“I wish I was wrong about this”

Yesterday (Wed) afternoon, Nick Hiller–a peace activist student at WCU–said to me, “I wish I was wrong about this. I wish every day I would wake up and find out I’ve been the world’s biggest asshole about the war.” Or something close to that, anyway.

Dittos, Nick. I’ve been thinking much the same for years, but without putting it quite so directly. Those of you who think peace activists are traitors, or crazy, need to understand that we don’t do our work because we “hate the troops” or “hate our country.” We do it because we deeply believe that what our government is doing to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places is wrong. We do it because we have faith that democratic organizing and activism can stop these injustices, and in many cases (like mine), we do it because our commitment to democracy tells us that unjust/illegal wars and occupations must be stopped.

You can’t imagine how much easier my life would be if I woke up tomorrow morning and changed my mind, if I decided that US foreign policy is exactly right and just. I could support the troops and their mission without hesitation; I could spend more time with my wife, watching baseball, talking about music and movies with my friends, petting the dog, etc, instead of writing this blog, doing research every day about policies and their implications, attending and organizing vigils/rallies/protests/teach-ins, and being kept awake at night knowing that a nation with as much democratic promise as ours is watching its soul get sold out by a small cabal of powerful people who are profiting from the devastation they bring to other people without the least concern for the harm they cause.

Pant pant pant–that’s a pretty breathless sentence…

But I won’t wake up tomorrow believing that all’s well. It just isn’t. I’m not crazy, and I’m reasonably smart. The evidence is very, very clear that our current policies and policy-makers aren’t interested in democracy or freedom (except their own freedom to exploit whoever they want for profit) at all. They’re interested in themselves and maintaining their own power. They’re interested in making sure that anybody who disagrees with them gets silenced (one way or another). They don’t (usually) snatch citizens off the street and “disappear” them, but they’ve shown they’re willing to bend the Constitution and international law far beyond its breaking point to make sure nobody can check them very easily.

Like Nick, I wish I was wrong. But we’re not. Sadly, we’re not. And that’s why we keep organizing, protesting, educating, and struggling. It’s not to prove you (people who disagree with us) “wrong”; it’s not about winning debates shouted across streets. It’s about winning the fight for democracy, putting power in the hands of people who aren’t working only in their own private interests, and taking power away from people who abuse it at the expense of everybody else.

Simple as that.

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10 Responses to “I wish I was wrong about this”

  1. Jane says:

    Dear liberal indoctrinator,

    I have two quotes for you that are better than anything that I could come up with myself. Forgive me for turning to the words of two women who choose not to see themselves as pathetic victims of this great nation in which we are privileged to live:

    1. There’s always a conflict of interest when people who don’t really like America are called upon to defend it. – Ann Coulter

    My guess is you would run like the pantywaist that you are if any mujahadeen came after you with a sword.

    2. “The most frequent complaint I hear from college students is that professors inject their leftist political comments into their courses even when they have nothing to do with the subject.” – Phyllis Schlafly

    Shut up and teach!

  2. sethkahn says:

    Dear Jane:

    Believe it or not, I’m willing to discuss what you’re raising here, but not when you start off with a totally baseless attack. You don’t know anything about me as a teacher. You don’t know any of my students, including any of the 20 officers in the College Republicans who have been in my classes in the last six years, every single one of whom has thanked me for treating them with respect. You, however, have already decided what kind of teacher I am instead of asking me or anybody else. Because you’re obviously smart enough to make those decisions in the absence of any evidence, there’s probably nothing I can say to you anyway.

    I don’t know where you live, but if you’re ever anywhere near West Chester, you’re certainly invited to attend any of my classes as long as you tell me who you are when you show up.

    And for the record, it’s awfully difficult to teach without talking. You don’t mean “shut up.” You mean “Don’t say anything I disagree with.” This discussion would probably go better if you told the truth about your agenda.

  3. Jane says:

    Touche, Seth. Ok, now we’re cookin’! Admittedly, I don’t know much about you other than what I’ve heard from some decent Republicans who frequent Fennario in town. The word on the street is that you talk smack about conservatives. I suppose to find out for myself I will have to attend one of your classes and I thank you for the kind invitation. I will, of course, let you know before I attend.

    The “Shut Up and Teach” comment was of course to Laura Ingraham’s NY Times best selling book where she beseeches the elites to do what they are best at – singing, acting, teaching, etc. I was inferring that liberal professors are better when they actually teach what they know than evangelize about the Church of Liberalism to an audience held captive by threat of getting a bad grade. I guess you didn’t get the allusion if you don’t read conservative material.

    I do appreciate the dialog and thought your apology to the CR group was above board. I hope the rumors about your “smack talk” at Fennario aren’t true! I’m still skeptical after reading your blogs posts though.

  4. sethkahn says:

    Jane: I certainly talk smack about conservatives at the coffeeshop. For the record, I talk smack about liberals too, but I guess your trustworthy comrades don’t report that to you. Both ends of the political spectrum are really good at hearing what we want to hear and misunderstanding or ignoring the rest.

    More important, Fennario is not a classroom, and I don’t give up my free speech rights because of what I do for a living. I have censored myself in there when I recognized students. One reason I like to hang out there is because political discussions happen. Interesting that your conservative friends have never approached me directly about anything I’ve said. If they’re so upset about how I act, how come they don’t address it face-to-face?

    I don’t censor my political beliefs in class, either. I’m very candid about my political stances, but only under certain very specific circumstances: (1) they’re relevant to what we’re working on–I don’t rant about issues just for the heck of it; and (2) students ask what I think–I don’t force opinions on anybody but refuse to be dishonest if they ask directly.

    You’re correct that I missed the Ingraham reference. Of course, keep in mind that she has the leisure time to sit home and write books while the rest of us are working for a living. Let’s keep our eyes squarely on the who the elites are, shall we? I read some of the conservative material (Horowitz’s “Front Page” and the like). After a while, it gets pretty repetitive; both sides are prone to depending on prefab talking points, which is one of the reasons the debate has become stagnant. Everything you said in your original post is something I’ve heard a million times, and everything I said back (except for highlighting my concern for students first) is something I’ve heard or said a million times.

    And again, for the record, I have never, ever downgraded a conservative student for being conservative, and the implication that I might have is appalling. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ve failed exactly one student whose politics I know I disagreed with (because he didn’t turn in an assignment that was worth 40% of the grade), and I also failed the then-president of the College Democrats in the same semester for the same reason. So there you have it.

    I don’t mean to be evasive, but at this point in the semester–end of classes, grades due in 12 days–I’m likely to be slow responding to comments. Don’t take it personally :).

    –Seth

  5. Jane says:

    Two things:

    1) Laura Ingraham is one of the hardest working women around the Beltway, hosting her own radio show and authoring books to expose people like you Seth. Check out her website, because after I send her what you wrote she’ll be exposing you for the treasonous ivory towerist that you are and your name will be on every conservative blog in the country. She certainly more of an American that you. Have you visited the troops in Iraq? While you’re coized up in your tiny classroom spewing liberal venom, demoralizing our troops, and brainwashing college students, real American’s like Ingraham are effecting change through action. They’re not sitting around coffee shops frequented by pre-teens to hold court and read Leave of Grass.

    2) We’re on to you Seth, so stop trying to sugar coat what you do. All of PA knows that WCU has a become of bastion of liberal thought and is filled with people who hate America and anyone who supports her. The College Republicans scare people like you. I know you have grades due and plenty of research to do about the rhetoric of Che Guevara, so I won’t expect a reply.

  6. sethkahn says:

    Jane: I’m finished with you. The accusation of treason is over the line. Contact whoever you want to contact, “expose” me to whoever you want to, but don’t you dare speak to me again until you’re ready to apologize for that. It’s worse than an accusation of murder, and it’s utterly, completely false. I don’t care about anything else you have to say, if you’re willing to make that accusation based on NOTHING.

    I thought we might have a civil discussion. Too bad. You just couldn’t make yourself listen, and maybe consider the possibility that you have me wrong. You do. I don’t care who you “expose” me to. I don’t care who you tell. I don’t really even care what they say about me, because none of them ever actually find out whether they’re telling the truth.

    Have a happy life, Jane. I don’t wish any harm to you or anybody else, Clearly that’s not the same for you, so I don’t expect a reply from you either, unless it’s another list of cheapshots, which I’d just as soon you save for somebody else. I wish I understood why people like you get so angry that you’re driven to say horrible and destructive things about people you don’t even know. No, on second thought, I don’t want to understand that.

    [ADDED 11:45 SAT MORNING]
    I can’t resist making one other point. The comment that you’re “onto me” doesn’t make any sense at the same time you’re accusing me of abusing the bully pulpit. How can I be indoctrinating anybody while I’m hiding my political views? The threat of having found me out is senseless up against your accusation (and my own claim) that I don’t hide my politics.

  7. Jane says:

    I guess you didn’t grade those papers, eh?

  8. BobSacamano says:

    Wow, Seth. She really handed it to you. Your reply, however, was Shakespearian. “Me think the gentleman doth protest too much.”

  9. sethkahn says:

    Handed what to me, Bob? Empty, angry, baseless allegations? I hope venting on me, an innocuous figure in the grand scheme of things, helps keep Jane and people like her get their anger out of their system before they really hurt somebody.

  10. BobSacamano says:

    She doesn’t seem angry to me Seth. Objectively, your piece seemed much angrier and your writing seemed kind of unnecessarily defensive. If you know you aren’t doing anything unethical in your classroom or at Fennario, then don’t worry about what others are saying or writing. It is quite possible that people visit your site just to mess with your head. Chill out and don’t get your panties in such a bunch. Give peace a chance, bro.

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