Re: speaking out

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Tue Feb 01 2005 - 07:27:23 PST

Hi, Lara,
Just a note to say that when you are fearful for your family that brings
diversity to the US, please remember, too, that for many of us your family's
diversity is not only welcomed but a valued resource.

The Quakers have a practice called silent witness that I cannot really
explain because I fear I don't know enough about it. Part of it is that if
you let things go by, you ratify and strengthen them. And there are also
writings about the deep theory and practice of non-violent protest that I
keep trying to understand and use, over the decades (and I have many!).
Anyhow I think some has seeped in and yielded good results. Let me give you
two recent examples of outcomes in US life that sort of pleasantly surprised
1. My nephew found my email out of the blue and contacted me to say he and
his wife were the only ones in my sister's family that did not vote for the
shrub. Before that for over a dozen years we just had perfunctory
holiday/wedding/funeral contact. Somehow what I did over the years in the
presence of that family was known, noted, and a resource for him. Since
then we've forged a little resistance group -- maybe it will be there for
his nieces and nephews in years to come. Both of us are connected with
efforts of our respective peers and keep each other advised of groups and
movements more public and widespread, but that new little family group has a
special flavoring for the other stews.
2. I helped a baby's mother get a stroller-full of wiggling baby up the
ornate courthouse steps one morning when I was working the early voting
period in Pensacola. She looked full at my buttons and stickers and posters
and said. "But you're nice."

What binds these two instances in my view is insularity: Of the people in
our family, the nephew that contacted me and I are the ones who have had
lengthy, consistent, and deep experiences in other countries and contact
with people from other countries and subcultures in the US. The views we
resist are held by those whose experiences have been more insular. In the
second case, the woman had "packaged" knowledge of those of us who opposed
the shrub: Her prior knowledge was insular so that it precluded me being
"nice" (even me, a little old lady in tennis shoes and a granny dress), her
vicarious knowledge packet maybe even suggested she would get from me the
mirror of the nasty words, rude gestures, and even not-so-accidental bumps
that I got from people who supported the shrub.

So, I say, thanks for what your family can bring to US. And I wish I could
do more than wish you more ease.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lara Beaty" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 1:26 AM
Subject: Re: speaking out

> As an "insider," I agree that talking politics and ethics simply isn't
> done. It is one of the ways in which I've always felt at odds with most
> of the communities I've been in, even when they were "liberal." But I
> don't think it is fair to put the responsibility on students. I
> remember, during the reign of Bush senior, having a sociology professor
> who condemned my class of undergraduates for our apathy. My feeling was
> that if he and his cohorts had done so much in the 60s, why had they
> all become yuppies? Students need current, present examples.
> I desperately want to do more about many current policies of various
> institutions particularly because they are so thoroughly related. (I
> don't remember where I got the link
> but it is one suggestion of
> how they are all related.) The most basic problem is that I don't know
> what to do.
> I'm not teaching at the moment, but when I was, I routinely brought up
> some of the problems with current educational policies, and students
> were generally sympathetic for the amount of detail I was able to go
> into in an undergraduate developmental course. In the last classes I
> taught, however, I decided to hand out a summary of some research about
> the effects of the Gulf War and ensuing policies on Iraqi children the
> week the US began bombing. It was a very conservative community, and I
> was terrified of trying to discuss this. Some of my fears were about
> the possibility of getting in trouble, given that I was only an
> adjunct, but most of my fear was about handling an issue that I felt so
> passionate about. To my regret, I stopped the student who began to
> argue that Iraqi children would be better off without Sadam with the
> request that we not debate the war. I did only slightly better when a
> girl, with tears in her eyes, asked why there was no research about the
> children who lost their parents on 9/11. I'm not sure I understand what
> scared me so much. I prefer understatement to passionate discourse, but
> that wasn't really the problem. And unlike Jay's concerns about
> personal identities and histories, I have never had an issue with
> discussing my positions on these two topics.
> A part of the fear comes from realistic concerns. With a spouse who is
> foreign, two children, and very shaky finances, there are serious
> repercussions to consider. But more than that, I feared and still do
> much more direct retaliation. Perhaps it has something to do with a
> protest against the first gulf war that ended with a car driving
> through the crowd and me losing a year and a half of my life. Perhaps
> it has something to do with a Palestinian-American friend who used to
> joke about the FBI agent listening into our phone calls or the fact
> that her Palestinian husband could not go to Mexico for a business
> meeting because he had only two weeks notice for the INS. On the other
> hand, I avoid most meaningful conversations with my conservative sister
> also.
> It is not a part of most American practices to talk passionately about
> things that matter and it feels dangerous. New York is a little
> different, but most places I've been--and I have been all over the
> US--are drenched in politeness. When things get ugly, they tend to get
> very ugly. But this has to change because it seems to be making people
> blind. I've always been skeptical about the value of doing educational
> research when education is so undervalued, but it's what I'm trying to
> do. I don't have much hope for protests, but I go anyway when I can. I
> need to do much more though. What else should WE be doing?
> Lara Beaty
> On Monday, January 31, 2005, at 09:52 PM, David Daniel Preiss
> Contreras wrote:
> > For what is worth, and making clear that I am a relative outsider in
> > the academic community of the USA, studying there my experience was
> > that speaking aloud about so-called political issues was judged
> > inadequate for some student colleagues around, who did not want to
> > bring this issues to their jobs or to their email inboxes. The problem
> > is, of course, that some of those so-called political issues are
> > ethical issues. Torture is wrong. Preventive wars are wrong. Killing
> > tens of civilians is wrong. Hiding the American casualties from the
> > public view is wrong. Making death and genocide relative is wrong. And
> > it is totally right to say that they are wrong. What is wrong is to
> > keep silence.
> >
> > I remember being bitten for raising the issue of Abu Graib when
> > sending a link to the torture pics by a student who thought I was
> > taking an inadequate stand. What was my right to judge these soldiers,
> > this guy implied. I assume he was mad at the fact that I was not
> > American as well and was judging American actions. I did not want to
> > enter into a discussion about how commonly the USA judge the practices
> > of others and how I had a right to openly criticize torture and how
> > relevant it was to do that in an academic context. I just asserted my
> > right to criticize torture everywhere it happens. Unfortunately,
> > during all my years at the USA, I never heard any graduate student
> > talking aloud against the Iraqi war or against the militrary practices
> > of the government but in some local issues that are politically
> > correct. I heard them too much talking about their academic work as if
> > that work happened in a miracolous vacuum.
> > If the students don't speak out, who does? I remember that during
> > those days an email written by Zimbardo talking about students' apathy
> > circulated. I wonder how students apathy has been build and fostered
> > by the academic community. Do students feel afraid that they might not
> > get a job if they come out and talk? Or they do not feel an ethical
> > concern about what is going on? I assume that some people don;t speak
> > out by academic politeness. But, when does academic politenness turn
> > out to be ethically dangerous?
> > David D. Preiss
> > home page:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Mar 01 2005 - 01:00:03 PST