Letter to the editor

Evan Williams

I was pleased when I read Amy Sandquist’s article on the “Freedom Week” celebrations held by Conservative student groups on campus. As students at a liberal arts college, especially one that primarily falls to the left on the political spectrum, it is important to hear the opposing side and foster lively and informative debates. This debate will better enable us to be effective citizens and leaders of the United States. I am especially pleased that these groups, especially the Viking Conservatives, are seeking to promote and uplift their policy and ideology through positive and inclusive means, rather than some of their more hurtful tactics of the past. That said, in the spirit of debate, I cannot let some of the issues brought forth during “Freedom Week” to go unchallenged.
The “Freedom Week” activities included the hanging of posters in memory of those who died Sept. 11, 2001. While this would seem like a noble and nonpartisan gesture, it is odd that these groups chose to do this not in September for the eight-year anniversary, but two months later. We have seen similar stunts by Republicans nationwide who seek to use the images and fears of that terrible day to their political advantage.
This was coupled by a table asking students to sign a card to support U.S. troops. Again we see the typical attitude of the Bush years that said that if you weren’t with them, then you were with the terrorists. Contrary to what they might think, the Republican Party does not have a monopoly on patriotism. I choose to support the troops by signing petitions that ask the government to reevaluate U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. I choose to support our troops by being a conscientious objector and opposing the sacrifice of their lives for unnecessary reasons or political gain.
In addition, I find it rather ironic that groups whose national party is opposed to the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, freedom of choice and freedom for two loving people to marry because they have the same sexual organs, would call their observance “Freedom Week.”
I question what the Viking Conservatives, College Republicans, and Campus Organization for Israel are seeking freedom from. If it is “big government” or the federal government intruding on the individuals rights, I would ask how this ideal fits with the attack on individual freedoms by the Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress before 2006 who tortured and denied the right of habeas corpus to American citizens labeled as “enemy combatants” – or perhaps how it fits with intrusions on privacy and freedoms by warrantless wiretapping and reading the e-mails of U.S. citizens.
It is clear that this “Freedom Week” was nothing but a thinly veiled political statement. According to College Republicans President Fanny Briceño, “Freedom Week” was meant to protest “the Obama administration, professors and campus leftists” who “endlessly preach for more government control to solve policy problems.”
I am sure that Fanny, who is my friend and coworker, knows that I have no problem with student groups making a political statement, such as the College Democrats do with “Dems Week.” I do, however, have a problem with masquerading political beliefs as universal ideas of justice. Those who use this tactic do so to paint their opposition as enemies of basic justices such as freedom.
There are atrocities throughout the world that people need actual freedom from, such as Genocide in Darfur. These student groups reflect the current position of Republican leaders such as Michelle Bachmann and Virginia Foxx who see the current healthcare legislation as some sort of assault on American freedoms. Unless you are an insurance executive who values the freedom to raise premiums as high as he wants, limit coverage, and deny care to those with “pre-existing conditions,” then the policies of American liberals and Democrats are of no threat whatsoever to your freedom.
It is clear that nothing in President Obama’s agenda or those of “campus leftists” is oppressive or hampers freedom. I hope future “Freedom Weeks” at Lawrence will celebrate and advocate for freedom from real oppression rather than constructs created for political gain.