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January 25, 2006 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-25

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Cite firtic4toan otdIll

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


'Those who
would sacrifice
liberty for security
deserve neither."
- Benjamin Franklin, as quoted on a sign held
by hooded protesters attending a speech by
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on wiretap-
ping, as reported yesterday on CNN.com.

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Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.



Bearing witness behind bars

When I inter-
viewed last
winter for
William Buzz Alexan-
der's English 319, a class
that centered on theater
workshops in urban
high schools, juvenile
facilities and adult pris-
ons, I was asked why
I wanted to work with
people whom society deems criminals, misfits,
scum of the earth.
I gave a vague answer at the time, but now, as
I begin my fourth creative workshop at a juve-
nile facility and my first workshop at an adult
prison, I have a better answer.
Most marginalized populations are repre-
sented in jails, prisons and juvenile facilities.
These places, given the nation's growing incar-
ceration rate - already the highest in the world
- have often become warehouses for the poor,
uneducated, underserved, disabled and home-
less populations that the government doesn't
seem to care about until they break the law.
Going into these places allows one to notice
the cracks in our social and economic systems
and to bear witness to those who have fallen
through. Bearing witness is especially crucial
given the invisibility of prisoners and the lack of
accountability for criminal justice practices and
abuses in this country. (Writ of habeas corpus,
torture, due process - what?)
My point is not to victimize incarcerated
populations, although many of their stories are
utterly heartbreaking, One of the goals of this
column, as with the workshops, is to humanize

people who have been reduced to animals by
this country's sensationalist media and draco-
nian justice system.
The young men and women I worked with
last semester wrote about people they cared
about: their parents, their grandparents, their
spouses, their children and their friends.
They looked at their lives critically, exploring
times when they struggled or perhaps made a
regrettable decision. They remembered times
when they were happy - for example, shar-
ing a blanket with a younger sister or smelling
coffee and omelettes in Grandma's kitchen.
And some of their writing was wonderfully
creative: a Blake-like myth about metaphori-
cal beasts and heroes, a story about a haunted
house and an off-the-wall limerick.
In these workshops, my partner and I tried not
to be typical teachers, authorities who lecture and
instruct. We tried to create a safe space where
everyone could explore their lives and interests
through the craft of writing, and we participated
in this process. In the workshop with teenage
boys in Detroit this fall, I shared a piece about my
own insecurities as a child, describing my poor
self-esteem, my perceived otherness from some
of my peers and my sensitivity.
After I read my piece, the guys were silent.
After a few seconds, one guy asked, "Was that
true?" I told him it was, and he said that he
didn't think I would have shared all of that
with them.
Although I was nervous, I thought it was
important to show the guys that one of their
writing "teachers" (as some of them still called
us) had experienced his own difficulties as a
child, and that, in some way, our stories over-

Nevertheless, I was fully aware that I got to go
home at the end of workshops while they stayed
there. I often asked myself why this was - what
was the essential difference between them and
me? If we had switched neighborhoods grow-
ing up, would I have joined a gang and they a
club that met in a hollowed-out bush overlooking
the golf course? If I had been abused repeatedly,
would I have developed a drug habit to escape the
pain? If I had attended a public school in Detroit
instead of one in Lawrence, Kan., would I be at
the University right now, writing this column?
In these workshops, there were no black-and-
white answers (unless you mean the nine black
guys and one white guy in my Detroit workshop
this fall), no clear-cut victims and perpetrators, no
good guys and bad guys. The fact that I had never
been incarcerated did not make me categorically
better or more human than the other guys in the
room. As one workshop participant wrote: "We
all got problems, you ain't gotta pretend."
Unfortunately, many of us at the University
have spent the first part of our lives pretending:
pretending that because we have, we deserve;
and because others don't have, they don't
deserve. Pretending that because we are free,
we deserve to be free; and because others are
locked up, they deserve to be locked up. These
dichotomies have been deliberately maintained
by prison walls, and until we break through
these barriers and bear witness to those on the
other side, we will continue living in a world of
black and white.
Cravens can be reached
at jjcrave@umich.edu.


Defeat with dignity

Samuel Alito escaped his confirmation
hearings without Democrats inflicting signifi-
cant damage to his reputation. Now Alito's fate
lies within the Democratic Party leadership
as it must choose between appeasing its left-
wing base clamoring for blood and the pivotal
independent voters who approve of the Alito
nomination. Had Alito been nominated in an
off year, the filibuster would be the strategy du
jour of senate Democrats, but with aspirations
of a congressional takeover this fall, Demo-
crats cannot risk embarrassment. What, then,
are their options?
First, they could act boldly and filibuster the
Alito nomination. As of this writing, Ben Nel-
son of Nebraska holds the distinction of being
the sole Democratic senator supporting Alito's
nomination. Mathematically, Senate Minority
Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) must assume he
has 44 no-votes in his pocket - a four-vote
insurance policy for the filibuster. However,
if Reid invokes a filibuster, Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will exercise the
"nuclear" option by eliminating the use of
the filibuster for all judicial nominations. No
member of the infamous "Gang of 14" is on
record suggesting Alito meets the "extreme
circumstances" clause of their agreement and

must support Frist's "constitutional" option
when considered. Therefore, invoking the fili-
buster would equate to the elimination of the
parliamentary tactic on judicial nominees, loss
of popularity amongst the American public
and a huge political win for the Republicans.
Second, it is a reelection year, and the Demo-
crats could pick up the votes of enough embat-
tled Republicans to defeat Alito's nomination
on an up-or-down vote. With Nelson allied
with the Republicans, Democrats must con-
vince seven senators to jump the Republican
ship. I would target any seven of the follow-
ing eight senators: Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode
Island, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of
Maine, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich
of Ohio, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John
Sununu or Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. All
eight of these senators are either pro-choice,
reside in a blue state or have bucked Bush on
more than one salient occasion.
However, if the Democrats cannot swing
enough GOP senators into their camp, at least
four more Democrats should vote with Nel-
son. Chief Justice John Roberts earned his
seat on the bench despite more than 20 votes
against his nomination. If Nelson remains the
only pro-Alito Democrat, Alito will earn con-
firmation with at least 44 votes against him.
I cannot imagine the Democratic grassroots

accepting a confirmation vote where the total
opposition exceeded the filibuster line and yet
no filibuster ensued. In this regard, the Dem-
ocratic leadership should quietly convince
Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd of
West Virginia, Mark Dayton of Minnesota,
Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and Joe Lieber-
man of Connecticut to vote for Alito's confir-
mation. Rockefeller and Byrd hold safe seats in
red states, and their support for Alito will not
diminish their political operations. Dayton and
Sarbanes are retiring at the end of this term,
so their votes are perfectly expendable to the
Democratic leadership. Liebermana magenta
Democrat from a blue state, is running for re-
election against relatively weak competition.
His recent comments in support of the Bush
administration's Iraq policy mean a pro-Alito
vote would cement his place at the bottom of
the Democratic National Committee's depend-
ability list. I suspect if those five senators take
a dive for the Democrats, Senators Bill Pryor
and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana will not be far behind.
Stiglich is an LSA junior and a former
member of the Daily's editorial board. He
is a part-time intern this semester with
the Senate Permanent Subcomittee for
Special Investigations.


Group wants to hold
BAMN accountable
In response to Michael Kan's clearly biased
news reporting (Group out to destroy BAMN,
01/23/2006), we would just like to clarify a few
points. Both Students Supporting Affirmative
Action and the Ann Arbor chapter of the NAACP
were contacted to join the organization. Both que-
ries were ignored. However, we still have active
members from both College Democrats and
SSAA as well as numerous other organizations.
We still extend the invitation to these groups if
they wish to join.
Our group is not about promoting or condemn-

only encourages them. What parent wants to turn
on the news, believing his child is in school, only
to see his child being put in the back of a police
car on an "academic field trip?" If we truly want
to advocate non-violence, we must actively pursue
BAMN and, hold it responsible for its actions.
Katherine Miller
LSA junior
Dan Shuster
Heather Wittaniemi
Engineering freshman
The letter writers are members of The Coali-
tion to Stop BAMN, By Any Legal Means.
Miller is the secretary of the College

two of us don't agree on most political issues,
I have never said any derogatory comments to
him about being a Republican. However, after
this article was published, Brian informed me he
had received numerous hate mails. All of these
messages were from people who didn't even
know him, and yet they all felt the need to call
him every anti-conservative name they could
think of.
To the people who wrote these awful things
to my future roommate: You should truly be
ashamed of yourselves. Even if you don't share
someone's beliefs, you should at least have the
common decency to respect him for coming out
into the open and declaring them. If you people
have nothing better to do with your time, you
should really consider finding other hobbies to

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Reggie Brown, Gabrielle
D'Angelo, John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared
Goldberg, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Frank Man-
lev, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David Russell, Katherine Seid, Brian


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