Every week in this space, the Syracuse New Times will give you a piece of our mind. For what it’s worth.
As we were saying … Last week, we had a message in mind for this space: It’s time for more tolerance in our political discourse. Then Donald Sterling hijacked the message. He offered the sort of toxic ideas that shouldn’t be tolerated in a diverse, multicultural, democratic society.
Mind you, we tried to slip in some remnant of the example that set us off: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) being slammed from the right for having the nerve to take a reasonable opinion that strayed from GOP orthodoxy. Turns out we could have just waited a week. Condoleeza Rice, former secretary of state, was scheduled to speak at the Rutgers University commencement.
Last week, she withdrew. On Monday, April 28, about 160 students protested inside and outside the university’s administration offices.
In an open letter to the Rutgers president, they said they objected to the “undemocratic, opaque” way Rice was chosen to speak. They cited the “destruction” of Iraq during the Bush presidency, and torture conducted in the effort to thwart terrorism. “You insist on the arbitrary decision to invite Rice to speak and to alienate the countless students and faculty that have been affected by her policies and disagree with you. It is time for that to change,” the students wrote.
They’re right when they said it’s time to change.
They’re wrong about what needs to change.
The idea that inviting Rice to speak constitutes an endorsement of every one of her views, or of the policies she advocated as a member of the government, is wrong.
The acceptance of the idea that the consequence of listening to someone with whom you disagree is alienation is wrong. Have these students learned nothing during their time at Rutgers?
The New Times may never speak with one voice on the issues of the Iraq invasion, the handling of the aftermath, the treatment of suspected terrorists or whether figures in the Bush administration are war criminals. Our editorial board includes people who are politically conservative and people who are politically liberal; consensus on these issues is unlikely. But we talk to one another. We listen to one another. We give those who disagree with us the respect of treating them as sincere, reasonable people who, on occasion, might have reached the wrong conclusion but who remain good people. They give us the same respect.
What has to change?
The students’ idea that they should do anything else. They should know that part of the political dialogue in this nation — a nation that will elect George W. Bush one day and Barack Obama four years later — is the need to listen to one another.
They didn’t want to listen to Condoleeza Rice. They’re the poorer for that decision.