Campus: you have been warned. You are being watched. And if there are any more anti-war protests, there could be hell to pay perhaps even with your life.
That”s according to a threatening letter that was forwarded to the Daily following last Thursday”s anti-war protest. Readers may interpret it as a death threat. The author may have meant it as a joke, but it may very well be serious. Below are portions of the letter, which has not been edited for grammar, spelling or punctuation. Judge for yourself.
what does it take for the yellow bastards that your school breeds,the yellow bastard war protestors,to realize that this war is a must-must situation!!do they not watch tv?do they not care of their fellow americans?do i have to come to your school premises with a bus and pick them up at gunpoint,to load them up on a bus to take them to NewYork city myself to open their peabrain eyes so they can have a closer glimpse into the eyes of evil and the depths of hell at ground zero,and make them get on their goddamn hands and knees,hit them in the stomach so they have to breathe real hard and deep,and smell the godawful stench of all the dead americans that were killed by the terrorists that created the CAUSE of this WAR.whats the matter with those yellow streek up their asses students?
they are very lucky that i was”nt in ann arbor during this protest.you had better warn your students NOT TO STAGE ANY MORE PROTESTS AGAINST AMERICANS FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM .believe you me,it will not end with peace on their side.im a patriotic,law abiding ,good red blooded american citizen and belong to a large and powerfull organization known worldwide. you could say we are the U.S.A.s GHOST battallion.we fight for the red white and blues causes. when the govt. is 100% right,without any shadow of a doubt,and when the govt.cant solve the problem within just means in the eyes of the public,no matter how hard they try,then we take over the fight of that cetain cause.
no matter how ruthless our method may be,in the eyes of all humankind ,our ends justify the means.we all live by the code “iget cut,my brother bleeds,my brother gets cut,i bleed”,in other words if these pea brains dont understand what brotherhood is all about,they are not fit to be an american,or live on my american soil.with this letter they have been WARNED!!!!!
what these cowards need is a taste of terrorism i guess,in order not to protest our country engaging in war to rid this evil.im ashamed to let my other brothers and sisters from other states know i live in a state that has a prestigeous school that allows their students to protest against all the dead americans honor,from new york and washington.if it happens again,they will be dealt with.you can take that to the bank.do they belong to a terrorist organization???tell them to remember what president Bush said about terrorists.”your with us ,or your against us “and my organization waves the same flag president Bush waves,god bless his sole.these students will be filmed ,photos will be madeof them ,they will be followed to their homes,and their address” will be recorded.they then will be filed as suspects. my organization will not be as lenient with these yellow cowards when the sword of swift justice swings,as their parents were when they were caught doing what they were forbidden to do,as children.these kids need a wake up call and I hope this warning reaches them to do just that.thank you……
What does a letter like this signify? Obviously, it”s primary intention is to scare campus with an ultimate goal of silencing anti-war sentiments among students. If interpreted on a broader level, this letter signals what”s happening across the nation a backlash against alternative unpopular thought in our time of deep crisis. Interestingly enough, a letter like this this has a significant impact on academia.
The letter writer asks why the University allows such un-American activities to take place on campus. And when you consider that, one must question the role of a university during times of war.
Some television pundits we”ve heard the past two weeks contend that during our time of crisis, the nation must restrain itself and censor alternative thought that could be construed as un-American. By doing that, national morale is strong.
But if that is taken literally, that means that criticism of American foreign policy and U.S. military actions must be suppressed for the betterment of the homefront. For example, pointing out that two great empires were slaughtered in Afghanistan could become a taboo subject, banished from national discussion. In a nutshell, some in this nation right now want nothing more than American flags and “God Bless America.” Nobody wants to hear about why the presence of U.S. forces in Pakistan may tear that nation apart.
To very patriotic Americans, like many people in this nation, including the writer of the threatening letter, times of national crises call for the country to stand together and place all faith in the government. That”s how the United States succeeded in World War II. And some blame the U.S. defeat in Vietnam on the the lack of unity at home.
Much of the opposition to that conflict was fostered on university campuses nationwide including here in Ann Arbor. It wasn”t just students yelling and screaming. There was activism in the classroom as well. Whether you interpret that activism as education or anti-war indoctrination, what”s discussed in the nation”s lecture halls may not always be in sync with the patriotic interests of the nation.
But our “New War” is not Vietnam. Will debates in our political science lectures or American history discussion sections temper criticism of the government or delve beneath the surface and analyze the hell out of the United States” role in the world?
As seen from last Thursday”s anti-war rally, there are people who are daring enough to challenge mainstream American thought and oppose the war. We”ve seen teach-ins where panelists have indicated that the tragedies of Sept. 11 will force the U.S. to change its global attitude.
That”s not too comforting to people who only want to see Old Glory and ticker tape parades down Broadway.
Just like during the Gulf War, the University is probably not going to take a position on the anti-war/pro-war debate. And for good reason. The role of the University is to provide a forum where ideas can be exchanged and debated. But many ideas that stand in stark contrast to the American national consensus have been attacked so far.
Last year, the University came under fire from conservatives across the state for an English course offering titled “How to be Gay.” If a political science professor wanted to offer a course titled “Why America is wrong” will the University bow to outside pressure to suppress those views?
During the 1950s, the University forced professors suspected to be affiliated with the Communist Party to resign. Today, the threat isn”t the Soviet Union, it”s Osama bin Laden and terrorism. But if patriotism subverts academic freedom, then I fear we could be facing a new un-American witchunt. Although it is hard to predict how the national consensus on the coming war will steer higher education, it”s the University”s duty to not revisit the days of McCarthyism. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.
University President Lee Bollinger, a noted First Amendment scholar asked professors and graduate student instructors to engage their classes in discussions about the terrorist attacks in the days following Sept. 11. I hope this will continue. I also hope that in the uncertain days ahead, our society will be able to tolerate views that clash with the mainstream American consensus on the war. Many of the ideas we”ve heard about pacifism and peace are idealistic and unrealistic, but there are others that are quite rational. On the flip-side, there are other arguments supporting war that are just as rational.
If our national consensus moves toward the censorship of academic freedom, the University must foster an environment where even the most ridiculous, unpopular ideas are heard loud and clear.
Michael Grass can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.