Letters

To alum, Sept. 11 memorial service is good representation of what has changed at Yale in last 40 years

To the Editor:

I read the News’ articles online regarding professor Kagan’s delivering a speech to commemorate Sept. 11. I was surprised that any memorial meeting was held at Yale, which is among the most “global” of universities, and as we all have been reminded, the world hates Americans. Yale in many senses is no longer an American forum, and when the topic under discussion is American in its significance, it is not surprising that the president of the University is busy. Indeed, fewer than 150 members of the community had the time to show up.

I was equally surprised that the New Haven police participated in the ceremonies. In the 1970s, the New Haven police didn’t drop by very often. Times do change; perhaps they change for the better. We can hope so, anyway. One of the things that struck me about the Virginia Tech shootings was the almost reflexive notion expressed universally that the police should have locked down the entire campus. No free-speech objections were voiced at all; if there’s a problem, shut the place down until the police have it under control. In the 1970s, trying to project force onto the campus would have been, to put it diplomatically, counterproductive. Today it’s just common sense.

Free speech is so often praised at Yale, and incoming freshmen are told to develop their own perspectives. Yalies will be posed questions, but they will have to develop their own answers. And then a few weeks later, they’re passionately arguing over whether they should “politicize” Sept. 11 by discussing patriotism. So many people at Yale expressed their politics on Sept. 11, but only Kagan garners criticism. Yale could cut the classics professor, an expert in both Athenian democracy and Spartan totalitarianism, some slack and sit and listen to his thoughts on his country at war. (A college newspaper might even make a transcript of his remarks available.) Kagan is controversial because Tuesday he stood and spoke his mind, whereas most Yalies expressed their politics by staying away from the ceremony; they voted with their feet. They found they had other commitments. They looked at their calendars and decided that they had to work that day.

In the 1970s it was different. One of the inventors of the transistor, Charles Shockley, tried to come to Yale and offer his views that various ethnic groups are distinguishable by their IQ scores. He was shouted down. Perhaps when Yalies sent him packing it was not a great day in the history of free speech, but in my opinion there was more honest expression in preventing him from speaking than there is in refusing to participate in a memorial service lest it be politicized.

Timothy Gibbons ’77

Sept. 12

The writer lives in Freeport, N.Y.

Kagan’s speech at Sept. 11 memorial service was not as blatanly partisan as it seemed in yesterday’s News

To the Editor:

Yesterday’s article on the Sept. 11 memorial (“Sept. 11 speech sparks dispute”) misrepresented the content of professor Donald Kagan’s speech. Kagan never claimed that all critics of the Iraq war are unpatriotic. In fact, Kagan explicitly stated that patriots can be critical of the war. What patriots can’t do, in Kagan’s view, is falsify the clear reports of military progress in Iraq in an attempt to force a premature withdrawal. In other words, those who would claim the mantle of patriotism are free to criticize American involvement in Iraq, but not to lie in the process.

What is more, though yesterday’s article would situate Kagan’s speech in an ideological and partisan context, Kagan’s speech was decidedly beyond partisanship. His understanding of patriotism — a loyalty owed to America because of the value of her ideals — is just as challenging to the right as it is to the left, for some on the right find it difficult to support the abstract ideals embodied by America, while some on the left find it difficult to support a country that in many ways does not live up to these ideals. Some Americans may therefore find that it would be dishonest to claim to be patriotic.

Whatever one’s conclusion, nothing could be better for Sept. 11 than a reflection on patriotism and a discussion of what Americans owe their country. Not all will agree with Kagan, but those who walked out on his speech allowed their pretension to get in the way of any thoughtful consideration thereof.

Peter Johnston ’09

Sept. 12

The writer is a regular columnist for the News.

Letter-writer was mistaken in his denunciation of proposed health insurance expansion for kids

To the Editor:

Jake McGuire’s recent criticism of my column about S-CHIP reauthorization claims (Letter to the Editor, 9/12) that I appeal to emotion, but his own response is full of platitudes and false logic. My article started with a simple fact — as many as 6 million uninsured children in this country are already eligible for government health insurance, but they have just not been enrolled. “Good government” means to me that, at a minimum, these children should be receiving the benefits that they are already legally entitled to.

McGuire suggests that the burden of additional taxes are sufficient reason for the government to continue denying health care to eligible kids, but he fails to recognize that the current proposals in Congress will not require additional taxes for the average American citizen. Instead, funding will come from an additional tobacco tax, which has been shown to significantly reduce smoking prevalence and thus dramatically improve the public’s health.

Finally, as a factual note, McGuire’s claim that John Edwards’ malpractice litigation is the primary reason for increased health care costs is objectively false. According to a report this year from the McKinsey Global Institute, malpractice accounts for about $20 billion in additional health care spending, which is only a fraction of the $480 billion more that the U.S. spends than other developed countries. Malpractice is an important issue to address, but when the Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 98,000 Americans die each year because of medical errors, a do-nothing government is not what we need.

Robert Nelb ’08

Sept. 12

The writer is a regular columnist for the News.

Use of offensive Cold War-style

language limited effectiveness of column on Chinese-Korean border

To the Editor:

Matthew Klein, in his op-ed of Sept. 11, was right to question Su and Diaz’s article, “Along the Border, Chinese Pity Koreans,” (9/7) for its failure even to mention the daily sexual and economic exploitation of North Koreans in China’s Jilin Province, enabled in part by the policies and policy failures of the PRC. Su and Diaz’s conversation with a sympathetic taxi driver provides an interesting perspective on the situation along the Sino-Korean border, but their extension of that viewpoint without preface or method is misleading and ultimately of little use.

However, I object strongly to the manner in which Klein chose his words. Spitting out his address to “Comrade Su” about “ChiCom goons,” Klein undermines his otherwise important points by invoking irrelevantly the chauvinist tongue of the Cold War. Klein would do well to remember that a similar language of fear limited the ability in of John J. McCloy of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee and Gen. John Hodge of the USA Military Government in Korea to build governance coalitions in Korea in the crucial moments before the emergence of the two Koreas.

Just as in 1945, when more groups were involved in the political dynamics of post-liberation Korea than Hodge or McCloy’s consuming anti-communism would acknowledge, Klein’s own “fear and hate” leads him to neglect what even a widely viewed film like “Seoul Train,” which he himself recommends, makes clear: that the current human-rights crisis on the Sino-Korean border involves the policy failures of not only Klein’s “Sinofascists,” but also the U.S. and South Korean governments, and the U.N. High Commission on Refugees.

Philip Gant ’09

Sept. 12

The writer is in Trumbull College.

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