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December 04, 1989 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-12-04

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I

OPINION

Page 4

Monday, December 4, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Yes, Virginia, this is a democracy:

4

'American'

values

at risk in

El Salvador

By Hilda Beltran.
Last week in my first year English
composition class, we discussed news
coverage of, and U.S. support for, the war
itt El Salvador. One of my students, dis-
armed of some long-held perceptions,
threw his hands up in the air and voiced
some of the hypothetical, yet consequen-
tial, questions that too few people bother
vith: "What if everything I believe is a
lie? If war is peace and if this, my Amer-
ica, is Orwell's 1984? What if my country
is not the democracy I thought it was?"
.This student was clearly, and I believe
appropriately, in turmoil as a newcomer to
the paradox that the history - and appar-
eRt future - of U.S. involvement i El
Salvador presents: how can one country be
democratic if it is committed to propping
up a fascist regime in another?
x To individuals who have long been
aware that U.S. policy in El Salvador is
seriously - and with 71,000 dead, tragi-
ally - misguided, this paradox may
seem secondary to pressing questions
about the current events (e.g., what were
Green Berets doing last month in the San
Salvador Sheraton if only 55 U.S. advi-
sors are legally allowed in the country; and
how do six Jesuits, murdered by the mili-
tary, justify more military aid). But to
people who, largely through the fault of
N4 media, do not have background on the
t3.-sponsored intimidation and torture of
Salvadoran population, the question of
Democracy" is crucial.
┬žDemocracy" is not, after all, defined by
Uails. It is a vague and decent thing; to
Weieve that we both have it and that we
04ght to pass it on is - for better or
Vorse - part of our personal and cultural
identity as Americans. To many Ameri-
chns, "democracy" is our country's torch.

Uninformed belief in this "light," how-
ever, is also America's achilles' heel -
the main ingredient of social control.
As recent events in El Salvador indicate,
Our Great Nation can do anything it
wants, provided that we never strive to de-
fine democracy for ourselves, let alone for
anyone else, and provided that the majority
of us do not take our citizenship seriously
enough to struggle with distasteful riddles
like How many dead Jesuits does it take to
change a thousand points of light?
The crisis of policy in El Salvador
points to a moral and political identity cri-
sis for the American people. In moral
terms - ironically, since we are so hung
up on things like Morality and Mother-
hood - we are either deluded or indecent;
decent people do not, after all, support tor-
ture, kidnapings, death threats, rape, and
the bombings of offices such as that of
COMADRES, a Salvadoran group of
mothers whose mourning for disappeared
loved ones takes the form of political ac-
tivism.
Politically, any information that comes
to us from sources other than the U.S.
Government, tells us that we are either not
supporters of democracy or we live in a
less democratic nation than we would like
to'believe. Believers in democracy would
presumably oppose the political and reli-
gious persecution that has been occurring
in El Salvador with the direct assistance of
$3.5 billion U.S. dollars in the last 10
years. Our government, in a country of
democratic supporters, would presumably
respond.
I can hear some reader protesting: I am
decent and democratic. I have seen, with
my own eyes, a few hundred people
protesting the war in the streets of Ann

Arbor - let them go to China and try
that. And a resolution was proposed in
Congress, just before Thanksgiving, to
cut off some of the funding that goes, ul-
timately, to the Salvadoran death squads.
Surely, this is the democratic process at
work!

we in this country enjoy the right, and the
ability, to gather for protest, and that this
is a good thing. As a speaker at Friday
night's vigil on El Salvador noted, there is
a major difference between U.S. political
protests and those in El Salvador: here, the
police block off the streets for protesters;

'To believe that we
both have democracy
and that we ought to
pass it on is-for
better or worse -
part of our personal
and cultural identity
as Americans. To
many Americans,
"democracy" is our
country's torch. Unin-
formed belief in this
"light," however, is
also America's
achilles' heel - the
main ingredient of
social control.'
An 11-year-old child helps clean
weapons in a rebel army camp this
week.

tent of a demonstration is superfluous to
the "show" of it. Because of the willing-
ness of Americans to see as little as pos-
sible, the process of protest in this coun-
try is in danger of becoming nothing more
than a series of "demonstration demonstra-
tions."
This trend has frightening implications,
since the American version of demonstra-
tion democracy has an El Salvadoran coun-
terpart in the "demonstration elections."
These are elections that the selectively
vigilant U.S. media reported to be
"democratic," although the Salvadoran
voters were threatened, intimidated, and
forced to place their votes in transparent
boxes while the U.S.-trained Salvadoran
army watched.
As for resolutions in Congress, our rep-
resentatives and senators are more aware of
the limitations of our political system
than we who vote them in. One of the
stated reasons that a resolution to cut mili-
tary aid was squelched was because
congress knew George Bush would veto it,
prolonging the democratic process and
postponing, g-d forbid, the annual oppor-
tunity to give thanks for it. The message
to Americans is clear: if congress should
not bother with the demands of democracy,
why should American citizens?
I can hear another voice addressing me:
you, you whining, radical, unappreciative
go to El Salvador and write what you will.
Undoubtedly, as a result of American_
policies in Central America, I would not
openly be able to write there. This para-
dox, if deeplyconsidered, can not help but
cause an identity crisis to anyone who
feels, even remotely, "American." We need
to believe we are something, and will ap-
parently sell our souls for some faith.
Hilda Beltran is a second-year Master of
Fine Arts student in the English depart-
ment.

Surely, indeed. Democracy exists, yes,
Virginia, if you believe in it hard enough.
Interpret that as you will, since the appre-
ciation of democracy is manifest differ-
ently by those who criticize it than by
those who spew out the rhetoric. Solidar-
ity workers will be the first to admit that

there the police would turn guns and tear
gas on them.
But many protesters will also say that
one of their biggest frustrations is to be
seen but not heard. For too many passers-
by it is enough to see that the wheels of
democracy are in motion; the actual con-

Wfr £ibiguuiBailg
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard $t.
Vol. C, No. 62 Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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.
MSA bungles elections

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TWICE EACH year, the Michigan
Student Assembly holds elections to fill
half of the assembly's 48 seats. Given
the frequency of the elections, one
would expect the assembly and its staff
to conduct the elections with some de-
gree of professionalism and effective-
ness.
Yet last week's MSA election was
pharacterized by an ineptitude unparal-
leled in recent years. Poll workers were
not informed of election rules and
changes, candidates were omitted from
ballots, and vote tabulations were al-
legedly mishandled. Both the serious-
ness and quantity of the mistakes leave
MSA little choice but to nullify the re-
sults and hold new elections.
Some errors are so serious as to cast
doubt on the whole election:
*A worker who helped tabulate re-
sults said MSA did not properly vali-
date votes before counting them. He
said after some votes were declared in-
valid, they were counted anyway..
-Some MSA ballots contained only
four of the eight Choice party candi-
dates running for positions as LSA rep-
resentatives.
-Steve Suisswein, a candidate for a
student position on the Board for Stu-
dent Publications, was left off of
Wednesday's ballots. The mistake was
not discovered until late Wednesday
Afternoon, after hundreds of students
had already voted.
.After MSA decided to nullify
Wednesday's votes for the publications
board, poll workers were not informed
of the decision or the process for re-
Voting. Poll workers said no instruc-
tions were given to them by MSA's
election directors.

\, -

dents were wrongly turned away from
the polls.
Perhaps the most agonizing aspect of
the election foul-up is MSA's seeming
lack of concern with the bevy of mis-
takes. MSA officials and election direc-
tors have shown little effort to correct
their errors and assure fair elections. In
fact, at this point MSA is still refusing
to release most of the election results,
yet they are offering no explanation for
the delay. MSA at the very least owes
students a response to the election
problems.
MSA's errors will cost students a
considerable amount of money. MSA
pays dozens of poll workers $4.50 an
hour to run polling sites. After adding
the cost of printing new ballots, a new
election will cost students thousands
of dollars.
But before holding a new election,
the reasons for last week's errors need
to be investigated. In addition,
inequities in the voting procedure
should also be corrected. On LSA bal-
lots for MSA, for example, students
could vote for up to nine candidates by
ranking them one through nine. A 1
was worth nine points, a 2 was worth
eight, etc. Under this system, candi-
dates who receive eight votes with a 9
ranking will lose to candidates who
only receive one vote, but with a num-
ber 1 ranking.
Also, in the publications board elec-
tion, undergraduate voters were permit-
ted to vote for the graduate student po-
sition, and graduates were allowed to
vote for undergraduates. This is con-
trary to past elections and to the notion
of establishing constituencies for can-
didates.

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MSA's

elect ion problem

By 144-38-1935
alias D. Rendina
I am one of the employees called in
from temporary agencies to help with your
recent student elections. I am writing to
voice a complaint about the way in which
your elections staff managed the operation.
First I would like to point out to you
the mishandling of hiring an appropriate
work force for the job and, secondly, for
your own good I would like to point out
to you the incompetence demonstrated by
the elections staff and the way the
balloting was conducted, from an inside
point of view.
I was called in to help count ballots. I
was informed that the work would last
until the early morning hours when I
started. The person in charge of the
elections oversight, Michelle Putnam,
grossly overestimated the number of
people required for the task to begin with.
Early on, although this was readily
apparent and was pointed out to her by

needlessly been called in later had to be
paid for a minimum of four hours.,
This sort of lightheaded disregard for
workers' services is not the kind of thing
the student assembly should be
encouraging.
In addition, just to be malicious, I
would like to point out to you that, after
spending six hours confirming ballots

would have to say that if you can't tell the
difference between Zha Zha Gabor and
Adolf Hitler you're too stupid or scared to
tell fashion from fascism. If that's the
case, ignorance among educated fools has
ripened to the point where the reverse
becomes true. Wala, we have Fashism,
the Americanned dream (to spell it
another way).

'Those ballots which I and my fellow workers
carefully selected out as unconfirmed or duplicate
ballots wound up later back in the bins for counting
despite their status. That's not my problem, it's
yours.'

i

against an official list of students, I noted
that those ballots which I and my fellow
workers carefully selected out as
unconfirmed or duplicate ballots wound up
later back in the bins for counting despite
their status. That's not my problem, it's
yours.

to Michelle Putnam, who tried to have
me fired from my little gamma-grunt
level-II-Temp-job for talking to the press
about her conduct, I offer the little ode by
way of apology:
Little Miss Muffet
sat on a tuffet,

U

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