Send a limousine? (and other Condi quandaries)

The Humphrey Institute is bringing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speak at the University of Minnesota’s flagship campus. Helped along by Students for a Democratic Society 2: Electric Boogaloo, a resolution will hit the floor of the University Senate, Thursday, April 3 that will take a stance against Condoleezza Rice

I initially was dumfounded at the idea. Ann Coulter was about to be brought in as a speaker, and people were focusing on the relatively agreeable Condoleezza Rice. So I’m going to break down all of the valid concerns I had about the proposed resolution.

Condoleezza Rice is perhaps the most prominent woman of color in the history of US government. Though certainly not at satisfactory levels, America is inching toward seeing more people of color and women in its greatest roles. Alas, intersectionality is an unfamiliar notion to today’s mainstream. There is inherent value in many young people being subjected to Condoleezza Rice if only so that women of color might feel so enabled to have her ambition.

Condoleezza Rice is certainly not the most evil member of the right available. Again, we have Ann Coulter. It seems weird that they’ve decided to single out Condoleezza Rice. I’ve suggested that taking on a more all-encompassing philosophy on how to filter out our speakers might be more effective.

After all, this would be a very public statement by the University’s Senate. And, particularly faced with the inability to change anything at this stage, that threatens to further weaken an already disappointingly irrelevant body of shared governance.

So with those considerations, I figured that I probably thought that Condoleezza Rice should speak at the University. But really, as I kept hearing arguments dismissing the resolution, I kept fiercely objecting and eventually came to realize the extent to which people Don’t Get It.

I think I’ve come to be immediately skeptical of any argument that banks on free speech. So let me tell you: if you think this is a free speech issue, you’re an imbecile. Condoleezza Rice is not telling the University of Minnesota that she just wants to come by and say a few words, if that’s all right. No, we’re paying her six figures for one speech. We’re reaching out to her and asking her to speak at our institution so that we can give her lots of money.

President Eric Kaler expressed an opinion equivalent to “we should hear her out.” But she won’t be talking about the objections to her presence that anyone is making. She will be celebrated, give a fairly typical speech, and then be given lots of money.

So yes, money is an issue. But it’s also about Rice’s enabling of the enhanced interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.

Now, you might have your opinion on this. And I’m no more likely to sway you on it than I would be with, say, gay marriage. But our prisoners were tortured. We declared a great loss when we feared terrorists so greatly that we forewent some of the mercy that we feel makes us greater than them. It was unacceptable that we as Americans treated any human beings this way, and if you disagree, well, I’m judging you.

But something’s wrong here. So many people who wanted Guantanamo Bay closed, who detest “enhanced interrogation,” and who know that the war in Iraq was a mistake are thumbing their nose at this. Why?

The answer is pretty simple, particularly with regards to the students whose formative years occurred largely during the Bush administration. We’ve become numb to the atrocities our own politicians enable. We don’t blink twice when someone who authorizes torture is given a platform and a paycheck.

Honestly? I don’t think that this action is the move we need to remember these atrocities. It’s not big enough. We need to somehow bring public mentality back to the point where we can realize there are things we must rise above.

I don’t believe this is the path that will lead us there. But maybe discussion will help us find it.

But I just have to remember that most powerful of Joe Strummer’s lines and think we’re failing his test.

“If Adolf Hitler flew in today/They’d send a limousine anyway.”

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 10:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

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