Prof. Wright and free speech

A writer who lives in Paradise

Little support for George Wright has emerged from the community or his colleagues following his perceptive comments and essay [“Going down the wrong path,” CN&R, Sept. 20] on American foreign policy and the path we are taking in response to the events of Sept. 11. These ideas and the cumulative impact of America’s foreign policy, particularly since WWII, desperately need to come to the foreground of the debate about which path we, the American people, choose our government take on our behalf.

We seem hell bent on heading down the path both in domestic and foreign policy and actions that meet the terrorists’ expectations. That is the very last thing that we should do. The outbursts of vitriolic rhetoric and acts against persons who so much as appear Middle Eastern within our borders serve to further buttress the image of who we are as portrayed by the terrorists.

What Wright has done is not at all anti-American, and yet he must have known that his comments would visit upon him the derision, letters and threats that have come. Political dissent, though essential and at the core of the American political process, has historically almost always been described by those in power as anti-American.

Many Americans have abdicated most of the responsibilities and obligations incumbent on being citizens and preserving our freedom and system of government. Vigilant scrutiny of government is among the most important of those obligations and responsibilities. That scrutiny must be applied to both domestic and foreign policy.

It is long past time to recognize that domestic and foreign policy planned and shrouded in secrecy has not worked in the interests of peace, human rights or in spreading democracy in the world, nor has it enhanced our rights as enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

If we allow any of our rights to be diminished, if we stand by in quiet acquiescence while anyone is singled out for persecution because of his or her race, religion, ethnicity or exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights, then we meet these terrorists’ expectations. If we do that, all those victims of Sept. 11 will have died in vain.

One might also ask, where are the Faculty Senate, the faculty union, President Esteban and the administrators and managers of CSUC on this issue? One of their colleagues, a distinguished professor emeritus at our university, is being called unfit to teach and receiving threats of harm, even death, for expressing his thoughts. Temerity seems to have overtaken the educational community on the issue of preserving academic freedom and the free flow of ideas on our campuses.

I am privileged to know George, and while we have our differences, to be sure, I am equally sure that anyone who does know him will tell you that he is a valuable asset in our community and a teacher who has always challenged his students and made them think. Whether you agree or disagree with his position is less important than understanding that we must defend and vigorously support his and anyone else’s right to speak. George has the courage to give voice to his ideas no matter the consequences, and that in my humble opinion is what America is obliged to do.