A funny thing at the forum
Last Thursday, Bowdoin College's leaders executed a great
idea. They gathered seven professors in Pickard Theater and invited members
of the college and local community to ask questions and make comments
about the ramifications of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The organizers
were even polite enough to erect a movie screen so that they could pause
and watch President Bush's speech and then comment on it. Unfortunately,
the seven panelists seemed only to represent one opinion. Not surprisingly,
the opinion was that of the liberal elite. Never before has the discord
between the academic community and the rest of the nation seemed so obvious.
Prior to Bush's speech, nothing at the "Forum"
bothered me. It actually seemed like a skeptical but understandable response
to what had taken place over the previous eight days. There were legitimate
concerns about hate crimes against Arab-Americans, US relations with moderate
Arab states, compliance with International Law, and trying to generate
an understanding as to why the attack happened. I felt that Dean McEwen's
caveat about recognizing the difference between "explanation and
justification" was a plenary observation that wisely set the parameters
for the discussion.
Then President Bush spoke. He walked on stage with confidence,
determination, and a clear agenda. He spoke longer than his typical speeches,
with uncharacteristic eloquence and grace. It was an amazing speech that
covered almost every topic plaguing the minds of both the panelists and
the nation. Such topics included condemning hate crimes against Arab-Americans,
our relations with the rest of the world, and the purpose of this "new
kind of war"?spoken with inspiring vigor and patriotism. The media,
the Democratic party, and the American public were in unprecedented agreement
that it was a great speech and was exactly the kind of confidence boost
that the country needed.
Unfortunately that sense of confidence and inspiration did
not seem to please the Bowdoin elite. The aforementioned group was offended
when Bush uttered the words "God is not neutral." A friend of
mine recalled hearing a person behind him expressing his offense that
the President had committed the cardinal sin of mixing church and state.
It was apparently of no consequence to this gentleman that every past
U.S. President, as well as the Founding Fathers, had expressed similar
Then some of the members in the audience joined the foray
of fallacious comments. One student suggested that our nation's response
is uncalled for because we don't react in kind when something like this
happens on another country's territory. For one thing, nothing like this
has ever happened anywhere. Never before have so many innocent civilians
died during a peacetime terrorist attack. Secondly, when "smaller"
tragedies occur, we do respond. Perhaps this student was unaware that
the United States Naval Academy ranks schools on its ability to produce
"world leaders." Out of 3,000 schools on this list, Bowdoin
is ranked eighth. Just within the last 50 years this school produced famous
international figures such as George Mitchell, Bill Cohen, Thomas Pickering,
and Christopher Hill. Not only does the United States intervene in places
like Northern Ireland, the Baltics, and Israel, but Bowdoin alumni are
on the front lines.
Somebody also tried to make the argument that we don't know
poverty, and since poverty is the reason the extremists resort to such
heinous acts of violence, we are somehow disqualified from passing judgment.
Apparently this student doesn't look around much when he drives through
Brunswick or other parts of America. There is unfortunately plenty of
poverty in this country. Fortunately, our government, private charity,
and economic freedom give people the opportunity to move out of the slough
of destitution. Afghanistan is a poor country, but they are not poor because
of us. We sent them aid and helped international relief efforts until
the Taliban started kicking UN workers out, arresting Christian missionaries,
and murdering women in public executions.
At the end of the evening, I confronted the panel and audience on their inability not only to recognize the concern that the President showed for their issues, but the inspiration and confidence in his speech. A professor curtly responded that "he's inspiring because he keeps things simple." This inappropriate retort confirmed what I had suspected all along. This "forum" was not really an open-minded debate with respectful differences of opinion. Although I respect many of the professors on the panel, the evening seemed like a number of closed-minded people hiding behind the veil of being "open-minded" and "liberal." The President addressed their concerns in his speech, and has a cabinet of experts with combat and classroom experience who have not and will not act without considering the full consequences of every action. It is sad that those who promulgate opinions that differ from 91 percent of Americans and their government are not humble enough to recognize that the freedom our country is fighting for consists of the fundamental rights that allow them to disagree and not be shot.