Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Faculty member ashamed of colleagues for wanting to collect for care packages for servicemen and women. Seriously.

So, someone on faculty at Suffolk University thought it might be a good idea to send an email asking for donations of care package items for servicemen and women overseas, what with the holidays upon us, and with one person from Suffolk Law itself in uniform and serving overseas. Nice idea eh?

So, naturally, someone else on faculty gets the vapors, a National Lawyers Guild type, Michael Avery. Here’s his email response to that request, with fisking inserted early and often:

I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.

[Oh for Crimeny’s sake Clyde, you make it sound so simply wrong. Does your subtle legal mind not fathom that there might be shades of justifiability in killing other human beings? Consider two rarefied hypothetical examples, (hey, lawyers and philosophers deal with these all the time don’t they?): I hop on a boat for the Sceptered Isle, arrive, get off the boat, find some person walking in Piccadilly Circus, and kill him. That is BAD. No doubt. No Care Packages for me. Ok. Now the second scenario: Same trip to London, but there is a person walking in Piccadilly Circus who has inserted a ticking nuke time bomb in his body (will not divulge how) and has programmed it to detonate it at 1700. He’s otherwise armed to the teeth for defense, and will fight to the death. Dead or alive, the bomb will go. You’re working with MI5, and realize you must kill the guy, and then defuse the ticking time bomb.He will not be taken alive. It’s the only way to prevent the death of thousands. So, you kill the guy. Now, I suspect that a subtle legal mind would be able to see there is, at least arguably, more justification, indeed, *gasp* even an obligation to kill this guy. Right? Just arguably, mind you. I’ll even grant that it may only be prima facie, although I seriously doubt that. OK, anyway, back to our author.]

I understand that there is a residual

[as if the leftovers of some regrettable thing that we have evolved away from? A curious choice of modifier here “residual”]

sympathy for service members, perhaps

[maybe, might be…perhaps.. who knows? Those old bygone days when America was behind a war against tyranny, must really bug Avery.. ]

engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle.

[Obligatory Vietnam reference here complete with picture of Vietnam vet as helpless victim]

That sympathy is not particularly rational in today's world, however.

[Presumably because we have an all volunteer force, who are somehow morally culpable for taking part in the two wars consequent to 9/11]

The United States may well be the most war prone country in the history of civilization.

[Three things to note here.

1. As a matter of empirical fact, this statement is wrong. Think Rome dude. 2. To describe a country as “war prone” makes it sound like it is constantly looking for pretexts for war, (kind of like that playground bully we would have all liked to pound into the ground. You know the guy... If it wasn’t your high-water pants it was your glasses. You know, Scut Farcas)

That is quite a different sort of thing than a country ‘finding itself at war’ often. It is arguable that the latter phrase more accurately captures the majority of U.S. history (Chomsky readings not withstanding).

3. Humans are naturally bellicose. It should be no surprise that a country relied upon by other countries and regions of the world for maintaining sea lanes, stability and the like, would find itself at war more often than a country that does not bear that burden.]

We have been at war two years out of three since the Cold War ended.

[Pedantic first year English Composition alert: This sentence makes it sound like the cold war ceased 3 years ago, and we’ve been a fightin’ and a fussin’ two of those three years. Come on dude. I know it’s only an email, but…proofread]

We have 700 overseas military bases.

[Outposts of Oppression and Empire, or are they requested by the local powers?]

What other country has any?

[Perfidious Albion?]

In the last ten years we have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary foreign invasions. Those are dollars that could have been used for people who are losing their homes due to the economic collapse, for education, to repair our infrastructure, or for any of a thousand better purposes than making war.

[And suppose that was to have been the case. Suppose your sage rational advice had been taken, and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and all the run-up attacks during the 80s and 90s, we undertook no ‘foreign invasions’. Suppose we did not go into Afghanistan. Suppose that, despite flouting of multiple UN resolutions, we sat back and allowed Bat-Guano-Crazy Saddam to go about his bloody business. Suppose all of that money went to your suggested list of purposes. Now, I know this may be hard to comprehend for someone as rational as thee, but there are elements in the world that would have read this inaction as a very weak response to the increasingly brazen and lethal series of attacks. I seem to remember a quote of Bin Laden’s about weak horses. Do you think there is a possibility that in the wake of such inaction, there might have been further attacks? Nahhh. That’s just neo-con fear mongering. Right?]

And of course those hundreds of billions of dollars have gone for death and destruction.

[…and medical care for the natives, food, infrastructure, pilot business programs, women’s schools, schools for girls, schools for boys, trades training for adults, as well as a general ramping up of representative governments, military and police as we try to leave behind more moral and humane and less corrupt governance for those two parts of the world. Seems this nation is somewhat ‘prone’ to humanitarianism. Or is that just all a cynical ploy by THEM. You know. THEM. The ones that REALLY control things.]

Perhaps some of my colleagues will consider this to be an inappropriate political statement. But of course the solicitation email was a political statement, although cast as support for student activities. The politics of that solicitation are that war is legitimate, perhaps inevitable, and that patriotic Americans should get behind our troops.

[This is just damned confusing. IF the original email was indeed political in intent, and if it is also true, as he seems to admit here, that his reply is also a political statement, AND if he seriously thinks the political intent of the original is as he describes, that is; to send the three part message that war is legitimate, unavoidable at least in some cases, and that patriotic Americans should ‘get behind the troops’, then it would follow by parity of reasoning that his own political statement, a contrary to the first, would have the following three parts: War is never legitimate, never a necessary evil, and there is no moral obligation for patriots to ‘get behind the troops.’

Taking the first two claims first: They just seem patently false. Even if world history has never presented a case of a war that was legitimate, and has never presented a case of a war that was a necessary evil because other options had been exhausted, it is simply false that such things could not occur. We can certainly cook up hypothetical cases that would fit the bill. Heard of War of the Worlds?

And, these two claims are confusing in another way. How exactly are these theses POLITICAL? They seem to be historical or sociological in content.

Lastly, the third claim makes an elementary confusion or equivocation: Support for troops is not the same thing as supporting the mission troops are undertaking. One can do either without doing the other. It’s also the case that, volunteer army or not, troops are, by virtue of being in the military, bound by oath to obey all legal orders. Similarly, individual policemen must, at times, make legal arrests with which they do not agree. As functionaries of the state, they have sworn to undertake these functions. So, speaking conceptually one can support the troops by sending them care packages, and thus be patriotic, without necessarily supporting the mission on which they have been sent. There can be room for patriots to support the troops, just as well as there can be room for patriots to refrain from doing so. Clearly Clyde here considers himself to exemplify the later possibility. His colleagues just as clearly instantiate the former.

We need to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school. Since Sept. 11 we have had perhaps the largest flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states.

[Wow, a 'politically non-neutral act' is suddenly and magically transformed into “excessive patriotic zeal” within the space of only a few words. And how, pray tell do you delineate ‘excessive’ patriotic zeal from non-excessive patriotic zeal?

Or is patriotism simply identical with excessive patriotic zeal? Patriotism, and a penchant for displaying big honking flags is a hallmark of many states that are not ‘national security states’ anyway. Pick your favorite European country, and you’ll find flags. Yep. And big ones to. Betchya there are even a few in their university atriums.

Hold on a minute…now that I'm a- cogitatin' on it, just what the hell is a ‘national security state’ anyway? Does this category do any actual sorting? Don’t all states concern themselves with national security?

Oh. I get it. Clyde has some grade school analogizing going on in his heated brow. Godwin’s law alert! The Nazi regime waved flags. You know, they had really large flags, hanging all over the place. They also were obsessed with national security.

Well, think about it folks. The parallels are all too clear, and all too ominous. WE have flags all over the place, and some of ‘em are big honkin’ ones too. And, we even put them in atriums. AND, get this, we are concerned with ‘national security.’

So, if we are concerned with it, we must be obsessed with it. All of this leads to the inescapable conclusion that we are deep in the grip of excessive patriotic zeal. Hence we are a national security state. Hence, we are morally on par with the Nazis, QED.]

It permits, indeed encourages, excesses in the name of national security, as we saw during the Bush administration, and which continue during the Obama administration.

[So, to recapitulate: Having a really large flag displayed on campus either is indicative of, or encouraging of ‘excessive patriotic zeal’, which in turn, brings on the police state, and horrible humanitarian abuses in the name of national security. It’s all Bush’s fault as well. And that guy in office right now. Well, he’s just Bush Lite.

Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby?

[Because we like ‘excessive patriotic zeal?]

Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes, malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty?

[Because they are in harm’s way, paid much less than they deserve (and much less than you are paid I am sure Brave Sir Avery), and they are our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, neighbors, students, friends, sons of friends, daughters of friends..& etc, you tool]

As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda.

[Completely and utterly unable to separate the political from the personal level. Debate all you want Clyde, but do not question the moral integrity and decency of those at your institution that want to send care packages to sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, neighbors, students, friends, sons of friends, daughters of friends, & etc.]