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March 08, 2004 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-08

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 8, 2004



opinion. michigandaily. com

SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

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.

t I recreate the
events without
actually traveling
there. ... It went
beyond cutting
- Former New York Times reporter
Jayson Blair, in an interview with
"Dateline NBC" Friday.

-I 1 ,°


Where am I?


here exists a mag-
ical place in this
nation of ours
where a gallon of regular
unleaded gasoline costs
y $3.10. It's called Gorda,
Calif. Situated along
scenic Highway One
along California's Cen-
tral Coast, Gorda is at
least 30 miles from anything resembling
The population of Gorda is exactly one.
He owns and operates the gas station, the
town's solitary building. He's the kind of guy
who wears bright yellow waders pulled up to
his armpits even when he's on dry land. I'm
guessing he was at one time a pirate.
My girlfriend and I were driving down the
Pacific Coast on Spring Break, but I didn't
bother to stop for gas in Big Sur, a much
larger town about 40 miles north of Gorda.
About an hour later, we were dangerously
low on gas. Relief finally came in the form of
Gorda and its lonely gas station, just as the
gas gauge was edging to the left of "E."
Why didn't I just stop in Big Sur?
Because it was no big deal, I told myself.
This is America - there's a gas station every
10 feet. You see, I never imagined there could
be a stretch of highway along the coastline of
the nation's most populated state where it was
possible to drive for an hour without seeing a
gas station.
I relate this tale not as a precaution to
those who may make a similar journey in
the future, nor as a way of criticizing soar-
ing gas prices. Instead, I tell this story as a
means of highlighting one of the major
themes of my 5,000-mile trek across the

country: When it comes to America, I don't
know a goddamn thing these days.
But my ignorance doesn't stem from a
lack of education or effort - I do my best to
keep up with the times. The real problem is, I
don't know what America stands for any-
more, and neither does America. We can no
longer say "United we stand" and mean it.
During times of strife we expect our
president to step in and rally the country.
But here in the 21st century, in the face of
terrorist attacks and constant criticism
from abroad, we've been divided into two
distinct groups. The first does indeed rally
behind the president and says, "God bless
America and George W. Bush." The second
points at the president and says, "It's not
our fault. He did it."
Of course the nation has been divided
along party lines since nearly the begin-
ning. In the past, at least one side would
tolerate the other. But with our last two
presidents, one a liar and the other a liar
and a warmonger, things have changed.
Five years ago, Republicans rebuked Clin-
ton as the most sinful and despicable man
in America, a shining example of every-
thing that's wrong in America. Today,
Democrats label Bush as the devil incar-
nate, a man who strips away freedoms and
kills innocent people all in the name of
fighting terror. What kind of country is it
where half the nation is not only embar-
rassed by its leader, but it downright hates
him? It's modern-day America.
If we can't count on our leader or our
politics to define the nation, then perhaps
there's some moral code or common values
that unite us. Nope. A quick look at two
cities I visited on my trip - Las Vegas and

St. George, Utah, which are just 120 miles
apart - proves otherwise. The cities are
diametrically opposed. Everyone knows
Las Vegas as a center of gaudiness and
depravity, and everyone is right. But few
know St. George. I think St. George is best
defined by a video rental store that was sit-
uated in a strip mall near our hotel. It was-
n't a Blockbuster Video as you'd find here.
No, this was a store that would take feature
films, censor them, and then market them
to conservative Christian families. These
two cities couldn't possibly be in the same
country, could they? But they are -
they're in America.
I visited many other places on my trip,
and few of them were even remotely alike. I
saw rich and vibrant cities like San Francis-
co, as well as small prairie towns like Ogal-
lala, Neb., one of those places where
everyone knows everyone else.
Some may tout what I am describing as
diversity. I suppose it fits a loose definition,
but diversity as a concept is only useful
when describing cultures that intersect and
blend together. Here, differing groups are
separated and scattered. Little intersection
and even less blending occurs. The liberal,
progressive views of San Francisco rarely
cross paths with the conservative, heartland
values of Ogallala.
But for some reason, we're all still
grouped together under this banner that
reads, "The United States of America." So
now, I sit here and wonder, how can we
expect the rest of the world to like us when
we don't even know who we are anymore?

Hoard can be reached at



Headscarf ban shows
France is actually
'culturally progressive'
I for one support the actions of the
French government, and I respect its right
to protect its culture as it interprets it. I
couldn't help but disagree when Shabina
Khatri wrote in Friday's column (Forget
freedom fries, let's talk scarfheads,
03/05/04) that France had "lost its way"
with its ban on the wearing of certain reli-
gious symbols in public schools, which
include the Muslim headscarf.
France has had a long and proud histo-
ry of state protection for the most impor-
tant components of its culture, such as the
French language, French films and the
country's distinctive cuisine. The legal and
social elements of French culture and tra-
dition (such as the institution of official
state secularism) are no less sacred. If the
French government interprets this to mean
that "conspicuous" religious symbols are
inappropriate in public schools, it is fully
within its rights to legislate it. In fact,
France is as justified in requiring
"respect" for its culture as any other state.
In many states and regions around the
world, tolerance and respect for the norms
of the nation are codified in law and appli-
cable to people of all cultures and reli-
gions who choose to reside there. For
instance, Saudi Arabia requires that all
residents obey its particular interpretation
of Islamic Sharia law. Similar codes of law
exist in other places, such as Iran, tribally
controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan and
northern Nigeria. The U.S. armed services,
for years, encouraged female service
members serving in Saudi Arabia to show
"toleration and respect" for local culture
when off base by wearing the head-to-foot
abaya covering, refraining from driving
automobiles and entering buses and build-
ings from back entrances. Saudi culture
and religion is so important that the state
has its own police force dedicated to the
preservation of these norms - the Mutawa
- who have been known to enforce the
law by beating with sticks those who fail
to properly show tolerance or respect for

we "stop criticizing third-world countries
for their "backwards" ways" and start
showing respect for the culture and norms
of all states and peoples - Eastern and
Western. France has shown that first-
world, freedom- and liberty-loving states
too, can be on the leading edge of this
kind of culturally progressive legislating.
If those pupils who wear headscarves
are indeed a tiny minority in France, per-
haps the actual effect of the new rule on
the Muslim population will be small, ren-
dering it only a "symbolic snub" - but a
culturally important one nonetheless.
All I can say is: What goes around,
comes around.
LSA senior
'U' spokeswoman did not
intend to make accusations
In my interview with the Daily regard-
ing the anonymous flyers posted in Angell
Hall (DPS investigates campus flyers as
harassment case, 03/05/04), I said clearly
that we do not know the truth of the alle-
gations in the flyer. I was very careful not
to lend credence to the accusations.
Separately, in response to additional
questions from the reporter, I shared infor-
mation about the University's policies
regarding faculty-student relationships and
sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the jux-
taposition of those remarks in the same
sentence as a discussion of the flyer makes
it sound as if I have accused a faculty
member of improper behavior. I have no
reason to do so, and I never intended to
leave this impression.
University spokeswoman
Bush's campaign ads
exploit events of Sept. 11
I would just like to commend the staff
at the Daily for its editorial (Tragic offens-
es: New series of Bush advertisements are
OA JAr%0A t ron art.i,- n

Editorial based on the
wrong argument
I am responding to the Daily's stance
on the gun makers' protection bill that
failed in the U.S. Senate (Tort reform:
DOA: Protection of gun makers from law-
suits a bad idea, 03/04/04). The bill would
have protected U.S. gun makers from friv-
olous law suits brought by a concerted
effort of anti-gun interests in this country.
It did not prevent legitimate suits address-
ing liability as the Daily suggested.
The reason it was killed was because
amendments were .attached by anti-gun
interests that had far more reaching effects
than the feel-good, reasonable-sounding
explanations they give for these laws: 1)
The gun show loophole is not a loophole.
All transactions are governed under all
laws pertaining to all of our citizenry; 2)
The assault weapons ban is another dis-
guised law. It is an almost comical attempt
to define certain aspects of certain guns as
making them more lethal. It should be
allowed to sunset in September.
But further, and more sinister, is an
idea that rears its ugly head in the last
paragraph. The Daily sets the stage for the
issue to be a Republican versus Democrat
issue. This is an attack on individual rights
- inalienable rights. Not a political party
issue. If the right of speech or freedom of
press were being attacked, I wonder what
the Daily's editorial would say. This is a
house of cards, this Constitution that gov-
erns us. The Daily should be ashamed.
University staff
The Michigan Daily welcomes letters
from all of its readers. Letters from Univer-
sity students, faculty, staff and administra-
tors will be given priority over others.
Letters should include the writer's name,
college and school year or other University
affiliation. The Daily will not print any let-
ter containing statements that cannot be
Letters should be kept to approximately
300 words. The Michigan Daily reserves the

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