Professor Frank Beaver’s article on D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation provides an important opportunity to explore the film’s impact upon culture and politics in the United States. When we teach the history of Reconstruction, The Birth of a Nation is often required viewing, precisely because it is one of the cultural products that helped engender the deep misunderstandings of Reconstruction that characterized the first half of the 20th century, and that linger into our own time. Through intensive research in the archival materials of the post-Civil War period, historians have demonstrated that the Reconstruction era was a visionary moment, characterized by an ambitious experiment in the enforcement of equal rights, not a vindictive Northern attack on white people in the South, as Griffith portrayed it. During Reconstruction, Congress attempted to set in place an inter-racial democracy, one in which all Americans, including former slaves, were to be empowered in law and politics.
Though short-lived, Reconstruction remains relevant today. In law, it generated the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the development of African American political and cultural institutions, an example of cross-racial political alliances, and the establishment of public education in the American South. The achievements of the Reconstruction, and the subsequent judicial and political retreat from its egalitarian goals, continue to inform today’s discussions of race, law, and politics.
Reconstruction’s end marked the beginning of a new and bitter era in American racial politics. It is this period of widespread and explicit advocacy of what its proponents did not hesitate to call “white supremacy” that frames Griffith’s film. Drawing upon literature and myth, the filmmaker offered up a false and misleading portrayal of the nation’s history. He valorized the Ku Klux Klan, thus endorsing what is widely recognized as having been a domestic terrorist organization. He caricatured African Americans as unworthy of political or civil rights, ignoring the responsibilities they had borne as soldiers, and parodying their access to office-holding and citizenship in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Griffith turned his back on history and produced propaganda. He set aside what many Americans had known as a period of striving for democratic ideals, and substituted a fantasy that imagined the nation as having been wounded by Reconstruction, and then healed by the reconciliation of white Americans across the North-South divide.
To construct this portrait, the film alternately ignored and mocked the contributions of, and the political and social demands made by, African Americans. Griffith’s cultural handiwork did not stand alone. It was part of a broader campaign that was enacted in the highest echelons of law and politics. The U.S. Supreme Court approved state-mandated racial segregation in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson and the denial of voting rights to black citizens in Giles v. Harris in 1903. President Woodrow Wilson, who endorsed The Birth of a Nation, oversaw the segregation of the federal government. Ultimately, President Wilson and members of the Court and Congress would be among the first to view Griffith’s film. What they saw was a story in which the contributions of black Americans were extinguished from the nation’s public memory, and replaced by a nation stitched back together — North and South — under white supremacy.
The accomplishments of Reconstruction were thus destroyed by a campaign of forced segregation, disfranchisement, and racial violence. In this, Griffith’s film played a critical role. Today, The Birth of a Nation provides students with an example of how the era of Jim Crow came to be set in place. Historians played no small role in this story. In our classrooms students can also see the ways in which they contributed to this imagined “reconciliation” of the nation. Columbia University’s William Dunning and his students, for example, are remembered for having published histories whose central narrative complemented the view put forward in Griffith’s film. They too ignored evidence of Reconstruction’s democratic ideals and deemed the period a tragic mistake.
Griffith’s film was an instrument of cultural repression that was epic in scope, one that helped to provide justification for the racial oppression that would remain in place until the victories of the modern civil rights movement. As Professor Beaver’s second installment promises to chronicle, opposition to the movie was swift and strong. Only by first understanding the role that The Birth of a Nation played in imposing a Jim Crow social and political order can we make sense of the strong reaction to the film. The protests, civil unrest, and lynching that followed its public debut were testament to its troubled point of view and political climate.
No student at the University of Michigan should miss the opportunity to understand Griffith’s cinematic achievement. Still, no study of the film would be complete without also explaining its toxic influence on the longer story of race and rights in the United States.
- Martha S. Jones
- Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Associate Professor, Department of History and Department Afroamerican and African Studies; Affiliated LSA Faculty; Law School Co-director, Program in Race, Law & History
- University of Michigan
Your "All Roads Lead to Michigan" piece intrigued me, as a 3 time U-M alum in the health/science field. But when 10 photos showed up and 9 were men, I did a double take. Aren't there more notable women who've been at Michigan, in 2014?
- Karen Glanz
- BA, MPH, PhD
- 1974, 1977, 1979
- LSA, Public Health, Rackham
- Bala Cynwyd
I find it fascinating that the black community at Michigan is once again making "demands" instead of requesting changes. It was not so long ago that the same groups demanded isolated dorms; separate everything; etc. This older grad - a member of a very distinct minority - thinks assimilation is the best and most effective way up the socio-economic ladder. I hope the administration will strongly suggest the leaders of the Michigan black community work hard to assure the students they represent are taking a set of challenging courses; are getting all of the academic support they deserve and need; and especially are receiving gthe best possible support in finding good, productive employment on campus, in the summer, and after graduation.
- Charles Gessner
- BSE '61; MBA 6'63
- '61 & '63
- Engineering; Business
Re: The Detroit Institute of the Arts: What is the Michigan Alumni Association's position on the sale of public art? Specifically, what has the response been -- or will be -- to potentially dismantling a collection invaluable not only to University of Michigan students and graduates fortunate enough to have enjoyed that collection -- over 50 years for me -- but the citizens of Detroit and Michigan whose tax dollars over the years have supported both the Institute and its collection as well as the University of Michigan? How much bad publicity will it take for the Alumni Association to become involved and reverse the very bad notices Michigan is increasingly receiving in national publications, such as the New York Times, I find it ironic and sad that a former Michigan undergraduate and graduate of Michigan's Law School should be overseeing what sounds in the media like preparations for a fire sale. Rightly or wrongly, one gets the impression from (select) remarks by him that it is the 'bad choices' by citizens (Detroit? Ann Arbor? Michigan?) that have put this remarkable resource for the University, Detroit, and Michigan residents at risk. Moreover, other remarks again, perhaps unrepresentative suggest there is 'no money' to pay Detroit's bills when, in fact, there are always sufficient funds to support various cultural and artistic programs in adjoining communities such as Grosse Pointe, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, et al, communities whose residents and children have been more than well served over the years by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Where are exchanges between Alumni and Faculty (including a discussion of recent Michigan Law School graduate Mark Franke's award-winning solution to the Detroit pension dispute? Implications for all public institutions (e.g., University of Michigan) are considerable, extending well beyond state borders. Michigan Alumni across America should get on board protecting not only Michigan but all public-sector assets. Just suppose the Governor -- or Legislature -- decides the State of Michigan needs some money. University of Michigan Law School Quad (just down the street from my old apartment on 725 Haven) looks like it could produce nifty income, developed either as condos for aging alums, like myself, or rental units for cash-paying foreign students. Why not? Here's a chance for the Michigan Alumni Association to weigh in on the side of something significant, near and concrete, that has connections with Michigan graduates worldwide. (The writer was a contributor to The Michigan Daily, Editor of Generation Magazine and the Generation New Poet Series.)
- George Abbott
In the enthusiasm and self-congratulations that surround the substantial Ross gift to the University of Michigan, I wonder if anyone involved in the process has stopped to consider whether this gift is directed toward the greatest needs of the University. The U-M Athletics Program and the Business School? Really? I am proud to be a part of a University that might be able to undertake some introspection about its successes.
- Arun Agrawal
- University of Michigan
- School of Natural Resources and Environment
- Ann Arbor
It is always fascinating to read about the wonderful things that can be accomplished when you have a lot of money. To wit: Stephen Ross's donations of $313 million to The University of Michigan. However, Mr. Ross probably should have kept his $313 million and re-invested it in his Miami Dolphins instead of seeking $380 million in taxpayer funds to refurbish the team's recently built stadium. Here are some details: 'Stephen Ross . . . asked . . . for $380 million in public funds to renovate Sun Life Stadium so that it could host future Super Bowls. The Florida state legislature ended its last session without voting on the project, though, so Ross and the Dolphins began issuing threats to leave south Florida, like all jilted owners do. Ross then started a political action committee, apparently with the intent of targeting state representatives who weren't on board with his plan. To make a point, Ross and the Dolphins submitted a ridiculous bid to host the 2015 Super Bowl that proposed playing the game not in Sun Life Stadium but on board an aircraft carrier parked in Miami's harbor.' (thinkprogress.org, 9/16/13). It seems unlikely that Mr. Ross will be receiving any welfare checks from the people of Florida or Miami, but apparently U-M is luxuriating in the welfare checks from Mr. Ross. Does the term cognitive dissonance have any applicability here?
- Del Ehresman
Hi, I have a project called Words Count where we promote positive environments in school. Do you have any further updates to this article? Any follow up research on this topic about parents choosing happiness over achievement and why? Anything related to bullying and these choices? Thank you so much. Alejandra Schatzky
- alejandra schatzky
I enjoyed the recent article on rental housing development in Ann Arbor. Though when discussing supply and demand the article discusses the increase in supply without mentioning the equally important increase in demand. The University's enrollment has increased by 3,892 students between 2008 and 2012, which outpaces the 3,050 bed increase in beds due to new development (2,600) and North Quad (450). (Link to the enrollment numbers: http://www.ro.umich.edu/report/12enrollmentsummary.pdf)
- Brian Russell
- BSE IOE
- College of Engineering
On April 15, 2008 you published James Tobin's remarkable article, "Professor White's Trees." From time to time I'll go back and reread it to be reminded of the virtues of devotion to a place and to students. When I get the e-mail version of Michigan Today I'll often send links to friends and relatives. Tonight I did that but also included links to the article on Prof. White. What a fine piece, a moving story, well told. Chris Campbell
- Chris Campbell
- MA, JD
- 1972, 1975
- Rackham, Law
- Traverse City
Thank you for James Tobin's article on the composition of The Yellow and Blue. During my time at U-M in the early 1970s, it wasn't fashionable to be sentimental, and in that respect I was a fashionable guy. But I'd listen to WUOM late at night and when it signed off at midnight, it would play The Yellow and Blue. In that way the song insinuated its way into my memory. Now I cannot hear it without getting moist eyes because it puts me in mind of that astonishing institution in Ann Arbor that is our state's finest gift to the world. By the way, Mr. Tobin could probably write an article about the Burger King menu and make it interesting. He's a prize. I look forward to his Roosevelt book. Chris Campbell Traverse City
- Chris Campbell
- MA, JD
- Rackham, Law
- Traverse City
I'm delighted to know Branch Rickey was a Michigan grad (Partners in Courage, April 2013). And of course, it's always good to know the Burns brothers were from Ann Arbor. (Ken Burns Returns, April 2013). While working overseas for decades, I voted absentee from Ann Arbor, where my parents settled after my dad retired from the US Army in 1966. He worked at Ann Arbor Bank for years. Whenever I returned home summers, we would go to Tiger Stadium to catch games, since we were long-time Tigers fans. My brother attended the same high school as the Burns brothers. He and I both attended U of M. Thanks again. Sincerely,
- Vic Mason
Thanks for James Tobin's revealing piece on Burton Tower. I thought to take the stairs to the top as a graduate student, but soon decided to put it off until I passed my Oral Examination for my PhD. The photograph looking down the stairwell gives a idea of the climb. Taking the many steps up and down in 1980 was worth the wait and a fitting conclusion to my education at the University of Michigan. A wonderful building in all ways.
- Norman B Wilson
- MA, English; PhD, Comparative Literature
- Rackham--Lit School
Want to make you aware of an article I wrote about the realignment of the midwestern NCAA Hockey teams as a result of the Big Ten pulling all its hockey teams in to play as a conference. It talks about the possible strengths of the new alignments. You can find it at http://sportales.com/hockey/ncaa-hockey-realigns-many-of-its-conferences-for-the-2013-2014-season/ Thanks Floris Wood, AKA AmosTheCat
- Floris Wood
- BA Psychology
I always enjoy reading Michigan Today. However, it seemed to me inappropriate and slightly bizarre to include Victor Katch's jeremiad against genetically modified food in the last issue. His unsubstantiated arguments added nothing to the debate, especially since he has no professional qualifications in the area. Otherwise, keep up the good work.
- Larkin Breed
- A.B., M.D.
- PLEASANT HILL
Sheryl James's article on the film "Love and Honor" includes this: "It is July, 1969. The Vietnam War is at its height, and so is the anti-war hysteria..." Hysteria? Excuse me? Those of us around then protesting America's misguided war were hardly hysterical. I have no idea how old Sheryl James is and whether she actually knew any of the people participating in the war protests, but this particular choice of phrase is offensive to the millions of people, and particularly thousands and thousands of noble and principled college students, who protested the Vietnam war on solid moral grounds, not visceral "hysteria."
- John O. Biderman
- MA Journalism
The intellectual content of the February 2013 "Michigan Today" online issue is pretty thin: the University's past, a 1924 athlete, winter scenes, a bit of health news. Let's dig a bit deeper, please, into some of the writing and research that University professors are producing. Take a look at Johns Hopkins Magazine and Harvard Magazine. We are not all Philistines!
- Thomas Bleha
As news director of WCBN during its Golden Age, 1965-67, I'm here to tell you that your reporter would have been fired for filing the January 2013 piece "Left of the Dial." He missed the story entirely. During that period, WCBN's news department made national headlines with its reporting on the Vietnam war, from coverage of the first teach-in to exclusive reportage on the military draft. Our radio documentaries on these topics were picked up and rebroadcast worldwide by the CBC. The programming department set the standards for what became "underground radio," so important in the cultural history of the '60s and early '70s. Most importantly, WCBN was the training ground for a whole generation of media stars and standouts: Gilda Radner, original cast member of Saturday Night Live, began her career as "the weather girl" on our breakout morning program "The Saltman-Segal Psychedelicatessen." Steve Segal, my co-host on that show, became a famous DJ on the top stations in Los Angeles and Boston. Joe Quasarano, DJ and program director, became a top media executive in LA. Justin Friedland, DJ, became Paris bureau chief for ABC News. Bill Kirchen, a regular guest on our show, became a world-famous musician, after a long stint with our pals and frequent on-air guests, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. Jim Mack, Vince Capizzo, Rob Marks, and other technical wizards became big behind-the-scenes stars in the media. I became a producer on CBS News Sunday Morning, then executive producer of documentaries at CNN in New York. There is much more to this story. In fact the writer's characterization of WCBN in the '60s as placid, compliant, and amateurish could not be further from the truth.
- David Saltman
This is some text!
- Brian Daniels
My new novel, "Held Hostage," was recently released and is available on amazon.com in print-on-demand paperback and on Kindle. It is the sequel to "The Campaign of Fear" released in 2010. Terrorists take over Iran and the Middle East, cut off OPEC oil to the US and demand nuclear weapon technology to turn it back on again. Our elite team is called into action again to help free us from OPEC oil and get the terrorists at the same time. There are new technology developments to help us become OPEC oil independent and an international battle of wits to defeat the terrorists .... constant action with near heart-stopping, white-knuckle scenes ... and a dangerous fictional scenario that could be our reality. My first novel, "The Campaign of Fear," was mentioned in Michigan Today in 2010. A former 3M Executive and CEO of Minnesota Technology, Inc., I currently help run Pletcher, Inc., a business 'growth by innovation' consulting company. I also teach, as adjunct professor, at the University of Minnesota and of course, write fiction. Thanks. Wayne
- Wayne A. Pletcher
- MS, PhD
The WCBN article (January 2013) brought back many good memories. I was the WCBN general manager during the 1961 and 1962 school years. I recall that we had administrative space in the new SAB but not studios there at that time. Our engineering staff began to put together the information for moving to over-the-air transmission during that period. Interesting sidelight: We received a letter from a federal government agency asking that we relinquish the call letters so they could be used by that agency. The call letters WCBN (Campus Broadcasting Network) evidently also would fit the initials for the agency. We said no.
It was also during that period that we extended our listening reach by wire to attempt to include all of the dorms and beyond. The extension project was called ACRES, for All Campus Radio Emission System. I pitched the extension to the Intra-Fraternity Council (IFC). Don't recall how many takers we had. Our student engineers were skilled in running the steam tunnels with wire.
We earned enough money from ad sales, as I recall, to fund equipment upkeep and upgrades. The hottest show was an afternoon rock and roll program hosted by Tim Belion (sp?). Many of our original programs were imitative of Detroit radio station personalities. I was taking courses in radio-TV production although my academic program was pre-law. Oddly, although I was not one of his broadcasting majors, my professor took the liberty of putting me forward (without my knowledge) for a year's scholarship ($2000) given, one to the U of M and one to MSU, on the occasion of WWJ's 50th anniversary. I won it. A couple of years later when I was working on the air commercially in Grand Rapids radio, by happenstance I ran into another broadcaster who was the MSU winner. We were both on our way to Detroit for our selective service physicals prior to induction into the armed services. I'm not sure where his path led, but mine was the US Navy where I proudly served for 31 years as a Naval aviator.
I returned to academia 20 years ago as an adjunct professor of management and leadership in Prince George's Community College, Maryland. That fits well with my full-time management and leadership training and consulting business in the Washington, DC area. And, having begun my college career at Grand Rapids Junior College, perhaps very appropriate.
Thanks for the reminder.
- Carl Richard "Rik" Karlsson
Looking at the photos of destroyed university buildings in the George Swain article, and recalling still more, I am once again saddened at how little the university has valued its architectural heritage.
- Joseph Haney
- Ann Arbor
I enjoyed the George Swain slide show of old campus views. A correction: the old Library, except for part of the stacks, was torn down in 1917, not 1918. Before it fell, the clock tower had had numerous bricks knocked from its base. The base was then shored up with timbers, which were set afire, and burned for several minutes. The weakened tower buckled and collapsed with a roar. "It just sat down," was the comment of one witness to the spectacle, on an early morning in July, 1917. The man at left in the photo of the "Scholar" statue, at the Michigan Union, is the Union's architect, Irving Kane Pond, a graduate of the University who practiced architecture in Chicago with his brother, Allen. Pond's boyhood home was one of the structures originally on the Union site. In 1879, Pond scored the first touchdown in Michigan's first intercollegiate football game (against Racine College -- a game played in Chicago.) Pond remained an athlete all his life. Another photo of him, which appeared in one of the earliest issues of LIFE Magazine, shows the spry old gent celebrating his 80th birthday by turning a backflip in midair! (The Pond brothers also were architects of the Michigan League.) The other man in Swain's photo was the statue's sculptor, M. Thomas Murphy, who also sculpted the companion statute of an athlete. Swain took a picture of both men with "The Athlete" as well.
- Wystan Stevens
- Ann Arbor
I'm happy to see coverage of the older WCBN. Me, I was part of the very original Campus Broadcasting Network, which fascinated me during my days as a student staff member in 1953-7; I served as an announcer; dance host in South Quad; news specialist; hockey color announcer; ad salesman. Loved it! This during the days of the stringing of the first cable lines through the steam tunnels from East, West and South Quads up to the hill... my memories are affectionate and very warm!
- Martin H Buchman
- BBA, MBA
- Business Administration
Yes, was a graduate student during the early days of the SDS. Because of my studies and research, I was unable to join them, but I did read of their actions and, when lucky, talk to some of their members. They were liberals, some still call them socialists, etc. who were ready and willing to speak out for the principles of our constitution and liberalism. I know of no harm that they did but am aware of the good they did. I am a proud supporter of the SDS. Leonard Lash
- Leonard Lash
- Ann Arbor
Typically, one looks back over the decades and tracks the developments in the life of the college graduate and not that of his alma mater. However, as former University of Michigan president James Duderstadt once commented to me â€œMichigan is always changing.â€ I have been looking with jealousy at all the undergraduate programs that the university is sponsoring these days: Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, 10 Michigan Learning Communities, 5 Theme Communities, Comprehensive Studies Program, Mentorship Program. I recall the Honors program and the Residential College from my time at UM three decades ago, but most of the others seem new. They look fantastic and cause my mind to replay the ending of Kurt Vonnegutâ€™s Breakfast of Champions where he as the author visits his beloved protagonist Kilgore Trout and grants him any wish. After a stunned pause, Kilgore shouts out the following as the book ends: â€œMake me young, Make me young, Make me young.â€ Scott Kashkin LSA, Class of 1984
- Scott Kashkin
I'm a sophomore from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Two years ago, Professor Chris Peterson went to Tsinghua University for the first China International Positive Psychology Conference and gave a great lecture. We were all impressed and deeply touched. We invited Professor Peterson nearly one year ago to attend our second annual conference, and he said yes. We already planned about his coming and everything. Last month, after his passing away, in deep sorrow we decided to make a short video in memory of him. This video will be shown during the conference to let everyone know that a great teacher named Chris Peterson had helped us so much that now we learned to see a more colorful and positive world. Li Xing-yu Department of Psychology Tsinghua University
- Li Xing-yu
- Tsinghua University
Periodically you publish a list of recent releases by Michigan authors, and I generally run through the list and order one or more. Most recently I purchased Say Nice Things About Detroit and The Cellist of Sarajevo from your list. Iâ€™ve finished Cellist, and am just now finishing Detroit. Both are excellent! Thanks for listing these works. Please keep up the good work. Lin Hanson
- Linscott Roberts Hanson
- LL. B.; JD
- LSA; Law
- Green Oaks
I am astounded by the lynch mob virulence of some of the comments and letters submitted in response to the article on the Port Huron Statement's 50th anniversary. We in SDS, and in the Port Huron Statement, advocated for democracy, human rights, reasoned discussion, a wider justice and freer life for all. Clearly some University "graduates" don't like democracy, prefer the rule of banksters, monopolists, and warriors. It escapes me how our bands of idealists and activists are to blame for the horrors of contrived wars and the predations of the gluttonous rich. Fascism was a preferred system by many in the pre-World War II world, and it still is, with a tight interlock between the political, the economic, and the military elites. It is laughable that we are the ones called arrogant and elitist. We did not invent the political struggle between democracy and fascism, but we did find our place on the side of justice and we did contend with the powers that be and their murderous ways. Those in the moral limbo of complicit silence may lash out at our imperfect-nesses, but they fail the test of courage to challenge a status quo rooted in oppression and rationalized by the gun. We sought a better way of living, more loving, more cooperative. The Michigan Today article talks about the Port Huron Statement as an object separate from the organization spirit that created it. It was not Tom Hayden's work or my work that made it happen. It was a determination arising in our generation then, particularly among young women, to do something about the wrongs we saw. Women like Sharon Jeffrey, Carol Cohen, Sandra (Casey) Cason, Dorothy Dawson, Becky Adams, Betty Garman, Mary (Maria) Varela, Sarah Murphy, Barbara Jacobs (to name but a few) all in all, were more significant than the men, like Tom and me who tend to get the attention. These women brought a human directness, and love, as well as organizing skill and knowledge, that made SDS different from other political organizations. The University community will have the benefit, for the first time ever, to hear a panel of some of these SDS women tell the story from their view. This panel will be part of the University conference on the Port Huron Statement, Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and 2, 2012. I hope the blowhards and know-nothings, commenting here, will come and attend, perhaps to learn something they missed as students, and still do. The more receptive commentators will find a chance for creative engagement with some of the pioneers in the freedom movement and struggle for human liberation. Our organization did not survive the Vietnam war, the "counter-intelligence program," (cointelpro), and the mind numbing horrors we witnessed in opening our eyes to the reality of world politics. As individuals. In the years since, we of that generation who then looked uncomfortably at the world we were inheriting, have continued, in myriad ways, working to build a peace system of non-violence, partnership, sharing, caring, generosity, kindness, and healing to replace the war system in which we were born and grew up, of patriarchy, violence, domination, imposition, impunity, etc. SDS of course is still organizing, students for a democratic society again, and now also, seniors for a democratic society. The umbrella movement for a democratic society (.org) is undertaking an activist projection to interact with the academic reflection, beginning with the question, for those who care: What would you want in a "manifesto for now." Participation is invited. It's about democracy. (http://bit.ly/manifesto4nowwiki)
Note: Some of the comments on the article were thoughtful and constructive. I think the one about a debate between the SDS democrats and the William Buckley/Russell Kirk crowd would be most interesting and worthy of University sponsorship. We did once have a debate with Mr. Buckley. Most to the point was the call and need for people to be flexible, imaginative, and committed. I hope Michigan Today will continue this discussion in subsequent issues leading up to the anniversary conference, and also publish a post-conference report.
- Alan Haber
- Co-founder, SDS
- Ann Arbor
Did you think it was an honor to Michigan to claim "parentage" for the SDS? That you will publish something on campus Republicans does not undo the ignorance of the not rare offense to alumni of U.M. publications which appear to get excited about the legacy of the University's darkest days. We do not share the faculty's dominant ideology now or the administration's weakness in face of it.
- Robert Lawson
- B.A., M.A.,Ph.D.
- LS&A, Education
- Lewis Center
I was a little shocked by the intensity of the anger expressed in several letters received by Michigan Today concerning its coverage of the anniversary of the Port Huron Statement. These letters crucified the students involved in the Students for a Democratic Society and castigated the Michigan Today for even covering the anniversary of the seminal essay. Political terms were hurled as if the most vile of insults: â€œsocialists,â€ â€œradicals,â€ â€œliberalism.â€ I felt as if I were listening to talk radio. I volunteer to go first to criticize not only the excesses of the Sixties movement but many of its principles and primary traits and behaviors, particularly moral relativism, sexual promiscuity, recreational drug use, pseudo intellectualism, and the generalized assault on traditional institutions such as marriage. However, the movement was not all bad. It did struggle against the Vietnam War, Americaâ€™s suicide attempt in the words of historian Paul Johnson. The American military machine killed millions of people who had never attacked or even threatened our country. Even though Congress never declared war as the US Constitution requires, we dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did on Germany during the Second World War. The Sixties movement and the SDS also battled Americaâ€™s apartheid in the South, industrial pollution, and poverty. Sociology is complex as are people. The students involved in SDS were not demons, even though they were wildly misguided in most areas in my view. In some respects, they were idealistic and self-sacrificing. In other respects, they were decadent and reckless. You can say that they were much like the society that produced them. As the adage goes, apples donâ€™t fall far from the tree. Anybody who is given to rant about their children needs to take a good look in the mirror. I am glad to see Michigan Today cover the anniversary of the Port Huron Statement just as I would to see it write about neo-conservative Ann Coulter, another Michigan graduate. We have all kinds of people here. Letâ€™s read about them and discuss the issues with civility and reason.
- Scott Kashkin