Letters to the editor: November 5, 2009
I would like to start by thanking the powers that be for distributing The Collegian to North Apartments again. I awoke on Monday morning to a text from my roommate saying, “You did it. Yahh. Newspapers in north.” If he and I are putting too much stock in my letter’s impact on The Collegian, I can’t say; although, I would like to think I touched the hearts of readers with my odyssey-esque adventure that was formerly required to find a copy of the paper. In any case, the paper is back in North and since I’m not one to question Providence, we’ll leave it at that.
I’m glad The Collegian is back in North. Otherwise, I would have certainly missed Alex Perry’s column entitled, “Not in my backyard.” Mr. Perry, as always, delivers a spot-on analysis of the situation, but there were a couple points I would like to elaborate on:
In his column, he states that, “any chance above zero is a chance I’m not willing to take.” A noble concept, but everyone must realize that, not only is this impossible to achieve, but attempting such a feat would mean a virtual elimination of civil liberties.
He also denounces Amherst for debating and approving “resolutions such as urging the United States to use diplomacy and avoid military action against Iran, opposing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.” I’ve always said that opposing genocide is a gateway to allowing terrorist attacks…
In any case, I was not aware that being proactive in one’s government was a flaw. I shall be sure to keep that in mind. Furthermore, unless my understanding of the English language has failed me, I was under the impression that a “select board” was “selected” by the people, who share similar ideals to those they “selected.” Of course, Mr. Perry believes that people “take their ideals too far.” Again, not something I realized was a flaw.
Finally, Mr. Perry argues that just because there are some innocent prisoners in Guantanamo, “that doesn’t justify releasing all of them.” I couldn’t agree more. Luckily, they aren’t all being released. Most of them will be transferred to high-security prisons.
I hope these minor suggestions have helped strengthen Mr. Perry’s point, and thank you for allowing me the pleasure to read such well thought out columns on a daily basis.
Alan R Levin
RE: “On grammar;” Brian Benson, October 29
In Brian Benson’s article “On Grammar,” he claims that “it is easy to imagine why … using the masculine pronoun for a human antecedent whose gender is not otherwise specified upsets a lot of people.”
He then goes on to prove he is not one of these said understanding people, making the ridiculous claim that women should be flattered and contented by the use of feminine pronouns to personify liberty, nature, truth and knowledge. As flattered as I am to be personally aligned with such lofty ideas – emphasis on ideas – it is sometimes nice to be associated with my own species. You know, “mankind.” Benson eventually admits that he “[does] not quite understand why” women may have the wild desire to be included in references to humankind, and conversely I challenge him (futile, I know) to imagine growing up and living in a world where men are lumped into “womankind,” where he is alienated and excluded from all of the “classics” he mentions, down to the very Constitution of his country, the one that denied him the right to vote until 1920.
Benson should understand that the argument about gender pronouns extends beyond what he terms “linguistic diplomacy” precisely because there is a history of sexism in this country and in the world, which is why we have ubiquitous terms like “mankind” in the first place; therefore, these arguments have to be discussed in this context. Conveniently, the task of specifying “s/he” of “her/him” seems to be an arduous and pointless one for Benson. It even contributes to “the trend of increasingly clunky language,” a troubling trend which surely warrants precedence over equal gender representation.
RE: “Amherst has no room on its plate for Guantanamo inmates;” October 28 2009
Both courage and conviction are conspicuously missing from The Collegian editorial board’s Oct. 28 statement on Amherst Town Meeting. Town Meeting is considering a warrant article that would call upon the U.S. government to allow wrongfully imprisoned detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison to resettle in this country, and would declare Amherst’s openness to two of the detainees making their homes here. The editorial barely touches the principle at play, and makes two faulty arguments against the warrant article.
The background: The detainees were held for up to seven years without charge before the government concluded that they were wrongfully arrested in the first place. They cannot return to their home countries for fear of racial or political persecution there, and are currently banned from living in the U.S. once released. America has always promised freedom from persecution for millions. Amherst will lead the nation in renewing this promise if it passes the article.
The arguments: First, municipal government should focus on local issues. Of course. But to spend a small portion of one meeting passing a nonbinding article would do nothing to detract from the town government’s duties and in fact is rooted in a tradition of local statements of solidarity with struggling people – local governments have been passing nonbinding resolutions on global and national issues since the days of slavery. Second, Amherst will be ridiculed by conservative commentators as living up to its “lefty” reputation if it passes the article. Shallow shouting from pundits and blog posters is almost inevitable in an issue as touchy as this one, but to argue against doing the right thing simply because some will mock or criticize is to walk a dangerous path that leads to moral paralysis.
The editorial echoes language from blog posts describing the warrant article as “un-American.” The Collegian’s editors should know better than to bow to the use of this cheap word, infamously used to quash the most American value of political freedom during the unthinking mass fear of the McCarthy era.
The editorial is a symptom of a national problem: The loudest voices in today’s media are those that flatten multi-faceted issues into cardboard cutouts. These voices abuse rational fears and warp human stories to win ratings for irrational and inhumane coverage. They reinforce the notion, fatal to democracy, that dissent is treasonous. The Collegian, as a laboratory of ethical journalism, can do better.