The sky’s stayed put, so I’ll count my blessings

As I noted on Jan. 14, 2004, “If I’m still writing about President Bush in February next year, Chicken Licken and friends may have to stop squawking and take another look at the sky.”

Well, the president is still the president and the sky still hasn’t fallen. A few years ago, a minister in the New Zealand parliament famously snapped “We won. You lost. Eat it,” which may not have raised the level of political debate but was nonetheless extremely effective. It’s a mark of credit to the Yale campus conservatives (all 37 of them) that they’ve resisted the desire to march about New Haven with T-shirts saying ‘W is for WINNER!’

At this point, my original draft of this column began to rant slightly against such mental convulsions as GESO’s “We will be intensifying our demands for gender and racial equality across every sector of the Yale community.” But it just seems cruel to pick on sentences like that: It’s like Keith Urbahn slumming it to ridicule the Public Forum Board, which for him is the satiric equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Instead it became clear that there are in fact many reasons to be cheerful of late, and not simply because the Pats have reached the Superbowl again or that thefacebook.com has opened at my alma mater.

Firstly, I read in The Economist that world oil reserves in 1970 were 580 billion barrels and total oil consumption from 1970-2000 was 690 billion barrels. And that oil reserves in 2000 were 1,050 billion barrels.

Secondly, I read the media coverage of the Iraqi elections. And thirdly, I wandered across Cross Campus to find that Yale College Students for Democracy were encouraging students to dip their fingers in ink as a mark of support for the Middle East’s fledgling democracy.

“Do you want to dip for democracy?” the YCS for D asked a passing female student as I wiped my finger on a paper towel.

“Not for that democracy,” she replied.

Ah well. Maybe she’ll dip for a more pleasing, woman-friendly regime, like Zimbabwe or Myanmar. Or perhaps North Korea.

I don’t believe in the “right side of history” and I’ve said before in these pages that I’m hardly a paid-up democrat by philosophy, but the pictures of Iraqis streaming to the polls and brandishing purple fingers to the cameras recalled the fall of Communism. Sure, the Soviet empire crumbled without war and precious little violence, and would that all noxious tyrannies did the same. But unless you’re remorselessly cynical, the sight of Iraqis prepared to vote and risk death by so doing conjured the same emotions as the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This was a moment for the Big Words: Freedom, Liberty, Justice. The words at the heart of your Declaration of Independence, and the foundation of the American ideal. As the president declared in his State of the Union address, “The Iraqi people value their own liberty — Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it.’

So yes, reasons to be cheerful. To take pleasure in the pointed and effective criticism of President Bush to be found at Yale, such criticism as:

“On issues such as the importation of Canadian drugs, health care, defending his abysmal environmental record and owning up to his mistakes, Bush failed miserably.”

“In calling for a constitutional amendment for the express reason of denying the validity of gay unions, we are — violating the dignity of our fellow citizens, and perpetuating lines of discrimination.”

Okay, so that was Keith Urbahn (Oct. 11) and Al Jiwa (April 7) respectively, but at least reasonable opposition to the president exists, even if it does come from his supporters.

Thank goodness then for the considerable sense of Alissa Stollwerk, president of the Yale College Democrats, who wrote on Inauguration Day in these pages that “As we rejoice, or despair, at the man taking the presidential oath this afternoon, we must also make the same promise that he does: to preserve, protect and defend this precious union, both from enemies abroad and division within.”

So the sky isn’t falling after all. The world persistently fails to come to an end. And nor will division (necessarily) cause it to do so; after all, I guess we should be cheerful that people are standing up for their beliefs, however muddle-headed we consider them to be. But otherwise, Alissa, we’re right behind you: Democrat, Republican and Englishman alike. And I’m happy to be there.



Nick Baldock is a second-year graduate student in the History Department.

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