To the Editor:
Keith Urbahn’s self-indulgent rant (“Radical left’s ‘woe is us’ line is getting old,” 1/26) raises some poignant questions not about misguided Bolsheviks, but about Keith Urbahn. Committed to defining his conservatism as what it is not (the “delusional” “utopian idealism” of “conspiracy-theorizing” liberals; see “Don’t call us heartless — call us precocious,” 12/1), Urbahn predictably does his utmost to misrepresent Yale’s activist community. He happily reduces a panoply of groups and agendas to the postings of a single board. How the Free Speech Zone actually relates to the activities of Yalie progressives is anybody’s guess; Urbahn relies on hazy insinuations and unfounded accusations to connect the board with his leftist nemeses.
A meaningful look at the Yale left would show that its “clandestine network of liberal activists” is hardly clandestine, nor is it out of touch with the campus mainstream. The Undergraduate Organizing Committee’s push for financial aid reform has been met with wide support. Hundreds of Yalies joined in-step with Locals 34 and 35 in their successful strike. Before the Iraq War, the Yale Coalition for Peace got over 2,000 Yale students and professors to sign a petition against the attack. Yale Peace won their signatures not through peddling visions of a “chimerical world of corporate oppression” but by expressing genuine concerns about the trajectory of the neo-conservative project in the Middle East. How many more Yalies would have signed our petition if they predicted then, as we did, what they know now about the consequences of the invasion?
Those anti-war protesters mourning the loss of life in Fallujah were not casting themselves as “tragic victims of authority in a delusional world of marginalization.” They were simply taking a principled stand against a war that (rightly or wrongly) they continue to oppose. One wonders if Urbahn is not projecting his own victimhood upon those he attacks. For someone who revels in his supposed “marginalization” as a campus conservative, self-persecution and persecution of Yale’s liberals go hand-in-hand. If Urbahn must relentlessly try to explain his conservatism to the world and to himself, one can only hope that he relies on concrete arguments and not a mythical leftist Other.
Kanishk Tharoor ’06
Jan. 26, 2005