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September 27, 2011 - Image 4

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4 - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4 - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

Elephants at the circus

0

f recent Republican presidential
debates are any indicator, the
state of our discourse has hit a

STEPHANIE STEINBERG
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MICHELLE DEWITT
and EMILY ORLEY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS

NICK SPAR
MANAGING EDITOR

new low.
Now let's
get something
straight. Tele-
vised presiden-
tial debate has
never been our
country's strong
suit. For decades
these "debates"
have been shams
of real politi-
cal discourse -

DANIEL
CHARDELL

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.,
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
The right to choose
Partial-birth abortion is a personal decision
Partial-birth abortion has been a morally controversial topic.
With the passage of a new bill in the Michigan state legisla-
ture, partial-birth abortions are now illegal by state law, on
top of the federal ban already in place by the Partial-Birth Abortion
Ban Act of 2003 passed by the U.S. Congress. If the state legislation
is enacted, performing a partial-birth abortion would be a two-year
felony. While partial-birth abortion is a difficult subject, the reality
is that women should have the right to decide what to do with their
bodies. The state ban is redundant given the federal ban already in
place. But more importantly, the government shouldn't interfere in
private, individual decisions.

Partial-birth abortion is a complicated
procedure that involves the death of a fetus
after the second trimester. The procedure
was performed in less than 2 percent of abor-
tions, according to 1999 data from the Center
for Disease Control and Prevention. While
partial birth abortions are a complicated
issue from a moral standpoint, the larger
issue is the government's restriction of indi-
vidual rights.
The recent bill, which will head to Repub-
lican Gov. Rick Snyder's desk after the confer-
ence committee has reviewed it, models the
federal law and makes the procedure punish-
able under state law. Since the law was upheld
in the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision Gon-
zales v. Carhart, there's no reason to believe it
will be repealed any time soon.
Taking time to pass state legislation that
reaffirms a federal law is an insult to Michi-
gan citizens. Instead of focusing on bills to
create jobs and help rebuild the state's econ-
omy, the Legislature is focusing on prohib-
iting an already banned procedure. If there
was evidence that partial-birth abortions
were performed in large numbers through-
out the state this legislation would be some-

what explicable, but partial-birth abortion
procedures are rare. The state government
is unnecessarily pushing a social issue, and
it needs to focus its attention on Michigan's
more pressing concerns.
The legality of abortion indicates the con-
stitutional support for a woman's right to
choose. Partial-birth abortions is a conten-
tious topic, but it's not up to the government
to permit or prohibit the procedure. Women
should speak with doctors and other health
professionals to make an appropriate, per-
sonal decision. By speaking with a doctor,
they can educate themselves on the health
implications of the procedure and make a
responsible personal choice.
The argument isn't about the moral impli-
cations of abortion. Rather, it's about govern-
ment intervention in personal decisions. A
woman should have the right to make her own
decisions about her body and an unborn child
she may bare. In today's economic climate,
Michigan doesn't have the luxury to spend
time and resources on partisan, social poli-
cies. Snyder should reaffirm his commitment
to tackling the state's pressing issues and veto
this bill. .

more a chance for candidates of all
political stripes to pander to their
bases than engage one another in
thoughtful debate. Republicans
as well as Democrats are guilty of
evading questions, botching facts
and concerning themselves more
with landing a zinger than formulat-
ing a coherent argument. Butgiven a
24-hour media machine that thrives
on simplistic sound bites, can you
blame candidates for their unapolo-
getic grandstanding? For their par-
ticipation in the circus that is the
televised, commercialized political
debate?
Yes, you can. But more on that
later.
For starters, let's brush up on his-
tory. The first televised presiden-
tial debate occurred in 1960 when a
young, tan, poised John F. Kennedy
outperformed a sickly, clammy, life-
less Richard Nixon in the first of a
four-part debate series. For those
70 million American viewers who
tuned in to watch the debate unfold
on television, Nixon, infamously
sweating under the glaring studio
lights, was visibly uncomfortable.
According to the Museum of Broad-
cast Communications, the TV audi-
ence largely considered Kennedy the
winner. The much smaller audience
listening in on the radio, however,
thought Nixon triumphant. Though
the debate's impact on the election
results is disputed (Kennedy went
on to win the presidency), it set a
precedent for the future of televised
political debate.
Appearance matters. That's an
enduring lesson of the Kennedy-
Nixon debates. Advances in tech-
nology increasingly necessitate
that our leaders be better publicists

than public servants, better actors
than thinkers. Public scrutiny has
grown to the point where we care
more about candidates' body lan-
guage than their words. Now don't
get me wrong - I want a confident
commander in chief capable of pro-
jecting strength and composure. We
need an articulate voice in the White
House, but problems arise when
we're made to believe that the most
attractive candidate is best suited
for the job.
Which brings me to the contempo-
rary media. Superficial debates of the
modern kind don't exist ina vacuum.
They don't spontaneously occur. Far
from it. They're carefully crafted
productions where entertainment,
ratings and artificial narratives take
precedence over journalistic integ-
rity. Looking at the gaudy sets of
recent Republican debates, you'd
think you were watching American
Idol - except that even reality TV
isn't this flashy. (In June, Jon Stewart
aptly deemed the set of a CNN-spon-
sored debate "America's most patri-
otic game show.") Pageantry detracts
from true deliberation. Everything
but the bare minimum - modera-
tor, candidates, pens and paper - is
a distraction. This isn't debate. It's
theater.
Then there's the audience.
Spectators at this month's Repub-
lican debates seem to be making
more headlines than the candidates
themselves. During the Sept. 7
MSNBC/Politico debate, modera-
tor Brian Williams directed a ques-
tion toward Texas Gov. Rick Perry:
"Your state," he began, "has exe-
cuted 234 death rqw inmates, more
than any other governor in modern
times. Have you..." Before Williams
could finish, the crowd erupted in
prolonged applause. Perry, invigo-
rated by his audience's apparent
fervor for capital punishment, went
on to assert (in stony coldness) that
he has "never struggled" with that
fact. That's particularly chilling
when you consider that one of those
executed was Cameron Willingham,
who was put to death under Perry's
watch even though, recent evidence
affirmed his innocence. (Google it) I
wonder if Perry's cheerleaders in the
crowd knew that.
Strike one against an audience
willing to praise unprecedented

0

Political

discourse has hit
a new low.
phen Hill, a United States service-
man stationed in Iraq, fielded a
question to Rick Santorum regard-
ing the recent (and belated) repeal
of the military's "don't ask, don't
tell" policy. "In 2010, when I was
deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about
who I was because I am a gay soldier
and didn't want to lose my job," Hill
said. Referring to DADT, he contin-
ued, "Do you intend to circumvent
the progress that's been made for
gay and lesbian soldiers in the mili-
tary?" As the camera cut back to
Santorum, audible boos were heard
from the audience. No candidates on
stage attempted to silence the jeers.
No candidates thanked Hill for his
service.
Strike three.
Call me crazy, but aren't the can-
didatessupposed to answer theques-
tions given-them? Aren't debates a
time for us to hear what the candi-
dates have to say? It's sad and a little
scary when you stop and consider
what's become of American political
discourse. In today's debates, even
Kennedy wouldn't stand a chance.
- Daniel Chardell can be
reached at chardelloumich.edu.

state-inflicted death.
Then, at the Sept. 12 CNN/Tea
Party Express debate, Wolf Blitzer
asked Rep. Ron Paul who should
pay when an uninsured young man
unexpectedly goes into a coma.
After Paul danced around the ques-
tion and threw out buzzwords like
"freedom" and "responsibility" for
the right-wingers to lap up, Blitzer
(finally) got to the point: "But Con-
gressman, are you saying that soci-
ety should just let him die?" Paul had
hardly spluttered out a weak "no..."
when some in the crowd began
shouting "Yeah!"
Strike two.
Finally, at the Fox News/Google
debate held Thursday evening, Ste-

0

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Patrick Maillet,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner

SARAH SMITH AND RICK STEPANOVIC I
Welcome to Greek Life

The post-racial facade

0

To the nearly 1,400 men and women who
joined the University's Greek community this
past weekend - first and foremost, we'd like
to offer you our wholehearted congratula-
tions. The decision to go Greek isn't an easy
one, but we believe it might be the best one
you'll make during your undergraduate years.
As Panhel's vice president of public relations
and Interfraternity Council's vice president
of recruitment, we've had the most incredible
journey in Greek Life and in our individual
chapters, and we're so excited to share that
journey with you.
We want to encourage you to really make
the most of being Greek. Much of your expe-
rience with Greek Life thus far - outside
of the recruitment process - has probably
been social. It's certainly one of the most vis-
ible elements of Greek Life, with hundreds
of tailgaters dancing outside a fraternity on
a Football Saturday or thousands of guests
"attending" an open party on Facebook. More
than likely, you've spent the weekend getting
to know your new brothers or sisters at social
events like these - and that's definitely not a
bad thing. But while fraternities and sorori-
ties are social by nature, there's a lot more
to Greek Life than the social scene, and we
think those aspects are what make the Greek
experience truly excellent.
In the-year ahead, you'll be presented with
opportunities to serve your chapter, and we
strongly encourage you to take them. Wheth-
er it's something small like attending a semi-
nar, volunteering to help plan an upcoming
philanthropy eventor a big commitment like
representing your chapter in Junior Panhel
or JIFC, giving back to your chapter makes
you more invested in its success. Between the
two of us, we've served fraternity and soror-
ity life in practically every capacity - ranging
from holding board positions in our chap-
ters, attending seminars put on by the Office
of Greek Life as freshmen to planning them
with our councils as seniors. We've attended
a combined total of 16 leadership conferences,
as near as the Michigan League and as far
away as Athens, Greece. We've even turned
our passion for Greek Life into professional
opportunities - Sarah will be interning with
her sorority this summer, while Rick just got
a full-time offer to be a traveling consultant
for his fraternity. So are we a little extreme

when it comes to Greek leadership? Maybe.
But when we joined our chapters three years
ago, we were clueless - we were just open to
getting involved.
A focus on things like scholarship, ath-
letics and philanthropy can enhance not
only your experience in Greek Life, but your
growth as a person as well. In addition to all
the resources that are already available to you
as a student, being Greek gives increased aca-
demic support - including access to new net-
works of study buddies in your class, advice
from older brothers and sisters in your major
and recognition through scholarship pro-
grams. Participation in intramural sports,
which has leagues exclusively for fraternities
and sororities, will teach you how to work
with your brothers and sisters as a team and
will be helpful both on and off the playing
field. And when Greeks come together to help
others, we can accomplish some astounding
things - our combined fundraising efforts
rival that of any campus service group, and
our hands-on work in the community helps
our neighbors directly and makes us better
men and women.
But while we think it's important to give
back to Greek Life, we also suggest that you
take advantage of all its benefits - the most
obvious one being brotherhood and sister-
hood. In the next few years, you'll become
closer to your pledge class than you could pos-
sibly imagine now, and they'll stay with you
for the rest of your life. They'll be there for
you in the good times - like when Rick took a
road trip to St. Louis with his brothers - and
in the bad times, like when Sarah's mom was
diagnosed with cancer last semester. These
bonds are the true benefit of going Greek, and
we urge you to develop them in every way
possible during your time in college.
With that in mind, we'd like to offer you
our congratulations once again and our best
wishes for the new member term ahead of
you. We sincerely hope that you'll get as much
out of your Greek experiences as we've gotten
out of ours.
Sarah Smith is an LSA senior. She is the
Panhellenic Association's vice president
of public relations. Rick Stepanovic is
an LSA senior. He is the Interfraternity
Council's vice president of recruitment.

To get into the University, we
all had to write an admis-
sions essay explaining the
importance of
diversity in our
lives. If you think
back to that
essay you wrote
in high school,
what's your opin-
ion of it? Because -
I'm willing to bet JEREMY
that most of you LEVY
would now con-
sider your essay
crap, hyperbole, cliche or all of the
above. And if you're like me, it's not
because you are opposed to diversi-
ty. It's because diversity has become
an empty buzzword that's too-often
trumpeted. As a friend of mine put it,
"If the University values diversity so
much, why is everyone here white?"
Indeed, in the U.S.- News and
World Report Diversity index, the
University scored a .43/1, with the
highest-ranking school (Rutgers)
scoring a.76. The "Diversity Matters
at Michigan" page may boast about
accepting students from 49 states,
but information about the racial
makeup of the University is limited.
Think of the diversity question as
a backdrop to the question discussed
on The New York Times Room for
Debate Blog last Wednesday, "Under
Obama, is America 'Post-Racial?"'
The academics on the blog seemed
to agree that if "post-racial" is sup-
posed to mean "racially equal," the
answer is a clear no. Among other
indicators, black and Latino unem-
ployment rates are 16 and 11 per-
cent respectively - well above the
national average of 9.1 percent.
But if the question is how the
country's public actors, most nota-
bly President Barack Obama, treat
race issues, the term "post-racial"
begins to make more sense. Obama
and the University are similar in
that they face huge political risks by
promoting race-conscious policies.

Rather, they advocate policies that
are intended to help everyone in the
hopes that disadvantaged minorities
will also benefit. Economic stimulus
is supposed to boost the economy
for everyone, just as all students are
supposed to benefit from a diverse
campus.
Unfortunately, as shown above,
these policies don't benefit every-
one equally. All indicators blatantly
show that minorities are still at a
severe disadvantage.
Yet, signs of a "post-racial" mind-
set pervade in many other ways.
If you look at the primary issues
covered by the political parties and
media cycles, it's difficult to tell that
there are even racial issues in the
country. Take discrimination for
example. This summer, I worked at
the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission in Washington D.C., a
government agency with the mis-
sion of ending employment discrimi-
nation in the United States. When
I told people about the job, many
expressed the belief that employ-
ment discrimination is no longer a
major problem.
One might reach the same con-
clusion from seeing how the rest of
Washington perceives the EEOC.
My first red flag was that the EEOC
offices are located in a building that
was a warehouse no more than 15
years ago, far removed from the
center of the city's activity. More
importantly, as any EEOC staffer
will tell you, Congress gives the
agency very little enforcement
power. EEOC is allowed to offer rec-
ommendations on the employment
practices of private companies and
other government agencies but has
no mechanism to make them oblige.
Generally speaking, the prevail-
ing view around the District was
that anti-discrimination initiatives
interfered with the presumably
more important work of the rest of
the agencies.
While such signs might lead one

to believe that discrimination hardly
occurs anymore, racial minorities
are likely to say that, on the contrary,
the problem is still very prevalent.
And research shows that there is
a large opinion gap between racial
groups on the issue.
Diversity has
become an empty
buzzword.j
In one recent study done through
the Association for Psychologi-
cal Science entitled "Whites See
Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That
They Are Now Losing," professors *
Michael I. Norton and Samuel R.
Sommers asked a nationwide sam-
ple to rate the seriousness of black
discrimination on a one to 10 scale
for each decade between 1950 and
the present. While most respon-
dents agreed on a rating of nine or
10 for the 1950s, white respondents
gave an average rating of 3.5 for
the present. Black respondents, on
the other hand, gave the present an
average rating of 6.
When it comes down to it, the
term "post-racial" can really only
apply to mindset and presentation.
Even though many issues dispro-
portionally affect minorities, public
figures almost always handle these
issues in race-neutral terms. And
issues that only affect minorities
tend to be forgotten altogether. To
an average white citizen minimally
invested in the news and political
discourse, it may very well appear
that racial problems in America have
been solved for decades.
- Jeremy Levy can be reached
at jeremlev@umich.edu.

p

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