Not too many people get to celebrate their 100th birthday in the Senate Office building. Congratulations on reaching that mark, Strom.

Paul Wong
Jon Schwartz, Two sides to every Schwartz

Why don’t we leave it at that.

Of course, not everyone decided to give the old legislator a pat on the back and a respectful round of applause. No, someone decided that Strom Thurmond’s entire life should be remembered and appreciated on the day he reached the milestone. Decided to reminisce on how much better off we would all be if Thurmond (R-S.C.) had won the presidency in 1948 on his platform of continuing segregation.

Fortunately, it was no one important, only the incoming Senate majority leader, Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

When the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert to the University’s admissions lawsuits last week, I asked a colleague, a firm supporter of affirmative action, if he considered the announcement a win or a loss. He explained to me that it was a win, because he saw no way that his group would fail to drum up enough support for the cause, thereby ensuring that the nine justices would fall in line.

My response was that I applauded his confidence, but the timing for the decision didn’t seem great to me. Last month’s midterm elections seemed to indicate, at least to me, that this country is undoubtedly leaning to the right, even if just by a hair.

No, I was told. The election was simply a result of the failure by the Democrats to put anyone worthwhile on the ticket. Even with miserable candidates, the elections were all very close.

I’ve been thinking about that since Lott made his comments Thursday. My friend may be right. Maybe with better candidates the Democrats could have maintained their control of Congress, maybe they could have kept in line the checks and balances that our dear president so desperately needs.

But they didn’t, and here we are with Trent Lott reminding us that we’ll never know how good life would have been if he and the rest of his filthy pals had gotten those black people off our backs.

In case you’re concerned, yes, this is 2002.

I have a Pakistani professor who has been in this country for only about two years. Last Wednesday during a class discussion, he told us how impressed he’s been with American society, how incorrect so many of the foreign stereotypes proved to be. Thank you, we told him, but he’s not really seeing America in an Ann Arbor classroom. America does not really exist in the generally liberal Midwestern universities such as ours. America certainly includes the Midwest, but you can’t forget about North Dakota, California, New York, Texas, South Carolina or Trent Lott’s own Grenada County, Miss.

It’s easy in a city like Ann Arbor to forget that this country is not resoundingly liberal. We live in this vacuum in which we believe that Americans are wholly opposed to war, where we’re certain that pro-choice is the only way to go, where conservatives rallying against affirmative action are in the minority. But they’re not! To be exceedingly liberal on this campus, you have to basically be communist anywhere else.

America is fighting one war and is about to start another. There’s serious question as to how much longer Roe v. Wade will hold up. Affirmative action may very well be struck down come June. As revolting as this sounds, if the Republicans haven’t won yet, they certainly hold a commanding lead.

As Newsweek reported in last week’s cover story, this government is foolishly convinced that abstinence is the best way to curb teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Our president believes that I should be moved when he concludes every statement with a tribute to his religion. And the loudest voice in our Senate dreams of good old segregation. Terrifying.

We’re just 21 days from 2003, which is shaping up to be an incredibly important year for America. President Bush, whose father gave us Clarence Thomas, will likely be nominating a new chief justice of the United States, a recommendation that will be ultimately approved by Lott’s Republican Senate. The next year will likely see another war, huge tax cuts and the 2004 presidential race begin to take shape.

If my Pakistani professor stays in this country through the next year and my affirmative action-rallying colleague keeps his eyes on the country as a whole, maybe they’ll see what America really looks like.

I just hope it better resembles their beliefs than those of our current political leaders. I just hope America doesn’t look anything like Trent Lott.

Jon Schwartz can be reached at jlsz@umich.edu.

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