Politics in general is a messy, ugly and coldhearted business. The knives only get sharper, the attacks more insidious and the competition more intensely personal when it relates to the politics of personal philosophy. The battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate, any decent political operative will remind you, is a bloody affair, waged with deceit, sleight of hand and a slight dash of manipulation.
The latest installment in this battle between liberals and conservatives is now focused on American Higher Education and certain institutions in particular have been singled out: These include the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the ivies in general, the University of California at Davis and Berkeley to name a few. Their crime: Not being sufficiently patriotic enough about the war on terrorism.
A corollary to this includes not being sufficiently supportive of the Bush Administration. The usual suspects on the conservative side include the infamous David Horowitz, Ann Coulter and our very own Michigan Review. In the “red” corner, we have The Michigan Daily”s editorial page, the faculty and student bodies of the aforementioned institutions.
The biggest issue conservatives seem to have is the fact that these universities are not gushing with patriotism and nave nationalism when it comes to America”s place in the world. The fact that students and professors engage in critical self-examination of America galls them to no end. It seems they would rather that these institutions spoke with one unflinchingly robotic and nationalistic voice that pledged unconditional support for the war. That these institutions are not doing this has caused several to throw out the label “anti-American” in a manner that is similar to the McCarthy technique.
These people seem to forget why universities exist. The goal of the university is not to foist one opinion on others, or force someone to think in one particular manner. Universities thrive on a plurality of opinion, on a multitude of views. Anything less and it is not a university anymore, it becomes a propaganda factory, a brainwashing unit.
Another reason why the voices of dissent are louder on these campuses results from the structuring of American society which conservatives love so much. American universities are the breeding grounds of the elite, some more so than others Harvard has produced seven presidents, Michigan, one and both schools drown the world with the countless bureaucrats and industry leaders.
Leaders who will face conflict need to understand exactly why their enemy is attacking them. It is not enough to describe the enemies as crazed mullahs and their culture as inferior and backward. The people who will lead this country need to understand objectively what the United States has done.
I am not implying that America bashing is always justified, however, I am saying there are reasons why some people will have strong adversarial feelings towards the United States.
These reasons include the School of the Americas formerly based in Fort Benning, GA., which trained a great number of the military dictators who ravaged the populations of Latin America in the name of stopping the communist threat the imposition of Mobutu Sese Seko as a dictator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the support of the apartheid government in South Africa during the struggle and the branding of the African National Congress as terrorists and of course, the intractable Palestinian situation which has been exacerbated by the perception of American partiality.
Those who are being groomed in the ivory tower to become leaders must understand these reasons, they do not need to accept them but they must acknowledge that they serve as motivation for enmity. They must also understand the good that their country has done in the world.
They do not, however, need to buy into the nationalistic hysteria that grips other segments of society. They are not the masses that must be rallied to the cause, they are the leaders that must do the rallying and ensure that the cause is achieved. For them to be effective, they need a clear picture, not a rose-colored one.
Babawole Akin Aina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.