowledge about life beyond their
'southern border. What information
(hey do receive from popular media
comes from the same official sources
that have constructed an isolated Cuba,
aiwar-torn El Salvador, and a colonized
Puerto Rico. As media-analyst Noam
,Chomsky notes in his latest book,
3 Manufacturing Consent, news stories
from Latin America are among the most
incomplete and distorted in U.S.
newspapers.
Fortunately, alternative and com-
pelling sources of information are
available - albeit rare. In a commend-
able move, the Latin American Solidar-
ity Committee (LASC) has invested
great time and expense to put together a
series of some of the best documentary
films ever produced on current events
in Latin America.
Each Thursday at 8:00 p.m. for the
next six weeks, LASC will show films
that focus on a particular nation while
at the same time shedding light on the
shared social, political, and economic

9

problems of this troubled region.
One theme that consistently surfaces
in these films is the historical legacy of
United States foreign policy decisions.
U.S. sponsorship of tyrannical puppets
and state terrorism have left these
countries struggling to survive in a
chronic state of underdevelopment and
fear for their lives. Countries such as
Cuba and Nicaragua that have chal-
lenged U.S. hegemony in the hemi-
sphere by asserting their sovereign
rights to develop independently are
punished with political and economic
isolation and physical intervention.
As a new president takes office,
U.S. citizens must not be fooled by
George Bush's "kinder and gentler"
rhetoric. Constant domestic pressure is
imperative to stop the destruction and
killing of the people of Central America
and the Caribbean. Bush's linchpin
role in the Iran-Contra crimes shows
that there is no reason to expect that he
will deviate from the previous agenda
of subverting liberation movements in
the developing world.
A knowledge of how the lives of
people in the region from Cuba and
Haiti to El Salvador and Nicaragua are
affected by the U.S. is critical to an
understanding of their struggles for
liberation. The LASC film series is an
excellent opportunity to become more
familiar with the people and issues of
the region. The next film, "Bitter Cane"
is about Haiti and will be shown on
January 12 at 8:00 p.m. in the Pond
Room of the Michigan Union. For
more information on the film series
consult the posters around town and
campus or call the LASC answering
machine at 665-8438. All films are
free.

Today Utah is very much incorporated
into mainstream culture although the dou-
ble legacy of militarism and religious zeal
remains: The Mormon Church, which bars
women from full status as church mem-
bers, controls a financial and corporate
empire worth $8 billion. Seventy percent
Mormon, Utah has the highest birth rate
in the developed world.
Utah also fulfills the utopic visions of
the Pentagon's prophets. With an econ-
omy deeply dependent on defense dollars,
Utah plays a key role in developing and
testing nuclear weapons. Its landscape is
scattered with military bases, depots, arse-
nals and installations. The Dugway Prov-
ing Grounds, larger than Rhode Island,
serves as the official test site for the na-
tion's chemical weapons program.
During Christmas break, I travelled
through this strange state with University
graduate student Emily Smith, a native
Utahn. Visiting both temples and arsenals,
we tried to understand how this double pa-
triarchy of Church and military operates in
the lives of women there.
Salt Lake City
What I notice first are the children. I
haven't seen so many children on the
streets since I left Central America. The
difference is that here the streets are anti-
septically clean, the children are pale,
blonde and fat, and they don't beg.
So this is Zion.
Mormon doctrine teaches that the family
is sacrosanct. The purpose of life is to
marry and produce Mormon children. In
fact, Emily explains to me on our way to
the Mormon Temple, women are taught
that their souls can only enter into the
highest celestial level in the afterlife if
their husbands call their names.
At Temple Square, the heart of the heart
of Mormonism, we merge into a huge
crowd of people who have come to look at
the Christmas lights. Everyone is
strolling around in family units. We seem

0

SANDRA STEINGRABER/Daily
The perimeter of the Dugway Proving Grounds, chemical weapons
test site in western Utah. Larger than the state of Rhode Island,. parts
of the range are permanently contaminated.

.cancer deaths caused by radioactive fallout
from nuclear bomb testings in the 1950s.
The leukemia rate among children was
found to be double the national average.
The sanctity of families.
Emily and I hike in the sandstone
canyons in Capitol Reef National Park.
Scrambling up the outcrops, we find pet-
roglyphs of the Ute Indians etched into the
walls: birds, rams, horned snakes and con-
stellations.
In the little town of Richfield, we visit
Kate Ashworth, a former Ann Arborite
who lives here with her son and husband.
Kate talks about the line of authority that
characterizes the Mormon Church and
which she sees as a strong parallel to the
hierarchy of the military.
Kate's criticisms of the Church are both

neighboring farm animals. In 1968, an
aerial nerve gas trial went awry and killed
6000 sheep. Parts of the range are perma-
nently contaminated with anthrax spores.
I walk through the snowdrifts along the
fence and shoot a role of film. I am
stopped and questioned twice by men in
civilian cars who have U.S. flags sewn to
their sleeves. The guard at the gate tersely
answers Emily's questions. No, we can't
go inside. Yes, some few hundred families
live inside the gates of Dugway.
We park at the edge of an unmarked
road. The sun sets in the mountains, and
the snow in this-contaminated place blazes
with golden light. Two civilian cars pull
out of the gate driven by women with
children carefully strapped into safety
seats. Wives and mothers here in the New
Zion.

UNITED S TA TES
Atlantic Ocean
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MEXICO . DOMINICAN
A q~ A REPUBLIC
GUATEMALA,
HONDURAS HAIT
NICARAGUA'
SALVADORBRITISH GUIANA
s PADONAMA E -a RENCH
COLOMBIA 6GUIANA
ECUADOR
BRAZIL

Letters.." totedto

Buy books,
help AIDS
rP r

We are a new non-profit,
MSA-recognized organization
on campus. Our purpose is
simple: to provide used text-
books for students at prices
lower than those of the book-

furthering AIDS research.
The way we work is really
quite simple. We will be sell-
ing books for students on con-
signment. Students determine
the nrice oF the hooks they

carry this out, we need student
support. Our book drive will
be heldat the Michigan League
from January 6th to January
15th. If you are interested in
becoming one of the charter

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