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No Cause for Sadness

THERE EXISTS no defense of genocide. Nor is there the burden of proof in the normal sense, for blood stains on the guilty hands. There is the burden of conscience, for those who privately recognize the perpetration of crimes against all people to make public their anger and repudiation.

There is blood on the hands of Dolph Droge, small functionary in the great war machine, and there is blood on the hands of Nguyen Hoan, smaller player in the cast of South Vietnam's belligerent charade of democracy. And there is Milton Sacks, who seems far from blood in the recesses of corporate scholarship, but who is the author of the "Leopard Spots" program, a plan for relocating peasants who have been forced from their homes in decentralized concentration camps. And there is blood on the hands of those more important, and blood on the hands of those less important, on the hands of all of us from those times that we have remained passive before the monsters who juggle maps and charts and words and ideas and men. Who pull the triggers, drop the bombs; who coat Indochina with burning napalm fire, and then in explanation, talk of values like freedom of self-determination and freedom of speech until even those freedoms, which radicals have traditionally championed, are appropriated to the hazy nonsense world of Pentagonese.

There is so little we can do to stop the atrocities. And yet there exist opportunities to express total opposition to the war policies, opportunities to publicly attack them. And these must be exploited if we are not all to be drowned in the unending waves of double-talk.

When Spiro Agnew comes to town, there can be 5000 people in the streets screaming Murder. And when Dolph Droge comes to Harvard to plead the case of murder there will be people who absolutely refuse to hear anymore, who cannot contain their outrage as Droge unfolds his dissection map of Southeast Asia. Who cry Murder Murder, and will not stop, and will not hear any "explanation."

The speakers came to Harvard to justify a criminal American war policy. A segment of the Harvard community met them, and the policy they expressly came to represent, with a loud and unequivocal negation. And so they left. And all those who oppose the war must recognize the essential reality of what happened: pro-war propagandists came to Harvard and were met by a hostile audience. Which is not, in our minds, a cause for great sadness.

AND NOW we are encompassed in a debate over the right of free speech, with Harvard University claiming the moral high ground as the neutral guardian of the rights of the community. And from that high ground, this community will be eldered, some in this community will be purged, and all of us may be bamboozled into accepting the primacy of a sham position-that of fair Harvard the neutral champion of rights.

Everyone at Harvard accepts the necessity of free speech in a free society. Free speech is, quite rightly, one of those moral values beyond question, like love or honesty. So to support free speech as an abstract value means next to nothing.

Such abstract values very quickly come into conflict with social "facts of life." There are the obvious examples: one is not free to shout fire in a crowded theater. And it gets more confusing. In the past, speaking in favor of socialism was equated with shouting fire in a theater, and it too was illegal. In the same way, one is not "free" to murder, because murder is not in society's interests. But here we face the real dilemma: someone must decide what killing is in society's interests, and what killing is not. So thus it is permissible to advocate murder in Vietnam, but not to advocate murdering the murderers, or even to shout "murderer." All values are socially conditioned.

In our minds, the measure of the abridgement of free speech is in the consciousness and premeditation of the act. And we are certain that last Friday night was not met: people came to Sanders Theatre to protest the war, not to deny the freedom of speech of the individuals who came as propagandists.

Examples of such conscious and premeditated denial of the right of free expression abound these days, and they are indeed brutal. Scanlan's inability to get a special issue on guerrilla war published anywhere in the U. S. was such an abridgement. At the Chicago Convention, when Mayor Daley turned off the microphone of the Wisconsin delegation, which was trying to protest the police riot, that was a curtailment of free speech. When Nathan Pusey fired Faculty members for the "crime" of Communism, that too was suppression of free speech.

Such outright curtailment was a possibility at the meeting. A picket line might have forcibly kept anyone from entering the building; the men might have been attacked, kidnapped, or shot, or arrested by a People's Tribunal. All those things were conceivable, if remote, but none of them happened. Things like that happen to some left group every day, and one must remember that in police raids, the police do not merely ring a group's headquarters and chant anti-leftist slogans.

What did happen last Friday night is best described as a transgression of the laws of protocol and order. People shouted and screamed. They reacted clamorously to what was going on: if there can be any charge, it is disorderly conduct, or riot, or creating a public nuisance; denying freedom of speech simply does not describe what happened.

THERE CAN be no punishment. The University will conduct its witch hunt in the name and outraged defense of a supposed value neutrality. Yet there will be an implicit value judgment: freedom of speech for Dolph Droge is more important to Harvard University than freedom to live for the Vietnamese. Dolph Droge's daily conduct denies that second freedom, and people came to Sanders Theatre to protest that denial of rights.

Decision to punish will reflect what is already an established bias for the rights of academicians to undisrupted peace and quiet over the rights of Third World people to life itself. This bias can be seen in Harvard's continuing sponsorship of Henry Kissinger, and those at Harvard who would eagerly take his place. The two rights come into conflict.

The questions are of enormous subtlety and difficulty. All this will, we sadly expect, be buried over by the CRR, which will inveigh against "student thugs" with the ardor of a blinded Cyclops. And it will be the CRR, an isolated illegitimate arm of repression, which-in disciplining students for being against the war-will strike the real blow to free speech at this University.

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