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April 07, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-07

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 7, 2005

OPINION

je firtd, 40,
wn *

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

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

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

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
It's just another
seedy attempt by
the liberal media
to embarrass me."
- House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay
(R-Tex.), responding to charges that his
wife and daughter were paid upward of
$500,000 by his campaign and political
action committees, as reported
yesterday by CNN.com.

COLIN DALY iTi M-l(cAN .D

a

Af
x
tie

Goodbye to all this
ZAC PESKOWITZ THE J.OWER FREQUNCIES

ncoming under-
graduates have a sys-
tematically biased
expectation of what the
next four years of their
lives will bring. Part F.
Scott Fitzgerald's Prince-
ton, part "Animal House,"
they prepare for grand
A endeavors and adven-
ture and brilliant hijinks to define their brief
excursion into academia. In turn, they find that
college tends to be a lot like those portions of
life that precede and follow it. Noteworthy for
nothing intrinsic to the college experience, but
because you happen to be at the brief moment
in your life where freedom retains its novelty
and has yet to become a burden.
These inflated illusions are not really their fault.
How could they expect anything less when they
are bombarded with romantic notions about what
college represented to previous generations? Baby
boomers are particularly egregious offenders,
explaining to everyone who cares to listen how
they liberated the oppressed peoples of the world,
ended war and followed the Doors up and down
the West Coast all in four years between tak-
ing classes for their English degrees. During my
pre-college life, college was described to me as
everything from Disneyland with books to Plato's
academy. Either way it sounded great and I oblig-
ingly, although with no real choice in the matter,
signed up.
Compared to these embellished memories, our

four years are feeble. While puffery on the part of
our elders explains some of the shortfall, there are
more fundamental explanations at hand. College
has undergone a tremendous transformation in
the past 30 years. It is no longer the great egalitar-
ian arena of the G.I. Bill or the great status sym-
bol of the Gentlemen's C. For most, it has become
a way station to grind out four years of your life
before moving on to something eminently prac-
tical. Deprived of its urgency, catatonic students
muddle through their days. Students disappear
from classes, show up drunk, ignore the reading
and retreat to their lonely fortresses. All of this is
accepted with a defeatist shrug on the part of fac-
ulty, administrators and most grimly of all, their
fellow students. The left tail of the normal distri-
bution doing what it is expected to do.
Over the next three weeks we seniors
will endure all varieties of washed-
out reminiscences of halcyon days.
Here is mine.
When I was a freshman, I sincerely believed
that you either wrote for the Daily or you sat
around your dorm room drinking beer idly wast-
ing time. You either contribute to society or you
are a social misfit. From my limited observations
of those students who surrounded me in class
and in the dorms, this belief made a lot of sense.
Before I threw myself into the Daily, I was a
confused freshman, profoundly disappointed by
what surrounded him. The Daily saved me from
all that. The people there showed me that you
could produce something beautiful with dedica-

tion and grit.
With time I have realized that the choice
between the Daily and everything else wasn't
as stark as I once imagined. Students contribute
to the intellectual and social life of the Univer-
sity in unique ways, and my belief in the innate
superiority of the Daily over all other forms of
involvement bespoke an intolerable arrogance on
my behalf. But like many ideas that don't with-
stand the scrutiny of time, there was a kernel of
truth to it.
The last columns of Daily writers of yore have
typically been a place to deposit homespun wis-
dom about the ineffable joy of the journalist's life,
ask existential questions and attempt to impose
order and logic on a four-year expanse of time
marked mostly by utter randomness. I thank all
of you for inspiring me with your struggles to
make something permanent out of our moment
on this campus, filling up the bound volumes with
your thoughts. We weren't always right, but we
approached everything we did with the gravity it
deserved.
To everyone who gave up along the way, I'll
channel Kafka. The Czech writer concluded his
brief meditation "The Passenger" by staring at a
woman on a trolley car and asking, "I wondered
back then: How come she's not astonished at her-
self, how come she keeps her mouth shut and says
nothing along those lines?"

This is Peskowitz's last column
for the Daily. He can be reached at
zpeskowi@umich.edu.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Viewqxoht gets cau4jt up in
Pulty peWre " Osof I"a
To THE DAnLY:
In his article, Iraq's Fork in the Road (04/05/2005),
Brian Slade misses a couple important points
concerning the situation in Iraq. He writes, "It
seems that the world's most authoritarian region
has exploded into shockwaves of democracy from
Beirut to Baghdad, Cairo to Damascus." The
important word here is "seems."
Although he prefaces this statement by saying
that mainstream media sources have been blasting
the public with the idea that democracy has finally
hit the Middle East, he never challenges this image
of Iraq and Afghanistan as catalysts for democracy
in the region. In fact, as University History professor
Juan Cole has pointed out in his weblog, Informed
Comment (www.juancole.com), this is not the case.
The situation in Beirut must be seen in the context
of a long and complex history, and the recent assas-
sination of the former anti-Syrian prime minister,
Rafik Hariri. Many other developments in Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, and Syria cannot be seen as anything
even remotely close to democracy, and, as many

political observers have noted, the elections in Iraq
and Afghanistan, while a move in the right direc-
tion, were not truly democratic.
Another point that I'd like to address here is
related to the motivations of the neoconservative
war in Iraq. He writes, "The Bush administration,
which now has four years free of re-election pres-
sures, is in a position to do what is genuinely right
for Iraq." Unfortunately, that is not what this war
is about. Conservatives and liberals alike should
recognize that U.S. foreign policy, during a Demo-
cratic or Republican presidency, is not intended
to do what is genuinely right for other nations.
Although that has sonietimes been a byproduct, it
has historically never been the main goal - think
Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, etc. If President Bush
were concerned with doing away with authoritar-
ian leaders, we'd expect interventions in places like
Zimbabwe, where voter fraud and intimidation
is expected. This war is not about Iraqi freedom
- nor American security for that matter - and
so we should not expect the Bush administration to
"do what is genuinely right for Iraq." The fact that
this administration has four years free of re-elec-
tion pressure should be a scary thing for those con-
cerned with the safety and well-being of the people

in Iraq, both foreigners and Iraqi citizens.
Finally, I must comment on the two possible
legacies of the war in Iraq that are offered at the
end of the article. "Will it be 1,500 American
soldiers who died in vain, or the brilliant foreign
policy move that stabilized the Middle East?" It
will be neither. First, the costs of the war have
run much deeper than 1,500 American casual-
ties. Malnutrition rates among children, as well
as poverty levels, have increased drastically since
the occupation began. Thousands of Iraqi civilians
have died along with a handful of foreigners and
the rebel attacks continue to get more frequent and
intense. As for the second scenario, the Middle
East will not be stable, and American policy will
not be seen as focused on democracy until real
progress is seen in Israel/Palestine. The United
States continues to allow Israel to develop in the
West Bank, the site of a future Palestinian state
- 3,500 new units have been approved for con-
struction this year. Until these types of policies
change, we should not simply accept the media's
portrayal of our foreign policy as a valiant crusade
for democracy that "seems" to be working.
Brendan Hart
LSA senior

VIEWPOINT
Oppose the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

a

By MELTON LEE
Upon reading the column Support the Michi-
gan Civil Rights Initiative (03/23/2005) a couple of
weeks ago, I was dismayed to be once again con-
fronted with the same type of fraudulent and mis-
leading assertions I had long ago come to expect
from Michigan Civil Rights Initiative advocates
when pushing their anti-affirmative action agenda.
As part of their misleading campaign, proponents
of the MCRI have made regular foolhardy attempts
at framing the debate by misconstruing select quotes
from the 1964 Civil Rights Act and even Martin
Luther King Jr., and then rehashing them out of their
original context. After reading Section 706(g) of
the act and the totality of King's "I Have a Dream"
speech, the deception becomes apparent. Moreover,
the impudence behind the aforementioned mis-
construals is almost as absurd as the thought of me
audaciously declaring that the celebrated "all men
are created equal" notion of America's Founding
Fathers was actually originally intended to apply to
people like myself - let alone any other racial/eth-
nic minority or woman for that matter.

intended to help minorities (in the face of oppres-
sive discrimination and the transgenerational
effects thereof) gain social and economic equality
in addition to their newly federally reinforced legal
equality. Opening up previously excluded educa-
tional and occupational opportunities to under-
represented minorities helped them to overcome
the blight of segregation by allowing for higher
incomes and stability, and thus greater freedom in
deciding where to live and educate their children.
However, the critical task of improving primary
and secondary education for disadvantaged stu-
dents has remained a catch-22 due to the high lev-
els of residential segregation that continue to exist
in the United States. Public school districts mirror
housing patterns - segregated, unequal communi-
ties produced segregated, unequal public schools,
which in turn perpetuate comparative educational
(and eventually employment) disadvantages for
underrepresented minorities. Yet it should be
noted that "disadvantaged" does not mean meager-
ness - in addressing concerns of minority student
retention at Michigan, it is somewhat disturbing
how opponents of affirmative action are so ostenta-

the continued existence of racially and ethnically
segregated schools. Coincidentally, Michigan has
the disgraceful distinction of being one of the most
racially segregated states in the country, and the
demographics of the K-12 public school systems
are directly reflective of this. The Great Lakes
state claims three of the United States' top 10 most
racially segregated metropolitan areas: Detroit,
Saginaw/Bay City/Midland and Flint.
A wise man by the name of Leonard Sidney
Woolf once observed that "There is nothing to
which men cling more tenaciously than the privi-
leges of class." I agree wholeheartedly. Although
subtle, less overt prejudices do indeed linger on in
our society, clearly the majority of MCRI support-
ers aren't bigots - they're simply classists. And
they impulsively cringe at the thought of losing one
of the proverbial "tickets" to the wealth and secu-
rity of the American Dream for any reason - even
the likelihood that they have received direct or
indirect privileges from the historical oppression
of targeted minorities.
And thus, the fundamental necessity of affirma-
tive action remains.

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