The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

John McCain has Clearly Struck A Nerve

In a few short weeks, I will be graduating from Columbia University. Through real relationships and purely digital ones, stemming from my days on and (sadly both have closed their doors), I've been exposed to a wide range of people and their beliefs. A lot of what I’ve seen has been well-intentioned activism, and a lot of it has been the self-important aggrandizing of those just needing a cause to hold onto, to justify their existence. This has been the biggest godsend that Columbia could have given me. John McCain's pending presence on our campus, May 16th, has exposed the limits of our liberalism; it has put out in the open the rift that has been growing between liberals and the self described "oppressed" conservative movement on our campus.

In our lives, we should welcome diverse opinions, if not to open our eyes to new truths then to reinforce our own. Columbia College Class Day is different, graduation is meant to be a celebration of the work we have put in during the last four years. The speaker is a reflection of those values which we as a group hold nearest to us. At Columbia, if those values were not progressiveness and diversity, I would be embarrassed to attend the school. When the news about McCain first came out there was an initial petition circulating, damning McCain for his affiliation with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Jerry Falwell is an extremist for the far-right, it was ludicrous to put John McCain in the same boat or to argue that his presence represented his endorsement of Falwell’s beliefs. One could argue that McCain’s presence at Columbia was an endorsement of our generally liberal egalitarian views on the world.

Recently a friend of mine, Kate Mahoney began circulating a new petition. The central point is, “John McCain does not speak for us”, that he holds very conservative viewpoints that are completely at ends with our student body. Many have spouted off that the university setting is the perfect forum for diversity of ideology and they are correct, but protesting the choice of McCain as graduation speaker is no issue of free speech. What it reflects is a terrible decision by the administration and student governing board to extend an invitation to a controversial political figure, especially one far to the right of the majority of the university. Graduation is a time for celebration, not controversy and political activism. While I look forward to McCain’s speech and do not anticipate anything other than “you are the best and the brightest, go forth and make our country proud with your contribution, bye bye”, his selection has brought out the worst in us.

On the newly formed , the site was intended to serve as a forum for discussion. This is what it has to offer.

Kate Mahoney,

Oh Kate, you also come from a spoiled upbringing. You also got indoctrinated in the ways of elite. And to make yourself feel good you oppress others with your intolerance of other ideas. but keep up the work, because of people like you the voice of liberals is subdued and you hate is evident.. \Shame on you... Hater
 Bob Kerry (CC '06)

Laura Cordetti,

You come from wealthy family. You are pampered and have no idea what the real world is like. Ive got an idea, give up all your money and get a 60 hour a week job. But please stop preaching you spoiled BRAT who has nothing better to do...
-- Laur is spoiled rich girl (CC '06)
Kim Sue,

Please dont "enter the world". Please spare us your agenda on hate.. You hate all who disagree with you. You hate all who speak up for what they believe but you dont.... KIM SUE YOU ARE A HATER
Laura Cordetti - GET A LIFE and get a job too. You poor thing!
-- Tom (Contributor)

I don’t understand how voicing your opinion became such a call for hateful speech to come out of the woodwork. The hypocrisy that runs amuck in these comments is almost appalling, but not surprising. Perhaps it is the liberalism that dominates the campus that causes those of the more conservative persuasion to act out in desperation with ad-hominem and irrelevant personal attacks. This reminds me of my friend Laura being physically threatened after voicing her pro-choice sentiment. That was two years ago, we clearly have moved very far. The overarching sentiment in these website comments are that the some of the other comment writers are unqualified to make a judgment on the speaker because they are rich, don’t speak up for what they believe in, aren’t in the “real world”, etc. The fact of the matter is that many of the individuals being attacked have had a history of standing up for what they believe in and embracing their activism as a forum to make others more aware of domestic and global injustice. Their involvement is completely independent of monetary wealth and it is sad that anonymous commenters somehow equate privilege and economic stability as factors disqualifying one from participating in the public forum of ideas. Columbia’s liberalism continues from one generation to the next as it is obvious from the comments, the other side doesn’t have much to offer.


  • At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jim Lindgren has some interesting thoughts about this over at volokh (here and here), basically making the point that there is nothing wrong with tasteful partisanship at commencement speeches.

  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    The exact same could be said (and indeed was said) about the conduct of liberal student-hecklers and inappropriate protesters during the visits by John Ashcroft or James Woolsey. I am not going to defend the comments made by those conservative students, particularly those made towards Kate for whom I have great respect and fondness. They were inappropriate and outright wrong. But this type of conduct is most certainly not limited to conservative members of the student body, and it is disingenuous to imply otherwise.

  • At 3:52 PM, Blogger Wang said…

    I'm going to go ahead and agree with you Sean. I read that last paragraph I wrote and well... it's kind of spiteful. Not really what I meant... but... well yes it is.

    Yes, the disrespectfulness at the Ashcroft speech was out of line. Outside of the speech, sure, inside the speech, have some respect.

    What I was trying to get at is that a lot... maybe most of the visible conservatives on campus, I am pointing a finger at Kulawik, go out of their way to be inflammatory. It's as if they need unnecessary shows of gobbledegook to make a point. When people see and read things Kulawik-esque, I can't see how anybody takes that seriously.

    Anyways, you're right though. It was disingenous for me to imply that. Cheers.

  • At 10:59 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Yeah you are right Wang. What we need is...ANOTHER DENNIS! Why oh why did he have to graduate?! DENNIS COME BACK WE MISS YOU!

  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Dennis said…

    (Haha, thanks Sean.)

    Although Wang, I have to say I think some criticism of the protest against McCain was in order. First, it's upsetting that Class Day was politicized. And not by inviting Sen. McCain, as some have suggested. Sue Kim, for instance, was quoted as saying something to the effect of "If you bring a political speaker, expect a political response." Yet the first two speakers invited, Clinton and Obama, were political as well. And we've had other big names in the past that were liberal and could have been protested for their beliefs or actions. But they weren't.

    In fact, liberals invited -- like Bill Clinton -- have had positions I or the protestors would disagree with. Clinton, for instance, created "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (comparing gay rights to his alcoholic father's behavior, as he described in "My Life"), Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, and Clinton defended Bush at first on his decision to go to War in Iraq. But had Clinton have come, I would have recognized he was here to honor me and my class and would have been honored by the presence of a former president.

    As Bill Clinton once said, "If you and I always think the same thing, one of us has stopped thinking." That doesn't mean we shouldn't listen to what the other side says, and even block others who might want to hear it. To do that's not liberalism, it's fascism -- and I don't use that word lightly.

    So let's zoom forward, shall we? The supposedly dignified and unobstructing protest that was planned went on. And while it was so small that it got minimal press coverage, from what I've seen, the biggest group of protestors with orange umbrellas was right in front of me, with seats and in the aisle. They had messages written on the tops of their umbrellas, and turned them sideways so that the tops would be visible to McCain -- and so that my view would be even more obscured. And by standing and congregating around the aisles, they blocked my view of the screens even after I asked Nell Geiser politely if they would move a little to let me see. She just smiled and laughed. And with their rude talking, I couldn't hear my own Class Day speaker.

    Now that's not unobstructive. And not only did it bother me, but it annoyed a friend of mine (who is actually a strongly liberal Democrat) sitting next to me. She at least wanted to hear what McCain had to say.

    Let me say, I believe I was dignified. I asked once if they would move so I could see the screen, but that was it. I sat through most of his speech listening to their loud chatter and without being able to hear or see McCain, not even on a screen. And I didn't fight it.

    But make no mistake, I'll remember it. I'll remember that my classmates did not have enough respect for me to let me hear my own Class Day speaker. I'll remember that they did not have enough respect for McCain to even listen to the first words of his speech before they jumped up to protest, face away, and chatter among themselves. I'll remember many of the exact people who did that, many of whom I have had classes with and had respect for before. And, although I usually find myself incapable of holding a grudge even when I should, I believe this is one grudge that I will hold.

    Such people have lost my respect. I will not be able to listen seriously to liberals like Nell Geiser or Ady Barkan who pretend to support liberalism and free speech and cannot bear to hear one thought that is independent of their own or one person that they don't agree with politically.

    Alan Dershowitz, a personal hero of mine (civil libertarian liberal and all), came to Columbia once and made reference to the "Free Speech Club" of people who really support free speech. As he suggested, you gain membership in the club by sitting through one person's speech who you completely disagree with but listening and letting them continue. Until you can do that, you don't really support free speech. Through four years at Columbia (ok, 3.5 if you're counting, Sean), I have earned my membership to the Free Speech club several times over.

    The liberals who could not even stand to listen to John McCain and who tried their best (and succeeded) to block him from speaking to their classmates are in no real sense true liberals. And they deserve no respect in the political debate of this country.

    I've always been fairly moderate in my beliefs. I can't say, though, that those protestors haven't convinced me yet again that the left is not at all tolerant of divergent beliefs. And if I'm wrong with that, please prove it to me.

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Dennis said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Dennis said…

    In addition, I have my own slogan, which is different from the protestors:

    John McCain doesn't speak for me -- I speak for me -- but I'd like to hear what McCain has to say.

  • At 8:20 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    I have my own version of the slogan as well, to explain why I, a liberal, was not outraged at McCain's presence.

    "John McCain does not speak for me, he speaks to me."

    To quote Stephen Colbert: "Think about it. I haven't."

  • At 5:19 PM, Blogger Dennis said…

    Brian, I like your slogan. :)


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