4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 11, 2003
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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
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necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
<"If the percentage of
minorities in your state
has anything to do with
how you connect with
black voters, then Trent
Lott would be Martin
- Democratic presidential candidate
Howard Dean responding to a question
during a Tuesday debate in Baltimore, as
reported on Slate.com.
SAM BUTLER T SOAPBOX
' --- , ere.
Bush the new Duke of American heroes?
LAUREN STRAYER IN THE ACTIVE VOICE
"This kind of war,
you've gotta believe in
what you're fighting for."
- John Wayne in
"Back to Bataan"
kA rguably, we've
E abeen at war for
two years. Sept.
11 incited America's
expansive War on Ter-
ror - through which we've already over-
thrown the Taliban and Sadaam. We're
slowly battling al-Qaida and we're consider-
ing the cases against North Korea and Iran.
As a nation, we've justified these actions
with an impregnable vision of good, evil, and
avenging justice. Collectively, we've nar-
rowed our understanding of right and wrong
and we've dutifully made a robust, heroic
leader out of our president. We've done all
this hoping that we can rid the world of ter-
rorism and ride happily into the sunset.
In other words, we want the post-Sept. I1
world to play out like a western with John
Wayne in the saddle. As Americans looked
to the Duke's one-dimensional, red-blooded
characters for comfort and stability through-
out much of the 20th century, our current
reverie in hero-worship is explicable - if
juvenile and ill-fated.
In many ways, Wayne's gruff perfor-
mances - in westerns and military films
alike - established the standard for Ameri-
can heroes both on and off the screen.
Almost invariably, Wayne portrayed a plain-
spoken protagonist struggling to right egre-
gious wrongs. His characters possessed a
cloudless and simplistic set of morals paired
with a powerful desire to see justice served in
the most basic sense. A Wayne hero, strong
and unyielding in his presence, has little
patience for rhetoric or weakness and is
prone to intense but judicious violence.
Essentially, whether portraying a cowboy or
a soldier, Wayne repeatedly glorified the
American hero and in wartime, soothed our
suffering national psyche.
With this sort of stalwart legacy, is it any
wonder we've conveyed the attributes of one
cowboy onto another? Given that President
Bush has an analogous image of straight-talk
and vigorous health and that the tragic events
of Sept. 11 gave him immediate righteous-
ness, his rise to hero status is not surprising.
Even though he's a desk jockey instead of
cowpoke, Bush enjoys undeniably compara-
ble circumstances to those the Duke often
navigated successfully. Accordingly, our
strong desire for a wartime hero and faultless
leader allowed us to further thrust Wayne's
attributes upon Bush - whether they were
warranted or not.
The problem with this naive transference
of heroics is that Bush does not live in a
morally unambiguous western or military
film. Americans may feel more secure with a
reliable iconic president in office, but that
feeling does not go very far in creating actual
security and stability. The increased political
strength and capital Bush enjoys only
encourage him to further cultivate his heroic
image - despite the serious hazards it pre-
sents in the real world. For instance, as part
of his newfound Dukedom, Bush makes his
war cries with absolute conviction even
though his world has no moral absolutes. He
operates without qualification or nuance -
two elements that ought to play heavily in
decisions that risk the lives of soldiers and
civilians. While the final consequences of
Bush's fervor are unknown today, we can
observe that his overzealous convictions have
strained many important international friend-
ships and preceded the loss of many military
and civilian lives. Given the current situation,
perhaps we should reconsider the value of a
hero with such a lack of circumspection.
In a time of distinct international instabil-
ity and fear, we are finding irrational comfort
in a simplistic illusion of a gun-slinging hero.
Just as Wayne often alleviated much of the
collective guilt and pain Americans felt in
response to the wars of the 20th century,
Bush provides us with a sense of irreproach-
able unaccountability. It seems we can
believe in the righteousness of the War on
Terror simply because our Duke President
has infallible judgment and moral fortitude.
As a final disquieting thought on our
current hero worship, consider that even
Wayne wasn't always the hero America
needed. In the 1949 film "The Sands of Iwo
Jima," Wayne's marine colonel embodied
the heroic characteristics described above
but still could only win the battle - not the
war. With the hard edges of his American
heroism, Wayne could not lead America out
of war and its aftermath. In the end, he
could not be the lasting hero America need-
ed. Can Bush?
No. Heroes of John Wayne's iconic style
don't exist and we have to stop creating
them. We need to elect a new hero.
Strayer can be reached
at lstrayer@umich. edu.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
L 0UIE MEIZLISH / IN PRINT
Don't blame students if proposal loses
This Nov. 4 will be one the most impor-
tant elections Ann Arbor has seen in
What's the big deal in this off-year elec-
tion? The big deal is whether to approve a
$30 million proposal to create what Mayor
John Hieftje calls the "Greenbelt," a ring of
greenspace around the city, where Ann
Arborites would be free of modern housing,
car exhaust and strip malls and thus put a
stop to suburban sprawl.
If the ballot proposal is approved by voters,
it means (and this bothers a lot of conserva-
tives) taxpayer dollars will pay for a govern-
ment program whose explicit purpose is to
counter economic development.
"The quality of life in Ann Arbor is declin-
ing because of all the construction that's going
on our borders leading to sprawl and traffic
congestion," says Councilman Robert Johnson
(D-Ward 1). "It'll just make life in Ann Arbor
better if we have open space, farms, fields,
rather than just a continuous ring of houses
around the city."
It's a noble idea and should be approved,
and that's why this election is important.
But there's another issue here, and that's
the process by which we elect our council
members and the fact that students are not very
involved in it.
For years and years it has been the policy
of the Ann Arbor City Council to draw
wards - the council districts - in such a
way that marginalizes the student vote.
Instead of creating one or two wards that are
near-majority student, the council has dis-
persed the student vote across several wards,
making it almost impossible for students to
get elected to the council, though not for a
lack of effort. In this city of which students
comprise approximately one third of the
population, not one sits on the council.
Regardless, three students are making a go
of it this year. If history is any indication, their
chances are not good.
It just so happens that the ballot proposal to
raise money for the Greenbelt should be a close
one, says Johnson. Unlike, say, a school or a
nrkc~ndrer. tnllnoep this one is fornew
type of program and vot-
ers may be leery of it.
expect a pretty powerful
and well-funded campaign from the oppo-
nents," Johnson says. In other words, pro-
Greenbelters need as many
quasi-environmentalist, pro-tax-raising stu-
dents as possible to offset the votes of conserv-
ative property owners who don't want their
So if the pro-Greenbelters lose, don't be
surprised if some of them blame disinterested
students for their loss. The truth, however, is
that if the council really wanted students
involved in city government and policy setting,
it would have made it easier for them to get
elected, and thus feel like they have more at
stake in city governance. Was it not the 18th-
century British Tories who made the argument
that, even if American colonials did not elect
members of Parliament, they were still repre-
sented because all British officials had their
interests at heart?
Well, a lot of students won't be here
more than four or five years. Feeling locked
out of the process, is it unreasonable for
them to conclude that city interests should
not be their concern?
The only interesting council race to watch
this year will be in the 2nd Ward, where
Councilman Michael Reid seeks a sec-
ond term. The first-term Republican is being
challenged by Democrat Amy Seetoo. Fact is,
the 2nd Ward - the most heavily Republican
ward of all - is majority Democrat, and is
becoming, like the rest of Ann Arbor, more
and more Democratic. Yet it manages to pro-
duce Republican council members in odd-year
elections. A loss for Reid this year would
reduce the ranks of the Republican caucus
down to one member. If Reid loses, look for a
move to make Ann Arbor's municipal elec-
tions - like those of most Michigan cities
Contrary to Daiy's assertions,
registering to vote is easy
To THE DAILY:
I was quite pleased with the Daily's edi-
torial on student voting in Ann Arbor (Rep-
resenting 'U', 09/09/03). As residents of this
city, it is our right and responsibility to par-
ticipate in the processes that decide how it
runs. However, I would like to point out a
problem with the article. It reads: "Many
students come from out of town and are reg-
istered in another state. For many, the
process of changing their registration to
Ann Arbor is too cumbersome."
Fortunately, this statement is incorrect.
Registering simply involves filling out a
half-page form, which asks for little more
information than local address and driver's
license number. I work for the Youth Vote
Coalition, which unites all kinds of organi-
zations working to get young people politi-
cally involved and aware. We've set:up a
field site in Ann Arbor to do just this and
anyone interested in filling out one of
those forms and getting registered in Ann
Arbor can email email@example.com for
one of those forms.
New bus routes inadequate
TO THE DAILY:
I would like to express my opinion on the
new bus route for the Commuter Northbound.
I know that the University intended
well when it changed the route but I
believe the change is unfair to residents of
Mosher-Jordan and Stockwell residence
halls. The way the bus route is set up now,
there is no quick way of getting to North
Campus in the morning. It is a bit of a
walk to the closest bus stop and when it
gets cold thatAs going to be very iuconve-
nient and dangerous. Yes, we could take
the Northwood, however the Northwood
stops by C.C. Little after visiting the Hill
area, thus taking a very long time to reach
Taking the Northwood already takes a very
long time and during the winter even longer.
Since there are already two buses that
go by the Kresge building in the morning
(Bursley-Baits and Northwood) I see no
reason for the Northbound Commuter to go
up Washtenaw Avenue and turn onto Ann
Street and then go around Medical Center
Drive. An alternate route could be to take
Geddes Avenue to Observatory Street and
then go around Medical Center Drive. This
way you cover Mosher Jordan and Stock-
well Residence Halls and still make it
around Medical Center Drive.
DOUGLAS J. KREMER
Gay initiation classes provide vital message
BY JOE KORT
For the past seven years, I've taught a
course at Wayne State University for master's-
level social workers on how to help their gay
clients learn to be comfortable about their orien-
tation. This class could be in jeopardy, if some
folks here in Michigan have their way.
Fuss over a course "How To Be Gay: Male
Homosexuality and Initiation," scheduled this
fall at the University of Michigan, seems to be
voiced loudest by Gary Glenn, president of the
Michigan affiliate of the conservative American
Family Association. Glenn wants "to stop let-
ting homosexual activists use our tax dollars to
subsidize this militant political agenda" to pro-
mote "queer studies." His agenda is to stop Prof.
David Halperin's class because he feels taxpay-
ers shouldn't be "forced to pay for a class
whose stated purpose is to 'experiment' with the
'initiation' of young men into self-destructive
Could my class have been something he
would have prevented? I teach my master's-
level students in the field of social work to "ini-
tiate" gays and lesbians into achieving healthy
self-esteem and becoming positive, hard-work-
ing, responsible people. Maybe Glenn over-
looked my class because its title, "Social Work
can woman politely raised her hand and said, "I
had no idea I had enrolled in a gay studies
class." She needed credits and my class was the
only one available to her, adding that her Christ-
ian beliefs did not support homosexuality and
that it is a sin. But this was her last term and if
she wanted to graduate in June, she had to stay
in the course.
Some of the other class members felt that
because of her homonegative views, she
shouldn't be allowed to stay. But she said she
related to gays and lesbians because when she
"came out" with her Christian beliefs on homo-
sexuals, others discriminated against her, and
she felt that my class did not want her.
I assured her that I was open to her differ-
ence of opinion. All I expected from her was
that she learn the gay affirmative stance I teach,
to help gays and lesbians overcome homopho-
bia and heterosexism. In her papers and class
discussions, she could show that she'd absorbed
my input and could certainly add her own dis-
agreements along the way. I urged the class to
take the same stance - which they did. Our
agenda was to honor everyone's opinions and
not enforce our own, much less make any one
of us feel "bad" or "wrong."
Each week, she listened to my lectures and
our guest speakers. She wrote two required
papers on the "initiation" of gays and lesbians
I didn't agree with her, but was able to see
her outlook from her point of view. By the
end of the semester, she demonstrated her full
understanding of many facets of "initiating"
gays and lesbians. She hadn't altered her
moral or religious beliefs and still felt that
homosexuality was a sin. But she did graduate
(in both senses of the word) with a wider
understanding of what gay people must go
through and said the course "humanized her
thinking of what gay people were like. She
admitted she'd been horrified to learn that I
was gay, surprised that I seemed so happy and
well-adjusted - and troubled that I'd become
so comfortable with "living in sin."
I told her that she'd opened my eyes, too.
What must it be like, to hold strong religious
beliefs and not be able to express them freely,
without others' discrimination?
Again, I have no problem with her beliefs,
or anyone's, only with what people do with
their personal judgments. I told her I hoped that
as a social worker, she'd never provide treat-
ment for gays or lesbians because of her nega-
tive judgments. How could she assist them and
help them feel good about themselves, if she
herself didn't approve of them? Much as she
tried to help them, she would just be committing
homophobia in her conviction that they were
sinners. Thankfully, she agreed!
If only those like G~lenn and the neonle in
Meizlish can be reached at