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Amherst has no room on its plate for Guantanamo inmates

Much has been said in the media and in private discussions since the Amherst Select Board voted 2-1 last Monday to recommend a plan to move two Guantanamo Bay detainees to Amherst pending their potential release from the controversial prisoner-of-war camp in Cuba.

Town politicians were very eager to emphasize and reiterate that this plan is not as insane and farfetched as has been widely reported – and they may be right – but people will still see this as an openly un-patriotic, perhaps an even treasonous, gesture.

While no one is proposing building a statue of Osama bin Laden or reading the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic, Amherst is neither that insensitive nor that stupid. This plan represents another example of Amherst going out of its way to be overly politically correct, making a caricature of itself as the bleeding-heart lefty town that’s gone off its rocker. Passing this plan will only further embolden Fox News and the right in attacking Amherst as some crackpot den of dope-smoking freaks. Whether or not this plan even is all that sensational is practically irrelevant. It’s the symbolism of it that matters.

While Amherst’s motivations may be the best – it sincerely does care about the welfare of these inmates – the move emphatically places Amherst about as far out there on the political spectrum as Carl Everett or Pat Robertson and opens the door to ridicule and scolding for being a decidedly un-American, un-patriotic place.

Whether these accusations are fair or grounded is beside the point. Make no mistake about it, passing this move will only make Amherst fodder for more jokes about being a place filled with pink-haired communists.

Beyond that, are there not more pressing local issues?

Amherst is about to shut down an elementary school, we have people homeless here in Amherst, across the river in Northampton and just down the road in Holyoke, Mass., and Springfield. We have clear infrastructure problems at the University of Massachusetts, traffic congestion in Amherst, budget issues throughout the region, state, nation and world, and we in Amherst are most impassioned by the plight of two inmates stuck in limbo at a prison in Cuba?

The plan, introduced by Town Meeting member Ruth Hooke, also a member of the group Pioneer Valley for No More Guantanamos, is to offer two current inmates who have been deemed non-threatening to America, the chance to move to Amherst once they have been released from the prison and when the current ban on allowing freed detainees to come to America is lifted.

Presently, those released from Guantanamo and other U.S. prison camps around the world may not come to America upon their release.

Hooke’s warrant article, as the proposal is called, has two components. One part calls for ending the ban on freed detainees emigrating to America. The other part calls for offering the two inmates in question the chance to come to Amherst.

Now, wait for it. Nothing has happened with this, yet.

The Select Board must vote to either recommend or not recommend every warrant article going before the town meeting. Their recommendation is non-binding and really has no bearing on the fate of the proposal, which lies with the Town Meeting, which commences Nov. 2.

Not to dismiss the struggles of these men, but shouldn’t we be working on making Amherst a livelier, safer, richer and happier community, rather than opening the door to ridicule from mainstream America in the hopes of saving accused terrorists?

Amherst is taking on this endeavor with the right intentions, but come on, man, can’t we worry about Guantanamo after we, say, close the budget gap, pave the roads, end local injustice, feed the poor, you know, one of those issues which people are usually getting all worked up about?

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board

Comments
6 Responses to “Amherst has no room on its plate for Guantanamo inmates”
  1. Pac Man says:

    “Make no mistake about it, passing this move will only make Amherst fodder for more jokes about being a place filled with pink-haired communists.”

    Good to know the editorial board is full of a bunch of wussies. Usually you have people of character in opinion sections.

    “Amherst is about to shut down an elementary school, we have people homeless here in Amherst, across the river in Northampton and just down the road in Holyoke, Mass., and Springfield. We have clear infrastructure problems at the University of Massachusetts, traffic congestion in Amherst, budget issues throughout the region, state, nation and world, and we in Amherst are most impassioned by the plight of two inmates stuck in limbo at a prison in Cuba?”

    Not focusing on two people is going to solve those problems? What the hell does repairing UMass have to do with the town of Amherst?

    Pac Man gives you all two thumbs way down on the basis of being a bunch of pansies and probably writing this while high and without rationality.

  2. Kevin says:

    “Whether these accusations are fair or grounded is beside the point. Make no mistake about it, passing this move will only make Amherst fodder for more jokes about being a place filled with pink-haired communists.”

    So be it. If there are those who would ridicule giving a home to a released prisoner then I don’t care what they have to say about me. These people pose no threat and have no place to go, they just need a home. Sure, Amherst has its fair share of problems to deal with, but I don’t that taking in these couple men is going to radically change the rate that we “end local injustice and feed the poor”.

  3. jim morgan says:

    Let them come. Just make sure they live next to Ms. Hooke and the other member who voted for the resolution.

  4. Zack says:

    Pac Man you sure like to claim that no one uses any “rationality” but I have yet to see you attempt to make a rational argument, or any argument for that matter.

  5. Nick says:

    To those in favor of hosting the prisoners: Why not invite the released inmates of the correctional facility in Springfield into your homes? Because it’s a bad idea. It’s not safe. Beyond that, it’s irresponsible and selfish to try to make this decision for everyone else in our community, as it would undoubtedly affect their lives. There are better ways to prove a point that don’t involve endangering our community.

  6. Karen says:

    I graduated from U-Mass in the 70s, stayed in the Happy Valley, consider myself liberal, and was disgusted when I first read of this hare-brained proposal in the Amherst Bulletin. If these fools want to prove their liberalism, international social conscience, or their anti-military sentiments let them work with organizations like Marigold to directly help the people of villages in Afganistan? Have they even thought beyond the day they bring these men to live here? Where will they live, who will pay for their housing, will they work or will the taxpayer support them? Have they even given consideration to the idea that these men may just want to retun to their families in Afganistan? Most importantly, what do they even really know about these men except for what the pro bono lawyers representing them tell them? A fools errand!

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