|December 6th, 2013||#1|
Linder: College Writings
This thread will contain everything I published in college. I attended college from 1984-88, graduating from Pomona College (Claremont, Calif.) with a degree in international relations. I wrote for Student Life, PC's student publication, as well as for Collage, a newspaper serving the five-campus community there in Claremont (other schools being Pitzer, Harvey Mudd, Scripps and the graduate school).
When I wrote these articles, I was a conservative. On racial matters, although I acknowledged the facts about black behavior, I was an individualist. I truly believed, from reading professional conservatives, that such problems as blacks had were due to bad federal policies rather than inherent racial traits. Time was to disabuse me - time and living in Washington, D.C., where I moved after graduation. The point is, this is larval me. I didn't believe then what I know to be true now, but you can see the start of the evolutionary path.
All the writings I'm going to place in this thread will be linked at the master index in this Showcase, where they will be listed chronologically. In this thread, I'll just post them as I come across them and type them in.
|December 6th, 2013||#2|
[this was an opinion piece i wrote as a sophomore. back then, apartheid and divestment were big campus issues. divestment meaning the libs were trying to get their various institutions to pull out of companies doing business with South Africa, which still had apartheid at that time. this was one of the biggest 'issues' on campus during the mid-eighties, along with debate over communism in Central America, namely danny ortega and the commies in Nicaragua and the similar battle in El Salvador. Very hot issues then, unheard of after the reagan administration left office. reagan's man in South African policy was chester crocker, and he urged 'constructive engagement' with the country, and i'm more or less parroting the partyline without actually using the term. feel free to comment in this thread, i dont mind. keep in mind that this article is written BEFORE the internet existed (for the public). i recall being abroad in germany in 1987 and seeing a jew use email, first time i had ever heard of or seen the thing. just remember what Steven Barry said, which goes for me too, and should for you: i reserve the right to grow more intelligent.]
[published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, October 24, 1986]
South African Economics As A Carrot, Not a Stick
By Alex Linder
We may question the order of priorities that made it so, but there is no denying that South Africa, on college campuses at least, has become the major foreign policy issue of the 1980's. Let us then attempt to define the proper policy for the United States.
To begin, let us note that American foreign policy must necessarily be primarily concerned with the protection of American interests, strategic and otherwise. The world is full of nasty people intent on doing nasty things. Unfortunately, the U.S. must ally itself with certain countries run by this type of person in the interest of serving a loftier goal: the preservation of the Free World. While it is true that the U.S. may be allied with several authoritarian regimes, can you think of any truly free country that is neither allied with nor protected by the U.S.?
South Africa is an historical anachronism; a bit of twentieth century Europe bordering Sub-Saharan Third World. It is perhaps the one country in which American moral concerns and strategic/economic interests are hardest to reconcile. Nevertheless, we must strive to remember that South Africa is hardly the "worst" or most evil country in the world. We must keep in mind that while the white elite may have killed 2000 blacks over the last two or three years, the Soviet Union has systematically waged what amounts to a genocidal war in Afghanistan, killing over half a million Afghans in the process. Still, the U.S. must strive to do what it reasonably can to bring about an end to apartheid while at the same time protecting the rights of the white minority as well as American interests.
Currently, economic sanctions have been deemed by most to be the best instruments for bringing about change in South Africa. Interestingly enough, the balance of scholarly studies shows sanctions to be extremely ineffective tools for obtaining foreign policy goals. Generally, when the country imposing sanctions lacks near-total control over the "target" country, sanctions will fail. The United States has a relatively small amount of money directly invested in South Africa; Britain has more than twice as much. Oil is the only mineral that South Africa cannot do without that is supplied in part by the U.S. However, South Africa has at least a two-year supply in reserve and could resort to rationing and alternate fuels (oil makes for only twenty percent of the Republic's energy requirements) such as gasohol if coerced. In fact, South Africa has vastly more economic leverage over the West, and the U.S. in particular. South Africa supplies the West with metals vitally needed for military and heavy industrial uses. Of several of the most important minerals (vanadium, manganese, and chrome), the Soviet Union is the largest alternative supplier.
Strategically, South Africa is the key to southern and central Africa. The ANC, should it gain power, would undoubtedly form a socialist, Moscow-leaning government; by most accounts, roughly half the members of the congress are self-admitted communists. An ANC takeover would assuredly result in the destruction of Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA freedom fighters, as well as other anti-communist forces in countries such as Mozambique currently supported by the Botha government.
It is my belief that sanctions will not only fail to abolish apartheid, they will exacerbate racial tensions and further entrench the white ruling elite. The U.S., even acting in concert with Britain and West Germany, does not possess enough economic leverage to impose a heavy enough burden on South African whites to get them to dismantle apartheid. I suspect that the cost to the Afrikaner of relinquishing power could never be equalled by any economic cost the West is capable of imposing. Rather than using sanctions as a stick, I believe we ought to use them as a carrot.
While calling for divestment and other punitive sanctions may be rhetorically and moralistically pleasing, in practice sanctions will do little more than impose minor economic costs on South Africa -- costs that will undoubtedly be disproportionately borne by South African blacks, the very people we are ostensibly trying to help. The claims of groups like SAA [Students Against Apartheid] notwithstanding, American firms are forces for good in South Africa and not integral props for apartheid.
I believe that increased American investment is a better solution. It may well be that with increased economic expansion there will be greater social mobility for blacks leading to greater political leverage and in time equality. It seems likely that enhanced trade relations might encourage the more moderate whites, and lead to the breakdown of apartheid. The alternative, punitive sanctions, will lead to white hardliner entrenchment and contribute to what may well be a coming civil war. Finally, apartheid is essentially an internal South African issue; to the extent that we can do anything at all we ought to use our economic and political leverage to try to unify rather than polarize that sorely troubled nation.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 03:26 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#3|
[news article published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, December 11, 1987]
NATO Commander Addresses Claremont
By Alex Linder
Recently resigned NATO commander Bernard Rogers gave an address titled "Disarmament and the Balance of Power" at the Bauer Center on Wednesday, November 18.
As Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, Rogers was directly concerned with the defense-related issues encompassed in the INF treaty, and he spent most of his speech critiquing the treaty and its effect on the NATO-Warsaw Pact balance.
Rogers said that his job was to determine what was best for NATO as a whole. NATO, he pointed out, is made up of fifteen free and independent democracies, many of which are headed by coalitions, making effective leadership frequently difficult.
Rogers also noted that the U.S. and Europe have different sets of concerns. While the U.S. is worried about friction in Europe leading to an American nuclear response, the Europeans oscillate between fear of isolation and getting into an unwanted war.
Turning to the Warsaw Pact, Rogers described Pact attempts to intimidate, coerce, and blackmail the nations of the West which are integral to the Pact's long-term goal of world domination by means of an expansionist foreign policy.
"Gorbachev," said Rogers, "does not have the best interests of the West on his priority list." Rogers went on to note that despite glasnost's facade of openness, there have been no "changes of substance in Soviet foreign policy." The Soviet Union continues to devote 17 percent of its GNP to defense, a significantly higher figure than in the U.S. Further, noted Rogers, membership in NATO is voluntary, unlike the Warsaw Pact.
Before addressing the INF treaty specifically, Rogers laid the groundwork concerning the role of NATO and the recent history of arms control. According to him, the U.S. forward deploys over 300,000 American troops in Europe as a measure of our commitment to defend Europe.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 03:26 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#4|
[this article led to an epiphany - there was an uproad over the 'christian nation' part. for the first time i realized how strongly jews/queers hated christianity. i also realized, by the response to this article, that there are lots of queers and queer fans out there, and they are extremely hostile to rational discussion of their behavior - even more than jews]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, September 18, 1987]
AIDS and Reason
By Alex Linder
Around since the turn of the decade, and only in public focus over the last four years, the disease AIDS has become the most often discussed disease, surpassing even cancer. And why not? With no known cure and a steadily increasing death toll, a solution to the problem remains high on the public agenda. So why all the fuss?
Simply put, although everybody hopes a medical solution will be found, the temporary solution, prevention, touches on issues of morality, sex education, and religion; issues on which sectors of the public are long accustomed to debating.
After years of hearing, reading, and seeing warnings about AIDS, two impressions imbed themselves in one's consciousness: first, AIDS is not a gay disease - anyone can get it. Second, the spread of AIDS is best checked by the use of condoms. Both these beliefs, fostered and diffused by the media, are misleading. The first, while true, is irrelevant. The second is a value judgment based on values peculiar to liberals. Combined, the nationwide promulgation of these beliefs represents and abdication of journalistic responsibility as well as a stake through the heart of the vampire of common sense.
True it is, that anyone may contract AIDS; therefore AIDS is not per se a gay disease. True it also is, that AIDS is a gay disease, in the same sense that America is a Christian nation - most AIDS sufferers are gay and most Americans are Christian. At the risk of being boring, let me point out a simple fact seldom covered by the media other than George Will. Homosexuals engage in anal sex, the primary means of transmission of the virus responsible for AIDS. Anal sex between homosexuals involves the insertion of one man's penis into the rectum of another, a wholly unnatural act that leads to the ripping of rectal tissue and, accordingly, the mixing of infected semen and blood. Unpleasant as these facts are to think about, they are central to any public discussion of the spread of AIDS along with methods of prevention. For AIDS, in America at least, is primarily a homosexual phenomenon - a fact it is dangerous to ignore because of the ramifications it has for our public health policy as determined officially by the government and unofficially by the media.
Prescriptively the media functions as little more than purveyors of panegyrics to their perceived panacea for promiscuity - the condom. Distribute enough of the little buggers, they say, and we can lick any STD. As previously opined, this solution is based on uniquely liberal sentiments, sentiments similarly underlying the liberal approach to sex education. It is an approach that might be referred to as the body-as-toy theory. Adumbrated: the body is a toy; toys are to have fun with; have fun with your body. Contrast this with a restrained, yet neither puritanical nor prude, conservative approach, and the media bias becomes obvious. If conservatives dominated the public forum, the accent would be on long-term, faithful, heterosexual relationships as the key to stopping AIDS. As it is, the powers that be operate on the assumption that such views are outdated and unrealistic, since teenagers are going to have sex anyway. Thus the dominant view is that causal sex between properly equipped partners is the solution as opposed to self restraint or even abstinence.
An excellent example of the bias of the media is the August 10  edition of Newsweek. The editors manifestly intend to promote the view that AIDS is a threat to everyone. The cover has twenty-four pictures of people who died from AIDS. Those pictured are by no means typical AIDS sufferers. Black, white, Hispanic, young, old, male, female - anyone can find a counterpart whose death makes the threat to his own life more convincing. And the text backs up the impression imparted from the cover: "Some commentators have found a degree of comfort in the statistics, as if AIDS had been satisfactorily contained in an alien population. It has not been: it has struck to the quick of American life." I leave it to the reader to determine whether the deaths of 23,000 people, 90% of whom are homosexuals or drug users, does indeed represent a strike "to the quick of American life," or, alternatively, a debilitating blow to two of the seamiest subcultures in the nation. The lead article concludes with the assertion that, "the fallen in these pages [a month-by-month pictorial of selected AIDS victims over the last year] bear silent witness to the fact that we are still hostage to AIDS." Interesting application of "hostage." Hostage implies a passive agent who is aggressively seized and held against his will. Yet AIDS, as we are constantly assured, is very difficult to contract. One essentially contracts AIDS of his own volition - by deliberately choosing to engage in acts that court the killer - anal sex or needle sharing, for example. Use of "hostage" would be appropriate if it had been or ever is found that AIDS may be spread by infected mosquitoes - modern-day equivalents of the fleas that spread the Black Plague in the middle ages.
A similar tack is taken by James Hurley whose talk for a conference on AIDS was printed in Newsweek. Mr. Hurley's basic attitude was that "there would be a pill or a drug or an antibiotic that would kill any sexually transmitted disease" he had. In other words, Hurley screwed around as much as he wanted and counted on medical science to bail himi out. All well and good - if one is willing to accept the consequences - which Hurley is not. As he says, with words representative of the attitudes of both gays and the media, "There's no such thing as being an innocent or guilty victim of AIDS." But isn't Hurley actually a victim of his own stupidity and poor judgment? He chose to engage in practices famous for spreading venereal disease and hepatitis. The baby who contracted it from his mother, the hemophiliac who received an infected transfusion are the true victims. They suffer from something they did not bring on themselves and are deserving of public sympathy. But gay losers of sexual roulette had better rely on saints for sympathy. They won't get it from the general population.
Finally, the pictorial spread is interesting in that of the 301 people pictured, only twelve are women. It is obvious, despite Newsweek's attempts to shift the focus, that the AIDS crisis is a gay crisis. Under each picture there is a caption including the name, age, occupation, and home city of the deceased. There is also a short statement. Although intended to win our sympathy for the loss of these important members of the "American family," as Newsweek likes to call it, these public epitaphs are lugubrious to a point seldom reached without the aid of alcohol. Typical is Stephen Weddell, 31, an accountant from San Francisco whose caption reads: "He kept his humor and died in a Pee-Wee Herman t-shirt."
This column has been written with the unexamined premise that AIDS is not easily spread. That is, AIDS is not spread by mosquitoes, other insects, or light physical contact. If further research belies this premise, then two things will come about. Heterosexuals and others not currently affected will have to do more to ensure their survival than restraining their sexual activity. Second, there will be a greatly intensified anti-homosexual feeling throughout the country. Why? Because now gays are standing in the way of the most commonplace measures to ensure public health. Gays lobby against contact tracing and mandatory testing and generally anything that serves to isolate AIDS sufferers from the general population.
"Fight the fear with facts," the media is fond of saying. And yet how difficult it is to find the words "homosexual" and "anal sex" on any anti-AIDS poster. How rare the public statement in favor of sexual restraint as opposed to physical protection. Lastly, how sad the media's rush to make Americans feel collectively guilty has so surrounded the facts relating to the spread of AIDS with hypocrisy and euphemism as to have sunk public discussion, as George Orwell once said, "to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 05:20 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#5|
[good example of an article that would have been much stronger if the internet existed, which would allow to look up origins of term, and pull out the APA shift in categorizing homo behavior from disorder to normal. but you can clearly see, i was on the right track. my impulse and instinct were correct, i simply didn't know enough to grasp the whole context]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, November 20, 1987]
The Use and Abuse of 'Homophobia'
By Alex Linder
Once in a while it's nice to consider some of the more recent additions to the public vocabulary. One of the most frequently heard words brought into vogue with the emergence of AIDS is the term "homophobia," which I take to mean (since I can't find it in the dictionary) fear or hatred of homosexuals or homosexuality.
I believe that this ill-conceived term is a misapplied in a way injurious to serious public debate on AIDS and other issues central to the gay-rights movement.
First of all, homophobia is bad grammar. The root 'homo' comes from Latin and means 'man' or 'human being.' Thus, homophobia means fear or hatred of man.
Or, if you prefer, it comes from the Greek homos and means 'same.' The hatred or fear of sameness?
Then again, the dictionary informs me that 'homo' is slang for homosexual.
But beyond this relatively innocuous abuse of semantics lies a danger in the application of the word - an application reflecting a subtle, not to say insidious, intent of gay-rights lobbyists.
Homosexuals and defenders label as homophobic anyone who refuses to accept a homosexual relationship as the moral equivalent of a heterosexual one. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of the group that probably the majority of Americans fit into: those who neither fear nor hate homosexuals, but nevertheless insist that homosexuality, while to be tolerated, is not to be morally condoned.
The gay-rights movement doesn't accept the proposition that one can judge immoral a particular act that another engages in without fearing or hating (or even judging) that individual. There is no middle ground. You're either a bat-wielding fag-basher or totally supportive of the homosexuals' political agenda.
The value of the buzz-word 'homophobic' to those in the gay community is clear. It can stigmatize and instantly discredit the arguments of anyone against whom it is applied, much as 'racist' and 'sexist' have in the past.
To be sure, there are people to whom the word homophobic can reasonably be applied. These are people who attack homosexuals physically and verbally, simply because they dislike homosexuals. But those who employ homophobic are indiscriminate. Instead of limiting its use to true homophobes, they use it as a political tool for intimidating anyone who refuses to accept their own views carte blanche.
As an example of the power of certain words, consider the use of the adjective racist. To many people, you're a racist or you aid racism if you support Reagan's policy toward South Africa or his dislike of quotas as the way to achieve affirmative action. And obviously no one wants to be on the side of racism.
Consider further Shockley, the geneticist who posited a genetic explanation for the widely observed differences in test scores between blacks and whites. He was denounced by many as a racist.
There were few indeed who strove to make the scientific case against him, rather he was called racist for even suggesting such a possibility. Such a charge leads to the end of rational debate and the preservation of cherished societal taboos. Anyone who believes in pursuing truth for truth's sake, as well presumably do, ought to be offended by the attempts at what is in effect censorship from those who are afraid of what might be discovered.
So far homosexuals have met with a reasonable amount of success in intimidating the public. Very few intellectuals are willing to defend attitudes or positions the gay-rights movement deems homophobic. In the initial stages of the AIDS invasion, as Randy Shilts has shown in his book And The Band Played On, gays successfully fought against the closing of the bathhouses where the virus was diffused among the homosexual population in San Francisco.
No doubt those who initially advocated the closing were labeled homophobic. And similarly labeled are those who oppose anything that takes away from the ultimate gay-rights goal: an amendment barring any form of discrimination against people on account of their sexual orientation.
As it stands now, the gay-rights movement will continue to level charges of homophobia against the majorities in certain communities who are willing to deprive of certain civil rights those who engage in certain acts with others of the same sex. I suspect that eventually, however, 'homophobia' will see its political usefulness neutralized as the majority of Americans refuse the homosexuals the special protection they demand, granting them only the constitutional protection they deserve and have always had.
Finally, I'd like to go on the offensive and suggest heterophobia as a new addition to the public vocabulary. It fits perfectly. It's bad grammar with as much conceptual validity as homophobia. It applies to those who use the word homophobic to describe those who neither hate nor fear homosexuality. Thus, I might say that the heterophobic ravings of the homosexual community in response to my "AIDS and Reason" article were typical of the liberal mindset which uses emotion and stigmatization as weapons against those espousing views counter to those they themselves are unwilling to submit to logical examination and would have us accept without debate.
It is the essence of heterophobia to blast me as a 'homophobe' because of my acknowledgement of the fact that anal sex between homosexual males is, to date in America, the primary means of transmission of the AIDS virus and my conclusion that this fact ought to be paramount in any discussion of ways of stopping the spread of AIDS - something I desire as much as anyone.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 07:59 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#6|
[news article published in Pomona College's The Student Life, ??? ]
State Department Lecturer Visits CMC
By Alex Linder
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Reilly spoke on U.S. foreign policy in Nicaragua at CMC's Bauer Center last Monday night. Recently returned from El Salvador where he served as Chief of Special Forces, Reilly currently tours the U.S. as a State Department spokesman giving speeches to colleges and other organizations.
Reilly began his speech by saying that he would try to answer two questions: First, how can a little country like Nicaragua be a threat to the U.S.? Second, is Nicaragua likely to become another Vietnam?
Regarding the first question, Reilly referred to the importance of sea lanes to American oil imports and projection of military power.
Cuba takes care of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, while Nicaragua, possessing the largest airfield in Central America on its Pacific coast, allows the Soviets to sail directly from Cam Ranh in Vietnam to Nicaragua in Central America, a region the Soviets see as our strategic rear, according to Reilly. The danger, as Reilly sees it, is that the U.S. has new areas to be concerned about in what used to be uncontested waters.
Shifting from strategic questions, Reilly discussed the nature of the Sandinista regime. Claiming that the Sandinistas have received $2 billion from the Soviets since their takeover in 1979, Reilly mentioned other nations and groups like PLO and Vietnam that give the Sandinistas support because, as Libyan ruler Khadaffi has said, "they fight the U.S. on their own ground."
Regarding the Arias plan, the Sandinistas signed the pact because of contra pressure, Reilly said. He went on to lament that there is nothing in the treaty limiting Soviet monetary support and no way of enforcement should one country not "measure up," save whatever international pressure Costa Rican President and Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias can summon.
Returning to his second overarching question, Reilly said that Nicaragua doesn't have to be another Vietnam if America is willing to face the problem now. Backing off, he asserts, will only lead to a higher price we'll have to pay later.
After the speech was over, Reilly fielded a series of questions from the audience, which was roughly split between liberals and conservatives. In response to the question that if Nicaragua was such a great threat we ought to invade it ourselves, Reilly said that most draft-aged men don't want to fight there. He also asserted that an on-and-off approach to contra aid has limited the effectiveness of the contras, whose strength he places between ten and fifteen thousand men.
After the first few questions the atmosphere in the room grew heated, and certain participants began to interrupt Reilly's answers, drawing counterreponses from those wanting to hear Reilly out. Finally, an unidentified CMC man told Pitzer Professor Dana Ward, who insistently demanded a debate, to "grow up." Ward responded over the ensuing ruckus: "I'm speaking the truth to Power; Power sits up there and lies."
Order was partially restored and questions turned to other subjects such as human rights and death squads in El Salvador. Reilly answered with a short history of terrorism in El Salvador and figures portraying a vastly decreased level of death squad activity. He also evinced distrust of certain human rights organizations, such as Americas Watch, many of which he believes are either biased or not allowed by the Sandinistas the freedom necessary for a full documentation of Sandinista abuses. At this point the meeting officially broke up, but several people remained for another two hours to debate informally.
Small groups then formed around Reilly, Ward, and a Nicaraguan refugee in the audience. Reilly made some observations about his receptions at other colleges (frequently hostile) and his dealings with the media when he was in El Salvador (he found them antagonistic at the time, but believes they're "coming around" now).
Other points brought out in this final question and answer period included Reilly's assertion that the Sandinistas have little internal support (29% in a 1981 poll he claims is the most recent the Sandinistas have allowed). Pressed hard on human rights abuses by the contras, he spoke of National Directorate Minister of the Interior Tomas Borge's Special Operations Forces whom he says commit atrocities while pretending to be contras. Further, Reilly opined, "If the Sandinistas were right-wing, this crowd would be hanging 'em."
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 06:16 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#7|
[see the start of my baiting, "far be it from" oh no, it be not far at all, it be very close to heart. have to understand these pieces are written amid huge academic workload, with leftist eyes everywhere over your shoulder over your head under your nuts...this is a quick flip off. but then again, this was the only stuff i put real effort into and genuinely cared about, 100x more than my academic work, which was recycling unrecylcables ]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life ???]
Will Porsche GO Cigarette Route?
By Alex Linder
Sometimes it's the little things that make you stand up and shout "What the hell's going on?" Little things that seem merely quirky until your mind extracts the general from the particular. Listen to a little story from the hinterlands of Massachusetts.
Now far be it from me to question the latest political wisdom from the Bay State. From O'Neill to Kennedy to Studds, Massachusetts has an august legislative history a peon like me would never deign [sic - dare] demean. Nevertheless, let me suggest that this time one honorable East Coaster has advanced an idea truly beyond the pale of civilized discourse, as William F. Buckley might say.
Her name is Mary Jeanette Murray. She is a representative from Cohasset. And she's got a hang-up about cars. Well, car commercials anyway.
You see, in their attempts to get people to buy their product, car producers show cars doing all sorts of nasty things. Oh, you know. Going fast. Making sharp turns. Racing along mountain roads. Mary can't stand this. I mean, what about the minds of the kiddies?
So Mary is out to save them. She's sponsoring a bill that would forbid the airing of any commercial that would "glorify the speed, maneuverability, and performance of a motor vehicle," in order to "protect young people against the wrong impressions." And they say Utah is backward because you can't talk about sex-ed!
Oh, and one other thing. Mary thinks her idea is so great that she wants to spread it. Yeah, that's right. She's encouraged the Massachusetts legislature to press Congress to enact similar bans. So one day your state might be the beneficiary of Mary's pearl of wisdom. Something to look forward to in these times of woe!
But it makes you wonder. Whatever happened to America -- the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Now it's the Home of the Wimp and the Land of the Free to Drive under Fifty-Six. For Chrissakes, even in Germany, a welfare state if there ever was one, you can drive as fast as you want.
America is supposed to be a wild, adventurous place - the place where a person can go to do what s/he wants. America is free spirited. America is where explorers explored, pioneers moved West, and you could say whatever you wanted to whomever you wanted because you had the same rights as everybody else. America is not a place where well-meaning state legislators tell us what's good for us. We're adults and we'll do what we want - would-be Big Sisters be damned.
Mary-Jeanette Murray may have been born here, but she sure ain't an American.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 06:55 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#8|
[my good-bye piece, which was published with good-riddance added unprofessionally on at the bottom by my jewess-feminist editor Kopec]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life (spring 88)]
(That's German for Adios)
By Alex Linder
And so we draw to a close.
I handed in my thesis today. I guess that means I'm out of here in a couple of weeks. As this is our last paper, some last thoughts would seem to be in order.
I suppose I could review my litany of personal complaints against the liberal Pomona hierarchy: no conservative professors in the departments that need them most (government, history); the liberal-er-than-thou attitude of the administration, the pompous attempts of Sean Morley to censor (phrased as revising the guidelines) opinions articles he deems offensive. But all that doesn't seem that important right now.
The future is what's important.
Attitudes will change. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, professors were conservative. The sixties saw a change in morality and ways of looking at the world. Now, obviously, many of the sixties anti-establishment types required institutionalization; the problem was that they got into the wrong institution - academia. This too will pass.
Now, I know that there are a great many conservatives at Pomona. As opposed to the faculty, the student body is decidedly less liberal. I can't claim, as Nixon did, that a silent majority exists, but I do claim that conservatives are a large silent minority.
The future of conservatism at Pomona is wholly dependent on individuals stepping forward and proclaiming their beliefs. Without such effort what's to stop us from becoming another Pitzer?
The major danger I see in Pomona's future is the shutting down of any serious campus political debate. As it is, we are perilously close. What my experience has shown is that merely refusing to step to the drumbeat of "enlightened" opinion brings down the wrath of the administration. In my own experience, many liberals in positions of power are for freedom of speech until they read something they disagree with. Liberals have done a truly remarkable job in persuading the American populace that certain things are taboo; there are certain things you just can't discuss. There are some things liberals believe you just can't say.
The other day, someone wanted me to sign a petition calling for expanded efforts to hire, admit, etc., racial minorities, women, etc. I refused. This petition, by itself, is a perfect example of the problem facing Pomona. It represents a laughable conception of the problems facing our college. We seem to continually chastise ourselves for not being on the cutting edge of whatever is thought proper at the Ivy League colleges and Stanford.
The central irony of Pomona is this: We constantly seek to diversify the student body by admitting various minorities. Meanwhile, we tolerate a de facto discrimination in the professoriate against non-liberals - a minority that is defined by its difference in outlook. Evidently, what our administration hopes to create is a big happy band of like-minded 'individuals.'
We are in serious danger of shutting out a whole segment of opinion. I call on those conservatives left here to come forward and write and try to make up for what doesn't exist in the classroom. If you don't come forward, it's the same as Khadaffi's Line of Death. Over time, tradition builds, and has the same effect as law. Translated, people become so unused to conservative thinking that they don't want to publish it. Because they are never exposed to it in the classroom, they are utterly at a loss when it comes to understanding what truly is another perspective. Real diversity means that college students are exposed to people who believe different things, people who are libertarians and socialists and communists and conservatives. We are a college. That means we have a devotion to things intellectual. Why then do we focus on such narrow things as physical differences between the members of our community when there are deficiencies in our intellectual makeup that cry out for attention?
Here at the newspaper, it's been quite a struggle. Cynthia and I have battled long and hard over what I am allowed to say. Needless to say, I have lost almost all the battles. The point is that here at Pomona we have a newspaper. Part of that newspaper is devoted to Opinions. In this space, students may write about world affairs or issues of campus concern. I became Opinions editor because I wanted to provide people with a perspective I felt was missing in many of my classes. One of my principal epiphanies has been that Pomona college is not an ivory tower.
Another big joke at Pomona: Hearing the feminists and other minorities complain about not being heard or having their concerns represented. Yeah, right. Who dares to say anything against these groups? Not even necessarily against them, but who dares to say anything that isn't exactly what they want. The attitude seems to be that anything about feminists they didn't write or approve is offensive and unprintable. I suggest that the possibility that people will be offended not be the standard by which newspapers are edited. John Stuart Mill defended freedom of the press, not freedom of the press as long as we don't hurt anybody's feelings.
My conception of a college newspaper is as a forum for debate. Lots of people with lots of points of view, well thought out and expressed with a certain youthful rebelliousness. The reality of Student Life is a stodgy, liberal paper. We've come full circle. Back in the sixties, campus newspapers were used as forums for lambasting the administration. Nowadays the liberal editors are in almost total sympathy with the deans and the president. Like I already said, the competition at this campus is over whether the students or the administration can be more liberal. Did you see Eric Shah's comment in the 'Speak' last week? The convergence of opinion is the reason there are no more student uprisings that Joan Baez and others lament.
Now, there's nothing wrong (legally) with being liberal. And liberal administrations and liberal student bodies are just the way it is. Today's campus conservatives have to operate in this context. If they refuse to utilize the means at their disposal, they shouldn't decry the rampant liberalism. I urge my fellow conservatives to come forward. If you refuse, campus discussion will once again devolve into endless recriminations. From the evidence I've seen and the people I've talked to, I'm sure a good deal more will be heard from Pomona conservatives in the future.
In conclusion, I offer a figurative tip of the hat to those of you who have responded to my articles. I still disagree with most of you, but the odd letter did make some impression. Finally, I'd like to offer one final bit of advice to y'all. Just quit being so damned oversensitive. With that, good-bye.
Editor's note: And good riddance.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 08:32 PM.
|December 6th, 2013||#9|
[first thing i ever wrote that caused an uproar, and set me on my path to VNN, because i love the fight. i had not yet learned to fly, and was still making my way among what i heard, read and felt instinctively or intuitively. This piece PRECEDED a cartoon strip by Berkely Breathed making almost exactly the same points. back in these days, 'people of color' was the bruited and bandied locution. it was young, dumb and full of come, and the sophisticates were hot to use it. it still rings to me both pathetic and pretentious. peepole uff colur, homes]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life (spring 88)]
By Alex Linder
They used to be "colored." Then they were "Negroes." Then "blacks." Now they're "of color." Isn't social change grand? Thirty years later, use of the adjective risks offense, while the prepositional phrase places one on the cutting edge of interracial sensitivity! Such rapid changes in nomenclature serve only to befuddle.
But others have it worse. Consider the Asian, Chicano and Black Studies programs. What are they going to do, merge into one discipline? (Might not be a bad idea considering their declining enrollments.) They could call it "Color Studies" or "Studies in Color." Who knows, might even manage to attract a few wayward art students!
The worst thing about "of color" is that its creators seek to foster a divisive, holier-than-thou attitude on the part of, dare I say it?, colored people. (What race are you? Oh, I'm a person "of color.") Just say the phrase a few times and try to keep your nose level.
The use of the term "of color" signifies haughtiness arising from a false sense of superior morality. There is nothing, however, inherently superior about being colored, or, for that matter, uncolored. But then one doesn't claim to be a person "of whiteness," does one? I believe the choosers of the term "of color" intend to suggest the spiritual brotherhood of Asians and Africans and Native Americans (itself a biased term - did not the "Native Americans" originally migrate here from other continents?). They have created a term that in their minds is a sort of catchall for the bondage of brothers trod on by the same white, imperialist oppressor's heel.
Think about the connotations of the word. Am I wrong, or does "of color" suggest a tribalistic closeness to the earth, a passionate, deeprooted, innate-hence-superior attunement to nature and the mystical quality of life, a sense the creators think absent in the pale-faced people "of blandness" inhabiting the northern latitudes? Does not "of color" convey the impression that those lacking color by the phrase somehow lack excitement, aren't as vivid, and aren't as fully human as those who are "of color"?
Once the whole silly business of name-changing is done away with, we'll all be a lot better off. After all, it's the NAACP, not the NAAPC. 'PC' is an acronym for what I'm typing on. And if "colored" is good enough for the NAACP, isn't it good enough for you and me?
|December 6th, 2013||#10|
[larval AL did not like communists. not one little bit.]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, October 2, 1987]
Aid Contras, Not Communists
By Alex Linder
I want to convince you of three things: 1) The National Directorate running Nicaragua is made up of communists; 2) communists are to be taken seriously; 3) American interests as well as those of the Nicaraguan people require the overthrow of the Sandinistas.
In winning you over, I will quote the leaders of the Sandinistas regarding their ideology and the course they want their country to follow. I will then bring in historical examples of policies followed by other communist countries. Finally, I will discuss the reasoning behind point three as well as a framework for achieving the actual overthrow.
Why should one believe the Sandinistas are communists? First, consider what various members of the nine-man National Directorate have said. In 1978 Defense Minister Humberto Ortega said that the "vanguard Sandinista nucleus should use the scientific doctrine of the proletariat, Marxist-Leninism, as an absolute and unquestionable guide in the action undertaken for the transformation of society." Two years later he said, "Remember well that our elections shall be to strengthen revolutionary power, not to raffle it off."
Could anybody seriously think that such men would ever allow themselves to be voted out of power? Hardly sounds like a commitment to political pluralism. Imagine the furor were President Reagan to make such a declaration!
Another National Directorate member, Bayardo Arce, had this to say: "The time will have to come to think about a single party. Why should we communists go on wearing different shirts?" He speaks further of "putting an end to all this artifice of pluralism."
Still another member, Minister of the Interior Tomas Borge, has publicly admitted that the one thing Reagan was right about is the "revolution without borders" bit. Borge believes that unless the Nicaraguans can spread their revolution throughout Central America, it will eventually be crushed at home.
Finally, listen to National Directorate head Daniel Ortega on revolutionary tactics: "we avoid the possibility of the bourgeoisie becoming the political leader of an anti-Somoza front. . . we assign a tactical and temporary character to that front."
More important than words, however, are actions. And the actions taken by the nine-man directorate are in accord with the communist views of its members.
Consider the course of the eight-year revolution in comparison with the promises Nicaragua made in 1979 to the Organization of American States. Chief among these were guarantees of political pluralism, nonalignment, freedom of expression, a mixed economy, respect for human rights, and a truly national (as opposed to private) army. The most cursory examination belies these promises, leading to one conclusion: the main goal of the National Directorate has been the entrenchment of its power through suppression of political opponents and the centralization of all significant decision-making capabilities in the hands of its own bureaucracy.
Point by point, let's go down the list:
- Political pluralism: this hasn't existed since National Directorate took control. Opposition parties exist in name only.
- Nonalignment: Nicaragua has thousands of Cuban, East German, and Bulgarian advisers. Votes pro-Soviet in U.N. inevitably.
- Freedom of expression: severe press and radio censorshop. La Prensa has been shut down more times in eight years under the Sandinistas than in forty-three under Somoza.
- Economy: still mixed, but trend is toward complete government control.
- Human rights: forcible relocation of over 20,000 Miskito Indians; over 5,000 prisoners (not counting roughly 2,500 ex-members of Somoza's National Guard) held for purely political reasons (i.e., they don't like the way the National Directorate is running the country).
- National Army: like Somoza, the Sandinistas have their own private army which approaches 100,000 in number.
There are other convincing indicators of the communist ideology of the Sandinista ruling elite. In 1980 when the U.S. gave the Sandinistas more money than any other country, the Sandinistas sent a delegation to Moscow. A friendship treaty was signed. Taken in conjunction with subsequent Nicaraguan refusals to condemn neither the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan nor its shooting down of KAL flight 007, the signing of this treaty represents the coup-de-grace to the pollyannaish notion that the Sandinistas are or indeed ever were anything less than a dedicated band of hard-core Marxists utterly incapable of being driven into Soviet arms for the simple reason that they grew up there.
Having convinced you, I hope, that the ruling elite running Nicaragua is made up of communists, I turn to point two: convincing you that communists are to be taken seriously.
James Burnham once said that a communist is a liberal who knows what he's doing. Liberals almost without exception underrate the power of ideology. When confronted with hard-line Marxist statements by Daniel Ortega or Fidel Castro or Mikhail Gorbachev, liberals tend to reply that "One has to take such statements with a grain of salt." This type of attitude reveals A) the thick strand of condescension running through liberal politics, and B) the reasons for the failure of the foreign policy of the liberal politicians. Thus we get an FDR who says "I can deal with old Uncle Joe." We get a James Carter to whom Afghanistan was a great surprise, an act which totally changed his conception of the nature of the intentions of the Soviet Union. And today we get the John Kerrys and the Christopher Dodds whose attitudes regarding Ortega reveal a similar paucity of vision.
Conservatives, conversely, recognize that, as Russell Kirk said, ideas have consequences. Communists must be regarded as serious, purposive, committed people. The consequences of communist ideas as evidenced in lands under the imposition of such ideas demands that those professing communist beliefs be taken seriously.
And now we get to the heart of the matter. Communists should be taken seriously because they are engaged in a worldwide attempt to destroy anyone who doesn't believe as they do. One of Marx's tenets was that the communist revolution had to be an international revolution. In my East German textbook on dialectical materialism it says very clearly that there is no peace until socialism is established throughout the world. Although the advent of nuclear weapons has made less rational an outright military battle for control of the world, communists fight on every lower level -- from Third World proxy wars, to terrorism, to the funding of ideological fellow travelers in the democracies.
It is exactly this infectious, "spreading" nature of communism that forms the basis for American foreign policy. As Senator Fulbright once said, "The United States has no problems with the internal policies of any nation, as long as it doesn't seek to export them." Nicaragua does -- and that is the reason we must treat it differently than, say, South Korea, which also has a form of government inconsistent with American ideals.
If you're with me so far, then you should find that your acceptance of the need for the overthrow of the present government of Nicaragua (my third goal) follows logically and inexorably. If the rulers of Nicaragua are communists, which they are, and desire the extension of their revolution throughout the Americas, as they do, then it is necessary that we stop them. All remaining questions center on methodology.
Speaking at CMC last year, William Buckley stated that we ought to declare war on Nicaragua because that term most accurately describes the relationshipp between our two countries. I agree. A declaration of war would form the basis of a much more honorable and forthright policy than we have followed since Reagan took power.
History and geography offer compelling secondary bases for cleaning house in Nicaragua. We used to have a thing called the Monroe Doctrine. This doctrine said that we wouldn't allow foreign powers to mess around in the western hemisphere, as our national interests were centered there. All that went out the window with John Kennedy in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In his agreement with Khrushchev ending the crisis, Kennedy promised never again to attempt to overthrow Castro as he had in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. In so doing Kennedy made the western hemisphere safe for communism. With the exception of Johnson in 1965, it wasn't until Reagan in 1983 that any serious attempt was made by Americans to stop the spread of communism throughout the hemisphere. The destruction of the communist government of Grenada was, incidentally, the only time a firmly entrenched communist government has ever been overthrown.
Recently much noise has been made over the Arias Peace Plan for Central America. This plan has been greeted with much fanfare by liberals and others who persist in deluding themselves that the Sandinistas will liberalize their totalitarian state for reasons other than those occasioned by physical force. Under this plan the Sandinistas will supposedly liberalize their government, that is, live up to some of the promises they already made to the OAS several years ago. About the only thing the Sandinistas have done so far is to promise to reopen La Prensa, as long as that paper is "responsible." Obviously, the Sandinistas will be the ones who determine what is responsible. In return, they hope to get the Contras to lay down their arms. As has been shown, the Sandinistas are communists. Communist governments never become democracies. If you don't believe me, give me an example of one that has. Communists have to be physically forced to give up power -- they never do it of their own accord. There is no reason to believe, and about twenty-three reasons not to believe, that the Sandinistas are serious about allowing political pluralism in the true sense -- fair elections in which they themselves could be voted out of office. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe in the empty promises of the Sandinistas. To these people I can only say, why would men who truly believe in freedom of expression and political pluralism ever have felt the need to hide behind a mask of Marxist rhetoric? . . . On the other hand, I consider it self-evident why Marxists would hide behind a mask of freedom and pluralism.
Our tool in ending the Sandinistas is the contras. Making an outright declaration of war, besides being the right thing to do, would have the added effect of galvanizing the American public against the threat posed by the Sandinistas. It is Reagan's job to inform the public about the need to aid the contras. Judging by public opinion polls, he hasn't been very effective. Increased public support channeled through Congress would result in higher levels of military aid for the Contras. Some people such as Pat Buchanan have recommended amounts in the neighborhood of $500 million. This is reasonable. If we were to provide this much over a period of five to ten years, I suspect the Contras would eventually destroy the Sandinistas. If, however, the Contras are not effective after a given period of time, it will be necessary to use American troops. I don't believe this will prove to be necessary, though, provided the necessary aid is forthcoming.
In conclusion, I hope I have convinced you. I believe I have successfully shown that not only are the members of the Sandinista National Directorate communists, but that communists anywhere pose a threat to freedom and democracy. As citizens of the sole guarantor of freedom, the one country with which all free nations of the world are allied, I hope you will accept my conclusion that the communist government of Nicaragua must be replaced before it has a chance to subvert surrounding countries and further threaten world freedom and democracy.
Last edited by Alex Linder; December 6th, 2013 at 10:01 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#11|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, September 19, 1986]
Daniloff: Political Pawn
By Alex Linder
By the time you read this, an innocent American citizen will have spent nearly three weeks as a hostage inside the Soviet Union, an unwitting victim of a brazen power play conceived and carried out by the KGB under the probably leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. Seized in apparent reaction to the recent American apprehension of U.N.-based alleged spy Gennady Zakharov, U.S. News & World Report's Moscow Bureau Chief Nicholas Daniloff has been indicted on three counts of espionage. What has the U.S. done in response to this peculiar turn of events; what should it do in the future to with regard to preventing a similar occurrence; and, most importantly, what is the U.S. currently doing to obtain Mr. Daniloff's release?
Before getting to these vital questions, let us lay some of the groundwork. To begin with, let there be not doubt that Zakharov is a spy and Daniloff is a hostage. Arkady Shevchenko, the highest ranking Soviet defector ever, has estimated that roughly one-third of all Soviet bloc personnel at the U.N. are engaged in intelligence gathering activities. Zakharov is simply one among the many, his alleged crime being the purchase of jet engine blueprints. Daniloff, on the other hand, was clearly entrapped by KGB operatives aided by one of his own Soviet friends.
A three-fold explanation of Soviet motivations would seem most plausible. First, in Daniloff, the Soviets saw a chance to kill two birds with one stone. By striking a deal with the US. they could not only get back a valuable agent, but rid themselves of a man who, according to USN&WR's Mortimer Zuckerman, was responsible for several articles detailing the grimmer side of life behind the Iron Curtain. Secondly, the expulsion or sentencing of Daniloff would hopefully have what liberals are wont to call "chilling effects" on what the Soviets deem injudicious reporting on the part of the fourth estate. Finally, Gorbachev, through his lack of response to Reagan's personal letter vouching for Daniloff's innocence, may be testing the strength of those internal forces that would have the Administration schedule a summit regardless of the treatment of Daniloff.
But the reaction of the Reagan Administration has been, unfortunately, mixed. At the outset of the crisis, spokesmen in Santa Barbara, authorized, one would assume, by the President, issued statements to the effect that there would be business as usual between the superpowers. Secretary of State Schultz, however, took the position that only if Daniloff were freed would he discuss summitry in his upcoming meeting with Shevardnadze. Over the course of the succeeding two weeks the Administration has presented a more united front, with a sort of crystallization taking place around Schultz's initial position, happily.
At this point the course the Reagan Administration should take is relatively clear. First, Reagan and Schultz should adamantly refuse to exchange Zakharov for Daniloff in a one-for-one deal. Gorbachev is well aware that Zakharov is a spy and that Daniloff was framed. Any deal-making would only lessen the dictator's respect for our President. Reagan would appear to be backing down, and this in turn would weaken his hand at future bargaining tables.
Second, the Administration should refuse to even make preparations for a summit unless Daniloff is released.
Lastly, the President should capitalize on the recent attention paid to the problem with Soviet spy infiltration through the U.N. by deepending and expediting his cutback of the Soviet Union's entourage. Estimating we could easily pick up 500 spies, Senator Daniel Moynihan recently remarked, "We're paying for their KGB agents in the Secretariat." The American public needs to be made aware, and Ronald Reagan is in an excellent position to do so, that the U.N. is essentially an ulcer in the belly of the beast, a tax-subsidized, rabidly anti-American propaganda and intelligence headquarters for the Soviets and their Third World lackeys.
What, then, can we reasonably expect if the Reagan Administration continues to follow, as it has in part, the previously outlined course? One suspects that the Soviets, once they realize that the U.S. will not back down, will devise some face-saving way of releasing Daniloff. Most observers, including the aforementioned Shevchenko, believe that the Soviet Union has a greater need for a summit than the U.S. If one accepts this view then it seems likely that the Soviets will either acquit Daniloff or find him guilty of but a peccadillo. Either way, Daniloff will be released and summit preparations gotten on with. All in all, Reagan can stand firm in the knowledge that both houses of Congress along with the domestic press (Daniloff is, after all, one of their own) are solidly behind him. If Reagan does indeed stick fast to his stated positions, the Soviets will conclude not only that future "deals" will not work, but that purssuant to their goals of an earlier summit and the preservation of a certain measure of goodwill on the part of Western liberals, their interests are best served by releasing Daniloff. //
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 9th, 2014 at 04:18 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#12|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, September 26, 1986]
Seatbelt Laws Restrain Freedom
By Alex Linder
Over the past two or three years, several states, California included, have passed laws mandating the use of seatbelts. It is my belief that these laws and other similarly inspired laws (henceforth referred to as "seatbelt laws") represent an unwarranted accretion of governmental power through legislative usurpation of certain decision-making powers properly reserved for the individual.
Let me preface philosophical justification of my opposition to "seatbelt laws" by saying that I wear seatbelts and believe that everyone else should too, as facts and figures clearly show that seatbelts do indeed save lives. Like the trooper says, he's never unbuckled a dead person!
Still, it's a long jump from the fact that a certain action is beneficial to the conclusion that said action must be legally mandatory. Thus, as a conservative, a voluntarist, and a good American, I resent such governmental coercion. "Seatbelt laws" fall into the general category of laws regulating an individual's behavior with regard to himself. In keeping with solid libertarian principles, I believe the government has no business restricting an individual from performing (or not performing) any act, the result(s) of which directly affect that individual alone. Rather, it is the duty and proper function of the government to regulate those actions of an individual affecting others besides himself; to prevent one individual from coercing another, as Goldwater would say.
Turning now from the philosophical, let us examine the seatbelt law itself in detail. What were the motivations of the framers? As far as I can tell, the framers essentially wanted to protect the stupid from themselves (more on this later), but masked this goal by appealing to what they consider the high social cost of allowing people to ride unrestrained. The framers' case essentially rests on their judgment that the social cost (measured in dollars paid out by tax-supported programs such as Medicare) engendered by maimed crash victims and the progeny of the human roadkill outweighs the loss of individual freedom not to wear a seatbelt. Not a bad argument, but the numbers just aren't there. At most, the seatbelt law keeps a few thousand people from government support. And Lord knows, with the vast multitude presently sucking off the public teat, what difference a few more?
If those responsible for the law were truly serious about reducing high social costs relating to traffic accidents, more reasonable they should attempt to reimpose Prohibition, since alcohol-related social costs are far higher than costs related to unrestrained passengers. Now obviously another Prohibition is politically out of the question, and although some might say that inabilty to solve larger problems legitimates the abandonment of attempts to solve smaller problems, there are better arguments to be made against the seatbelt law. The thin-end-of-the-wedge argument comes to mind. Who will deny that, ridiculous as it may seem today, some future legislator might conceivably attempt to justify, using the precedent set by the seatbelt law, a ban on the consumption of, say, red meat, arguing that the social cost resulting from an excessive number of stroke and heart attack victims (whose medical problems developed primarily from over-consumption of cholesterol) is simply too high to allow citizens to continue their perverse dietary habits?
But it is my contention that the loss of even so minor a freedom as the right to go beltless cannot properly be justified by appeal to the exigencies of social cost. Totalitarian societies are characterized by their sacrifice of individual liberty at the altar of state interest whereas we in America, conversely, believe that the state exists only to serve the interests of its individual citizens. All of which is not to imply that "seatbelt laws" will lead to the socialization of the U.S., merely to point out that they are not consistent with the goals of the preservation and extension of individual freedom to which we should expect our lawmakers to aspire.
And finally, I arrive at the thesis of my editorial: The seatbelt law and "seatbelt laws" in general represent a sort of nationwide chipping away at the foundation of the precepts central to the time-honored, thoroughly American concept of personal responsibility. We Americans have traditionally been noted for our rugged individualism upheld by principles embodied in, for example, the Bill of Rights. America was, and mostly still is, a place where the individual succeeds or fails on his own merits, without the government getting in his way on either the way up or the way down. But when I consider not only the seatbelt law but proposed laws making bartenders responsible for accidents caused by drunken patrons on their way home and laws limiting interest rates chargeable by credit card companies (due to their card owners' inability to manage their money) it's enough to make me believe that the egalitarians have finally gained control and reified their concept of life as something less than a full-contact sport. It is wrong to legally protect people from their own stupidity because it denies them their right to screw up, which is also their right to succeed. If we continue to base our laws on the assumption that the average man doesn't know where his true interests lie, and that the government must run his life for "his own good," then we will destroy the foundation on which our Republic rests, in which case we might as well fold it up right now and find ourselves a good king.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 9th, 2014 at 06:33 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#13|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, October 3, 1986]
The Media and Terrorism
Cause and Effect
With the recent spate of bombings in France, terrorism has returned to the public consciousness. Grisly scenes of violent destruction of person and property remind one of earlier events: The Achille Lauro and Leon Klinghoffer's murder, the TWA hijacking Beirut, and the Pan Am hijacking in Pakistan. Images of gun-toting Arabs segue into tearful relatives and grim-faced State Department officials; real-life drama brought to you courtesy of modern technology and the network of your choice.
The cause-effect link between media coverage and terrorism is so obvious as to be undeserving of attention. The perpetrators of what society deems "terrorist" acts tend to be members of small, relatively powerless fringe groups bent on gaining national or worldwide exposure for their cause, hoping to instigate mass fear leading to a general societal upheaval and civil war. Through vicious murders of innocent civilians and reckless seizure of hostages, terrorists present the media with what might be called "medianip"; compelling, riveting stories unmatched in sheer theatrics. Reaching a compromise between the right of the media to gather information and the right of law enforcement agencies to ensure public order is made especially difficult by this symbiotic relationship between terrorists and the media.
An imaginary act of terrorism will help illuminate the intricate set of interrelationships between the media, the law, and the terrorists and allow us to draw conclusions regarding the proper role of the media. Suppose that terrorists seized hostages in a large downtown building in a major city. How would the situation unfold? First, the police would arrive and evacuate the surrounding area. Then the media would get wind of the occurrence and soon cameramen and journalists would swarm around the perimeter. Finally, negotiations would begin and things would stabilize for a while.
At this point we must consider the interests and motivations of each group. The goals of the police, for instance, would be to a) preserve the lives of the hostages without making any outrageous concessions to the terrorists, and b) capture the terrorists and demonstrate their ability to protect society and enforce the law. The terrorists, on the other hand, would want to a) publicize their cause, and b) secure objective goals such as money, safe transportation, or the release of jailed comrades. The media, finally, would want to a) report all the facts they could find, and b) get the terrorists' story as well as the thoughts and feelings of the hostages themselves. Assuming that the conflict between the goals of the police and the terrorists is self-evident, let us examine the conflicts between the media's goals and the goals of the other two groups.
Conflict between the media and the police is essentially a conflict of principle. It's a question of whether the right to freely gather information or the right to invoke some degree of censorship in the interest of social order takes precedence. Legally the media can do about whatever they want. Ethically, however, members of the media might feel compelled to withhold some information from the public that might hurt the ongoing police work. For example, the media can and have at times made reports detailing the way police forces were arrayed around the scene of the crime. Also, in their striving to show the viewer both sides of the story, reporters have tied up the line talking with the terrorists and their hostages, inhibiting negotiations. Still, the presence of the media can help allay fear and confusion among viewers by reporting the real story.
The conflict between the goals of the media and the goals of the terrorists centers around the media's need to get the other side of the story and the terrorists' desire to spread their propaganda. Thus, occasionally in a situation similar to the one described, we hear about reporters willing to sell air time for an interview with a hostage.
Finally, what conclusions may be drawn regarding the media and their reporting of terrorist acts, particularly hostage seizure? There seem to be four general guidelines the media ought to adopt. First, the media should strive to maintain journalistic ethics by not becoming part of the story themselves, if at all possible. Second, the media should absolutely refuse to give terroristst any air time in trade for certain privileges and must even beware of interviewing a terrorist on the air at all, lest the interview become a forum for propaganda. Third, the media must refrain from tying up negotiating lines, covering live delicate negotiations, and interfering without warrant in police operations. Fourth, and last, the media might be wise to distinguish between the public's right to know and its right to be shown. That is, if terrorists aren't on television they might be less likely to, say, kill a hostage to save face when the police call their bluff regarding time limits and death threats.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 9th, 2014 at 07:19 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#15|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, November 21, 1986]
Learning Facts, Drawing Conclusions
By Alex Linder
Certainly we learn the facts here at Pomona, but do we get a sense of how everything fits together? Do we get a sense of our position in the whole tradition of the West? Are we educated with the sense that we are the successors of the Romans, the Greeks, and the primitive settlers of Sumer?
In any dominant country like the U.S., the will to be great is a large part of the reason for the success of that nation. The events of the last forty years have called into question the maintenance of high American will. Consider American history. Up until 1945, America was a growing, expanding, vital country. Since then, it seems we have been going backwards, at least until the Reagan era. Nineteen eighty was the nadir of American decline in the post-war period. Not only had we lost our first war, we shrunk from aiding anti-communists in Angola and stood aside as former allies were subverted by religious zealots (Iran) and communists (Nicaragua). Besides which, the weakened position of the U.S. led to the first outright aggression by Soviet troops since WWII in Afghanistan. Now the eighties have been better, undoubtedly. We've even overthrown a Marxist regime in Grenada. Nevertheless, it is much too early to say that the overall trend has been reversed.
What has Pomona got to do with all this? The importance of our college, as of any college, especially a selective one, is that it teaches the leaders of tomorrow. It's trite, but students today will be the key scientists, politicians, teachers, and businessmen of the twenty-first century. And what are we being taught? I submit that instead of being imbued with the sense of carrying on a grand tradition, we are taught nothing. That's right -- nothing. We aren't taught that America is good, moral and a positive force in the world; we aren't taught that something else is better; we are simply given isolated sets of classes and left to make our own decisions. And when the proper respect and love for Western values isn't taught, then it is simply not there. It's quite analogous to the teaching of sex education without concomitant moral values in high school.
My proof that we have not been properly imbued with feeling for the Western tradition is based not on hard evidence but personal conviction. The reader will judge the veracity of my assertions for himself. I start by asking you to imagine the reaction of the average student to the following question: are you an anti-communist? The reaction of the student is relatively easy to predict. First the student will look at the questioner to try to figure out why he asked the question in the first place. Then as he pauses to reflect, you can almost see the wheels turning. (Anti-communist? Hmm...Sounds right-wing and extremist.) The student will answer: Well, I don't like some of their practices... Then you are an anti-communist? Well, no. I mean, not exactly... I submit that any properly educated student will automatically emerge from college an avid anti-communist out of simple love for the pursuit of truth that is the antithesis of the dialectic and the hallmark of Western thought.
No let's tag along with Jane, a prototypical Pomonan. First, Jane's off to Econ where she hears a denunciation of supply-side theory with a concomitant lecture on how Reagan's recovery really isn't a recovery at all. Next, it's over to History. After handing in her 500 repetitions of the sentence "The Russians lost 20 million in WWII and will do anything to avoid WWIII," she sinks contentedly into her seat to hear the prof's talk on FDR's masterful handling of the proceedings at Yalta. Later that afternoon, after signing a petition for the current cause celebre in the dining hall, Jane picks up the school paper and starts to read. Suddenly there is a sharp intake of breath. (What's this?) She goes back over what she just read. (How horrible! Someone actually wrote something favorable about Reagan! I can't believe they actually let fascists write for the paper!) Disgruntled, Jane picks up her pen and...
And back to reality.
One of the most humorous aspects of liberalism is the way its college proponents try to paint conservatives as passive supporters of the status quo. What a joke. Who will deny that the academic establishment at Pomona is liberal? Where are liberal beliefs called into question at Pomona? Why are there virtually no conservative professors in the History and Government departments? For $15,000 plus a year I think the student body deserves exposure to a wider spectrum of professorial opinion.
What then is the moral of all this? Short of a massive change of mind on the part of the faculty, it's difficult to imagine that they will suddenly begin to inculcate the respect for the values of the West that is directly related to the level of national will. No, I think that the faculty will continue to lead students to the "enlightened" view that the struggle between East and West amounts to something other than the battle between one essentially "good" side and one essentially "evil" side. The effect of such teachigns can only serve to weaken resolve to defend the West to the extent that the biases of the professors are accepted by the students. One can only hope that students learn the facts that are taught and draw their own conclusions.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 9th, 2014 at 07:57 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#16|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, March 7, 1986]
SDI: A Viable Defense
By Alex Linder
Saying that nuclear weapons could be rendered "impotent and obsolete," President Reagan first brought the concept of a space-based defense against nuclear weapons to public attention in a nationally televised speech three years ago this month. Since that time there has been much debate over the strategic and political implications of such a defense, alongside more fundamental questions regarding workability and cost. The preponderance of evidence, however, shows that "Star Wars" is not only physically feasible and cost effective but strategically imperative.
To understand why the implementation of a space shield is instrumental to the defense of the United States, one must look at the present alignment of forces between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The U.S. relies on a strategic triad of land-based Minuteman missiles, B-52 bombers and Trident and Poseidon submarines. Under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the United States and the U.S.S.R. foreswore radar defenses of their cities and military installations and instead relied upon second-strike capability, or retaliation, to defend themselves and deter attacks. Thus, the ABM treaty essentially institutionalized the theory of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
The problem for the United States came as the Soviets began to develop an alarming first-strike capability over the rest of the decade and continuing into the 1980s. What with the "silo-busting" SS-18s of the so-called "fourth generation," the U.S.S.R. gained the ability to destroy and estimated 90-95 percent of the U.S. ICBM force. When this fact is taken in conjunction with the existence of massive Soviet air defenses, it becomes obvious that nearly two-thirds of the American strategic triad would be useless after a Soviet sneak attack. In fact, it is generally conceded that submarines at sea (as opposed to those in port) would be the only section of the triad to emerge unscathed from a Soviet first strike. And the Soviets, you may rest assured, are hard at work developing their anti-sub capabilities.
The upshot of this discussion is that an Ameriacn president would be left with no viable alternatives after a Russian first strike. The president would be left with three equally repugnant options: 1) launch on warning -- this would result in World War III, 2) order U.S. subs to fire on Russian cities (subs are incapable of destroying hardened military installations), which would result in little more than mutual suicide, 3) do nothing, which would leave the U.S. subject to nuclear coercion.
The answer to the strategic dilemma American currently faces is to abandon the ABM Treaty (which the Soviets have already violated by building a radar base in Krasnoyorsk, Siberia) and proceed full speed ahead with development and deployment of a space-based defensive system.
What, it will be asked, is the current state of "Star Wars" technology? According to Robert Jastrow, author of How to Make Nuclear Weapons Obsolete, "the technologies that are already in hand will allow us to put into place in the early 1990s, a simple but highly effective defense at a cost of roughly $60 billion." The defense Jastrow envisions consists of satellites containing "smart rocks" (101-pound non-nuclear projectiles) which they fire at Soviet missiles during their booster stage of flight. The second layer of this defense involves the shooting down of Russian missiles as they begin to descend toward earth at the end of their flight. That phase is called the terminal defense, and it makes use of small heat-seeking interceptors similar to "smart rocks." But this two-stage defense is only the beginning. "Star Wars" supporters envision what will eventually be a four-stage defense replete with lasers or possible particle-beam weapons that will be 80 percent effective on every level, resulting in a 99.8 percent success rate in stopping incoming missiles.
One of the major arguments against Star Wars is that unless it works perfectly it is useless, since if only one bomb got through it could cause tremendous damage. This argument is countered by pointing out that the main intent of "Star Wars" is to prevent a war. It has a great chance of succeeding because the Russian first-strike capability would be greatly weakened by a large surviving American retaliatory force.
Others say that American deployment of "Star Wars" would result in a pre-emptive Soviet attack. That argument, however, assumes that the Soviets would have no space shield of their own. In fact, in Jastrow's words, "the Soviets are working as hard as they can on their own missile defense program and have been for more than a decade." Hence, the Soviets already have a head start on the U.S.
Two final arguments frequently voiced by "Star Wars" opponents are that 1) the Soviets could overwhelm the space shield by merely flooding the atmosphere with decoys, and 2) they could build rockets with a fast-burn booster that would save the booster from some of our defenses. The problem with the first argument is that decoys are lighter and grow colder faster than the real warheads. U.S. satellites can pick up the differences in heat and thus concentrate on killing the real warheads. The second argument is refuted by pointing out that fast-burn boosters are less reliable because they tend to explode due to over-acceleration, they carry a smaller payload, and the "bus" is still susceptible to particle-beam weapons. Also it would cost the U.S.S.R. around $500 billion to replace all their old missiles with fast-burn boosters.
All in all, "Star Wars" is greatly needed by the United States to counter the Soviets' present first-strike ability. Instead of relying on perpetual Soviet rationality as a way of avoiding World War, "Star Wars" offers a viable, physical defense that may eventually be perfected, thus leading to a world in which nuclear weapons truly are "obsolete."//
|March 9th, 2014||#17|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, November 13, 1987]
Conservatives and Liberals: Stupidity Redefined
By Alex Linder
"Not all conservatives are stupid, but all stupid people are conservative."
Stupidity comes in different forms. While the above statement dose contain an element of truth, it is incomplete; the liberals possess their own pernicious brand of stupidity. But let's start with the conservative side.
It may not be true that all stupid people are conservative, but certainly most are. Stupid conservatives are stupid because they don't know very much. They lack education and they fear the unknown. Stupid people aren't even so much conservative as they are reactionary. They hold on to their old methods of doing things in the face of obviously newer, better methods. An example might be an elderly couple who experienced severe problems during the Great Depression. After narrowly getting by in the thirties, they have pinched pennies without stopping the rest of their lives. Out of fear that another depression will come along, they have made money an end rather than a means.
The problem arising from such conservatism (when transferred from a personal to a national level) is that it leads to chauvinism and nationalism. Such closed-minded reactionaries are unable to see things from any perspective other than their own. They place inordinate faith in their own culture, assuming that no one can be better than they are. This stupidity transcends racial and cultural lines -- consider the Aryan supremacism of the Nazis and the Middle Kingdom beliefs of the Chinese. In America, however, xenophobia is a relatively small threat simply because America is racially and ethnically diverse. Americans are motivated by love of freedom rather than appeals to ethnicity.
Liberal stupidity is much closer to home for us at Pomona. We Pomonans are much better educated than the average man in the street. We know all the facts about dozens of issues even when the issues don't directly concern us. The stupidity of liberals, thus, isn't lack of knowledge, rather it lies in the inability of most liberals to interpret facts correctly.
To a disturbingly large degree, academia (a liberal asylum) is engaged in a perpetual war against common sense; it's a heady celebration of the esoteric at the expense of the obvious. Intellectuals like Dean Warren extol the subversive nature of education. And truly we can say that the thrust of academics is to take what is common and accepted and come up with intricate theories why what seems obvious is wrong. For proof, consider communism and the threat it does or doesn't pose.
To the man in the street, anti-communism is second nature. When he looks at a map and sees how communism has spread outward around the globe under the direction of the Soviet Union, he sees that the communists are very powerful. Now, our man doesn't know much about Marx (bunch of obscure theory about the proletariat), but he knows what life is like under Marxists (no freedom, millions killed, walls around countries) and he doesn't like it. He also knows that the communists want to take over the world. Didn't Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev all say that? Our man simply accepts their words and deeds at face value. Only an intelligent liberal is clever enough to figure out why the men who say they're our enemies really aren't.
A real-life example is instructive. Laughing ironically, a certain unnamed professor points out that when Khrushchev banged his shoe and said "We will bury you" at the U.N. in the early sixties, what he actually said was that the U.S.S.R. would outstrip the U.S. economically and technologically. Typically academic - correct on the details but missing the point. It is immaterial whether or not Khrushchev at that particular time affirmed the Soviet desire to "bury us"; the action and words of the Soviet leadership over the last seventy years have made it abundantly clear that they do so intend.
A final example of liberal stupidity is the current jubilation over glasnost. Liberals wax orgasmic over cosmetic Soviet liberalization. What has Gorbachev actually done? He's released a few political prisoners and allowed the publishing of a few dead authors. Reasonable people maintain skepticism towards everything and particularly Soviets. But Kremlinologists, those responsible for spreading rumors about an opening of Soviet society, are notorious for building castles in the air. After all, with the little they have to work with and their penchant for analyzing "latent content" in Soviet speeches and documents, any opening at all is given a stronger significance than it deserves. That is, the best way to understand the Soviets is to look at what they've done in the past, not to idly speculate about the characteristics of "closet liberalism" that people like Andropov and Gorbachev are supposed to possess, no matter how traditional their words to other Soviets (as opposed to the pacifistic side they often display to the West).
What has our little enquiry taught us about stupidity? Basically, we have to recognize that there is more to stupidity than not knowing the facts. In fact, with special regard to foreign policy, the type of stupidity I've characterized as liberal -- the inability to interpret facts -- poses a far greater danger to our society. The best people to lead our nation are intelligent conservatives; they know the facts as well as the liberal intellectuals and they don't forsake the obvious out of "enlightened" superciliousness. Remember: Any idiot can see that commies are coming. Any intellectual can't.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 9th, 2014 at 09:13 PM.
|March 9th, 2014||#18|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, December 4, 1987]
Removal of Pershings Threatens NATO Cohesion
By Alex Linder
A couple weeks ago, ex-head NATO commander Bernard Rogers spoke on disarmament and the balance of power. He talked about why he is against the INF treaty as now constituted.
One of Rogers' points that merits thought concerns the free and voluntary association that is NATO. The constituents joined of their own accord. They can withdraw if they so choose.
The Pershing II missiles that will be removed under the INF treaty (assuming, as does Rogers, that the treaty will be signed and ratified) were placed in Europe only after a long, concerted effort. We can all remember the freeze effort and the heated demonstrations of the early eighties.
Regardless of whether the INF treaty is "good" for the U.S., it ought to be clear that there is an inherent danger in removing the missiles. The Soviets are free to move their missiles around at will. If they were to decide to redeploy their missiles and break the treaty (as they broke the ABM treaty) they could do so with scarcely a murmur from the strictly controlled publics of the Warsaw Pact nations.
But it's not so in the West. To those of us here in America this might not seem particularly salient. After all, one might think, it might take us a bit longer to redeploy, but there wouldn't be any major problems. As an American who is reasonably familiar with European thinking (West Germany in particular), I disagree. There are several reasons why the removal of our Pershing IIs might be dangerous. They spring from the current social and political culture of West Germany, the key European member of NATO.
First, it is difficult for the average American to realize the extent to which West Germany is militarized. When a German gets up in the morning he can be sure that sometime durign the day he's going to hear the scream of the fighter planes racing down the valley. When he walks by the train tracks, chances are good that he'll see tanks and other military equipment being shipped to various installations. Finally, when he goes to a Kneipe (bar) at night, it's likely he'll run into a bunch of rambunctious American G.I.s.
West Germany is also highly politicized. Unlike America, the grafitti in Europe is almost exclusively political. From "Ami raus" to anti-nukes to Marxist themes, the grafitti makes it clear that West Germany is a country on the edge -- ostensibly stable, but with a definite underlying Angst.
Germany has essentially no history of democracy. Before WWII it had an ill-fated Weimar government, but Hitler marked the return to the traditional authoritarianism. And (although this is certainly debatable) the same spirit exists today.
In one class I had there was an interesting poster. On the poster was a quotation from Harry Truman to the effect that there is one thing Americans prize above all else: freedom. There was no further commentary. This quotation was meant to stand alone as an indictment of America. It takes a while for an American abroad to realize that to Germans, America is the conqueror. They never wanted freedom; we simply forced it on them. And, certainly, forty years later, the roots of freedom have grown into the soil of the populace. Nevertheless, one may be excused for wondering just how much it would take to deracinate them.
Dominating the campus at many German universities are various left-wing, extremist and Marxist groups. Jean Francois Revel once wrote that "democracy treats subversives as mere opponents for fear of betraying its principles," and it is indeed sobering, not to say frightening, to see these groups almost literally wallpaper the towns with their political posters and flood them with their "newspapers" and propaganda, knowing that the instant they were ever able to take power they would crush freedom of expression which along with their money from Moscow is the primary reason they exist. In other words, there is a strong anti-democratic, leftist element in West Germany, the depth of whose commitment is not to be underestimated.
The implications for the INF treaty are clear. West Germany is looking for strong leadership from America. As Hitler said, (if I recall correctly), the masses, like a woman, prefer a dominator to a suppliant. If America displays strong leadership, as it has under Reagan, Europe will follow. They'll whine, but they'll follow. But if we yank out the Pershing IIs, the weapons the Soviets find most threatening (according to Rogers), without concomitant reductions in Soviet conventional forces, we're playing a very dangerous game. Let's hope President Reagan is able to recognize this at the summit.//
|March 9th, 2014||#19|
[this was published in the paper's offical editorial space, by me in my capacity as opinions editor. people were ??? by it, probably assuming it had some deeper, anti-communist meaning]
[Published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, December 4, 1987]
One day over Thanksgiving break I was walking to Frary when I happened to see something incredibly disgusting - a field cricket. I don't know if you're familiar with this variety of insect, but let me assure you they are unprepossessing in the extreme.
Now, don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a good insect as well as the next guy, but field crickets drive me up the wall. Unlike simple black crickets which chirp inoffensively (like Cecil Sagehen), field crickets have nothing to commend their existence.
Let me describe one for you. The first thing you notice about a field cricket is its big, ugly, red-orange head. Attached to this hideous tomato-colored ball is a whitish abdomen covered with brownish stripes and shaped like the bottom half of a bowling pin. But the worst thing about this species is its size. They're big. They're real big. Imagine a typical black cricket. Field crickets put them to shame. I estimate the one I saw was about one and a half inches long and a good three-quarters of an inch tall.
The cricket outside Frary moved with what seemed calculated deliberation. Or maybe it was just sick. As I stared at it in the dying light of the afternoon sun, my mind began to wander. Suddenly, I was back in George Orwell's 1984.
"So Mr. Linder," said a smallish man with an evil smile, "what is it that you fear most?" I tried to avoid thinking about field crickets, but couldn't. "Aha," said the smaller man's companion, "field crickets, eh?" They strapped me to a table and brought out a small, covered piece of Tupperware. "Guess what's in here, buddy!"
I lay motionless, hoping I could eat the required three field crickets without betraying the woman I loved.
As they placed the first insect on my defenseless lips, I tried to steel myself mentally. I remembered how, as a young lad, I used to feed grasshoppers to the cat. While I doubled up in laughter and disgust, the cat masticated with slow precision; crunch followed crunch as wings, thorax and soft parts slowly disappeared. Now, as I bit into the cricket, I tried to become the cat. Hell, it worked for Liddy and the rat. As my teeth pressured the red globe, the cricket squirmed and writhed like a centipede with a pin through its head. With all its tiny sense organs screaming in pain the full-bodied cricket twisted and turned, its legs pushing and straining in a vain attempt to extricate itself from the deathly orifice. Not that it was easy for me, mind you. After five minutes, the end was near. That tears that had been welling burst forth and mixed with the sweat on my cheeks and the saliva dripping out of the corner of my mouth; I swallowed -- I was now a third of the way through my ordeal. . . .
The footsteps of a passerby brought me back to reality.
The next day when I passed the field cricket, I was glad to see that a colony of ants had found it. They had gotten inside its exoskeleton and were eating its eyes and internal organs from inside. I smiled at their efficiency and silently thanked them for their service. And when I pass by my little friend today, I fully expect him to be but a shell of his former self.
|March 9th, 2014||#20|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, December 11, 1987]
American Survival in a Benetton World
By Alex Linder
Upon this bank and shoal of time, America is in an enviable position. A steadily growing economy, a strong military, a free and productive society are all guarantees of good times to come. Nevertheless, there are trends, found throughout the West, that if left unchecked could result in a dark future.
As every IR student learns in the first few lectures, when it comes to calculating power, will is all important. A nation may have X missiles, Y tanks, and Z soldiers, but if will is lacking, the rest is insignificant.
Will is the intangible by which the physical components of power are multiplied; if absent the result is always zero. Think of the Vietnam War.
American will, although undiminished under Reagan, is in a long-term decline. Why? Because of our leadership. The sum effects of the media, the academics, and many of the politicians is negative, erosive, and destructive.
There are three types of American fools. Those who can't see; those who won't see; and those who see and accept. The media are the stupid and incompetent. The politicians are the willingly blind. The academics can't infer their ways out of paper bags. A certain sector of each sees what's going on and approves.
But what is being referred to? Well, primarily the communist threat -- facilitated by a country made doubtful of itself, its capabilities, and its special purpose. In essence, America is the last, best hope.
We are the city on the hill. We are what the world has struggled to produce. Through millenium after millenium, men have fought, killed, raped, looted, plundered, tortured, terrorized, and spat on one another. But hey, that's what being human is half about.
America is the original place where the evil effects of human nature have been well controlled. With our constitution we've reached the best trade-off between order and freedom the world has ever seen. We have the richest, strongest, freest country in the world.
In a word, we are the best country in the world. The only thing capable of stopping a world governmental organization capable of suppressing all but the smallest regional conflicts, and based on the principles of the U.S. constitution, is self-doubt. We must turn away from those who work to injure this American Achilles' Heel.
Let's consider a country where the evil effects of self-doubt are evident in the national psyche: West Germany. The legacy of Hitler is a confused land full of geistlos and angstvoll people who have no ability to tell right from wrong. West Germany is a country so mixed up and turned around as to make one despair for its future. What can we learn about ourselves from this country? Let's listen to some of its students talk about the U.S. -- friends of the writer.
First, there's Christian. He says he doesn't like it when Reagan says "God bless America" at the end of his speeches and all the listeners stand up and cheer. Then there's Heide. You try to hide a smile as she lectures you on America's imperialist history. Finally, there's Inge. When you try to explain the tenets of Reaganism to her, she laughs at you in the softly condescending way you'd laugh at a toddler falling over while trying to walk.
"I feel much more threatened by the Americans than by the Russians," she says. . . .a sorry state of affairs.
What threatens America today is our decline into moral relativism and intellectual squishiness brought about by liberal mountebankery, whose representatives strive to outdo one another in their put-downs of America.
There seem to be so few people around today who are willing to forthrightly assert the moral superiority of the American system of government.
What we are taught: We're taught to think in shades of gray rather than in black and white. We're warned that we perceive everything through our own cultural lens, thus implicitly negating our judgments.
Think of the term "ethnocentric." This is a big word with many IR people. The word's a sick joke. It's a fancy word for letting the other guy walk all over you while you philosophically justify his actions. A common mistake is to overrate the importance of looking at issues from another nation's perspective.
The problem is that where we do this we tend to forget that we have to represent our own interests. Do the Iranians or the Soviets think about our interests when we deal with them? Hell no. They figure out what they want and go after it.
Moral equivalency is perhaps the most widespread and certainly the most dangerous trend among the elite of America and the West. It is widespread in that the vast majority of Europeans and an increasingly large number of Americans see no moral difference between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. It is most dangerous because there is obviously no particular reason to feel an obligation to defend a certain country (America) if it's no better than its chief adversary.
As evidence of the growth of this trend, mere anecdotes will have to suffice. The Europeans referred to previously are believers in the two-scorpions-in-a-bottle metaphor many Europeans like to use to describe the two superpowers. Polls have recently found that many view Gorbachev as more of a peacemaker than Reagan.
Perhaps better than anyone else, the murdered John Lennon represented the two-scorpions approach to world politics. "Imagine there's no countries. . . . A brotherhood of man." Similarly, you might be familiar with a song called the "Universal Soldier" which talks about young men of various denominations dying in various fights for various causes.
The point of this despicable tripe is that no idea or cause is morally distinguishable from any other since they all involve some amount of conflict and bloodshed; only the idealistic one-worlders remain uncorrupted visionaries. There's "nothing to kill or die for" in John Lennon's world.
It cannot be overemphasized that this is the type of thinking that can destroy America. John Lennon and his ilk see no moral difference between the Soviet Union and America; all they do is rise above to an invisible world where they are alone and perfect. Call it moral Swedishness.
Like the residents of that sorry country, Lennonists feel free to claim the moral perfection that is nothing more than the birthright of the impotent.
There is a sickly habit today of refusing to make distinctions. It's the approach that makes English and Art History so meaningless compared to politics -- there's never any voting. There's never the satisfaction of deciding something. I think this, you think that, she thinks the other. And this holds for whatever painting or book is examined.
The point is: if a book or painting can mean anything, then it means nothing. For some reason this sieve-mindedness is starting to slide over into politics. And that's a bad sign.
Finally, the scary truth about our times is that we're living in a Benetton world. Benetton's advertising campaign is based on the approach that the world's nations and peoples are one, big, undifferentiated mass. We can all -- whether we're Laura in Los Angeles, Mbutu in Kenya, or Fyodor in Leningrad -- wear the same dopey, androgynous jumpsuits. Why? Because we're all the same -- our ethnicities, traditions, customs, beliefs are only so many stumbling blocks to be swept aside in the race to create the generic person.
But it ain't so. America is not just another in an array of equally valid choices for societal organization. It's the best. And the others aren't different -- they're worse. That's what I believe, and that's what you ought to believe. And if enough of us continue to believe it (as we traditionally have) the future is ours.//