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October 20, 2003 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-10-20

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4A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 20, 2003

OP/ED

Uabe frtaiitn &Ugl

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
letters@michigandaily.com

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

LOUIE MEIZLISH
Editor in Chief
AUBREY HENRETTY
ZAC PESKOWITZ
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
"We know from
history that every
medium - air, land and
sea - has seen conflict.
Reality indicates
that space will be
no different."
- From a 2001 report by a panel
appointed by Congress to study "space-
related national defense issues, "as
quoted in yesterday's New York Times.

SAM BUTLER THE SOAPBOX
0
--
CP

On poets and protests
STEVE COTNER MY BACK PAGES

0

remember last year
when student
protests happened
all the time. It was
easy then to think some
students were just
enjoying a revival of
the radical chic fash-
ion, eager to wear
"Bush Sucks" stickers
and yell alongside the
Radical Cheerleaders ("Hey Bush ... Hey
What ... We don't need no..." and so on).
But that was OK, because the Radical
Cheerleaders were ingenious, and the
protest itself was a friendly and hopeful
gathering for the students and townspeople
who marched to the Federal Building on
Liberty Street
Dissent was alive and well, despite some
notable instances of suppression around the
country. This included Laura Bush's cancel-
lation of a White House symposium on poet-
ry once she realized that poets are an unruly
group of thinkers. But even that instance
showed the strength of the movement - the
website poetsagainstthewar.org collected
more than 13,000 poems, and poets and pro-
s testers " . '"Days of Poetry against
the War" around the globe. We were all very
confused, and we protested all the more
because of it.
But political dissent is different this
year. Everyone is excessively practical.
The war in Iraq has already arrived, so no
one holds onto the blind hopes they had
last year - maybe the largest worldwide
anti-war demonstrations in human history
will give our leaders a moment of pause.
At that time, we were in the hopeful posi-
tion that poet Helen Frost described like

this: "It has not happened yet. We can
move our minds together as shorebirds rise
above an ocean, arc in evening light -
grey silver white - rise higher, turn, and
find a way together back to land." How
naive we were.
No, this year we do not wonder about
the nature of violence, the impetus toward
imperialism, or the absurdity and inescapa-
bility of our situation. Instead, critics on
the Left have been pigeonholed into
dwelling on a few wait-and-see issues: the
existence of weapons of mass destruction,
the number of troops dying each day, the
need for U.N. assistance, and the question
of Iraqi support for U.S.-built institutions.
The poets are not working en masse
anymore, and the ones that are writing
sound trite and too topical. In the most
recent issue of The Nation, Calvin Trillin
wrote a short poem about Bush's speech:
"You tell us, with a casual by-the-way, /
Iraq was not behind that awful day, / As if
we'd never heard your staff and you /
Implying just the opposite was true. / The
web must say, or maybe Lexis-Nexis, / If
chutzpa is a word they use in Texas."
It is the chipper tone of an established
critic not the up-and-coming fire of a pro-
tester or even the world-weariness of a true
poet. And there is room for all of these in
the world, but the shift to such jolly fact-
oriented verse indicates an intellectual
flight from the larger picture. The poet's
job is to take us outside of day-to-day jour-
nalism, not to set the day's stories to
rhyme. Paul Krugman and other colum-
nists already have the fact-digging market
cornered.
All of this is important because if we
don't think abstractly about our situation,

even a bit absurdly, we will lose touch
with our own insights and be swept up in
the current. Recent polls have indicated
that Americans are dabbling with the
Democratic opposition: One showed a
majority of Americans opposing the war,
and another found voters favoring Wesley
Clark over Bush in the next election. But
all of this is just a little bit of alarm at the
slow development of wait-and-see issues.
It is the inevitable outcome with an admin-
istration that stakes its worth on the validi-
ty of certain promises and speculations.
It is not the same kind of opposition
that guided Americans of conscience in the
early days of the war, when we thought we
might still return to shore. That was a reac-
tion that superceded politics and policies;
it was rooted in appreciation for the value
of all life and in profound disgust at the
way Americans can march over other cul-
tures, but also in ambivalence about the
whole thing, a recognition that the world is
not divided along the lines that Washing-
ton has drawn.
No one among that movement would
have supported Clark, who believes in
wars of choice, who led the war in Koso-
vo, and who turned Democrat 20 minutes
ago. No one would have let the terms of
debate become so trivial and compartmen-
talized as they are today, when the Bush
administration might appear vindicated if
it will just fulfill the promises it initially
made. But no one today will do otherwise.
If poets and protesters did any good before
the war, it was to document their free
thoughts before they disappeared.

Cotner can be reached

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

0

Civil liberties not at issue
with smoking restrictions
TO THE DAILY:
Once again the Daily throws around the
words "civil liberties" as if it is defending
some constitutional right (Where there's
smoke, 10/16/03). I think we would agree
what you do in your home or bedroom is
your own business. However, when you do
something in public or that affects the pub-
lic health or welfare negatively, a supposed
civil liberty is and should be in doubt. You
have no constitutional right to engage in an
activity that causes cancer to other unwill-
ing participants, just as you do not have a
right to run a restaurant without a health
permit, possess and use large explosives,
play music so loud in your house that it dis-
turbs half of your block or park in snow
emergency zones during a big snowstorm.
If not enforced, all of the previous exam-
ples, as well as smoking, can lead to public
safety nightmares. The government can reg-
ulate your activities if they have a potential-
ly harmful impact on society. If the Daily
wants to squeak like a liberal and back what
it thinks are liberal ideals, it should have
some real force behind its arguments rather
than randomly throw out happy phrases like
civil liberties and call it a day.
KEVIN NOWAK
Law School
Students, markets must
determine outcome of
local venues
TO THE DAILY:
I wish to comment on your editorial
regarding the dominance of national food
franchises in Ann Arbor, So many you'll
freak (10/16/03).
If students are truly concerned about the
diversity of Ann Arbor's commercial scene
they should focus their attention on their
consumption preferences rather than on the
supply that meets those preferences. Blam-
ing "corporate America" is always popular,
yet it has little to do with how diverse Ann
Arbor is since corporate America is simply

kets should not always rule, but they should
determine the coffee we drink and the sand-
wiches we eat.
DORON TEICHMAN
Law School
Young people should take
politics more seriously
To THE DAILY:
I just read Sravya Chirumamilla's col-
umn, Hillary's fashion faux pas (10/17/03).
This column, quite simply, doesn't make
any sense. Hillary Clinton is criticized for
wearing a "black pinstripe suit with a white
shirt and pearls," and then is chastised for
"missing an opportunity to dress for the job
she wants." As an alternative, Chirumamil-
la says Clinton could have worn a "pants-
and-sweater combo" like the hosts of "The
View." Hillary Clinton is a current senator
for the state of New York. There are also
rumors of a possible presidential bid by
Clinton. I'm not sure exactly what a sena-
tor and presidential candidate would wear
to appear as if they are "dressing for the
job they want," but I would think that a suit
would be an appropriate clothing choice;
after all, that's what most other senators
and presidential candidates wear while on
camera.
Why do we need to analyze fashions
anyway? The only justification I can see is
that Chirumamilla says that years of reading
fashion magazines has ingrained a need for
analyzing the fashions of politicians and
leaders. While I respect other's choices of
reading material, perhaps before she writes
another "political" column for the Daily, she
could attempt to read a magazine or watch a
TV show that covers actual political issues.
I also enjoyed the neat way she criticizes
Hillary Clinton for not using her time on
"The View" or "The Daily Show" to
espouse political beliefs. Neither of those
shows are meant to give intensive political
information; they're meant to entertain.
As for the discontent that she claims
many American feel toward their politicians,
perhaps the same remedy could be applied.
Sure, putting a novice into office sounds like
a good idea, but mostly to those who don't
understand that effective governing takes
more than a pretty face and the right clothes.

unresponsive to the needs of young people.
It would indeed be a great day if a non-
career politician could be elected to the
White House or the Senate, but it's not
going to happen as long as Chirumamilla
and her friends have their noses buried in
the newest issue of Cosmo and get their
political information from "The View" and
"The Daily Show."
. AMY CHATFIELD
Alum
Honors Commons open to
all, Honors Program seeks
more racial diversity
To THE DAILY:
One day before his viewpoint criticizing
the Perlman Honors Commons appeared in
the Daily (Perlman Honors Commons dishonor-
able, 10/16/03), Rob Goodspeed defended the
Residential College's Benzinger Library
against a (rumored) University closing on his
weblog (www.goodspeedupdate.com), saying
that the library "serves as a resource for the
Residential College: RC professors put ...
materials on reserve there, and the library has
hosted a variety of artistic and educational
events in the past." The Benzinger Library is a
resource for the RC in precisely the same
sense that the Perlman Honors Commons is a
resource for the Honors Program. Each exists
primarily to support the activities of its respec-
tive program. The Honors Commons' function
is to provide a site for honors seminars in its
internal classroom, for intellectual events such
as the Fresh Ideas symposium I host biweekly,
for events planned by the Honors Student
Steering Committee, for meetings between
honors faculty and students, for student meet-
ings, for student (and faculty) study, and'for
informal conversation. As for access, Good-
speed is simply mistaken when he says that
access is restricted to honors students.
Although the primary function of the com-
mons is to support Honors Program activities,
we have not found it necessary to restrict
access to serve that function. Of course, unlike
the Benzinger Library we have a central loca-
tion, so we can't guarantee that that will
always be so. Finally, I would like to clarify a
misunderstanding about our admissions
process. It is true that this year we will be able
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