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After reading the most recent edition of that most vile publication known as Peninsula, I find myself, as an editor of The Crimson, proud to be included on that rag's "Official Enemies List." A handful of reactionaries--who use a post office box as a mailing address--have managed to single out some of the most intelligent and thoughtful persons and organizations on campus as enemies of Harvard. Why anyone other than the author would be proud of his or her association with the September cover story ("Know Your Enemy") is beyond me, yet it must be read as a staff editorial given its prominent placement and its use of the inclusive "we" voice.
The characterization of any groups on campus as "enemies" rather than opponents establishes a Gestapo-esque dichotomy between the base and the virtuous. (It's too bad that members of Peninsula's Council don't realize they're on the wrong side.) Bob Dole and Jack Kemp have taken to calling President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore '69 their "opponents." Peninsula, on the other hand, explains that its agenda is "in keeping with the time-honored practice of making a list and checking it twice in order to ensure when the coup comes around the firing squad knows who's been naughty or nice." A fine metaphor, really, for Peninsula's subsequent attacks on Jews, intellectuals, blacks, homosexuals and the Church. Sound like any other intolerant regime in recent memory?
The first people to receive Peninsula's scorn are all those who are non-heterosexual. The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Student Association (BGLSA) and its sometimes political arm, the Strategic Offense Society, are deemed evil because they are "manifestly opposed to traditional Christian values," not to mention "their never-ending quest for special privileges...such as office space." Christian values according to whom? And where in the Christian Bible is hatred considered laudatory? Isn't the Golden Rule to "love thy neighbor?" It seems that Peninsula's world view, like that of the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition, comprehends legitimacy only as autocratic sanction. Moreover, they contend that office space, which is a good measure of institutional sovereignty on this campus, should only be doled out to "God-fearing conservatives." What is even more outrageous is that the Reverend Peter Gomes, who presides over Memorial Church, serves as a punching bag for Peninsula rather than a moral example because he identifies himself as a homosexual.
The second flank of Peninsula's invective attacks three of the most respected professors on campus: Robert Coles '50, Alan M. Dershowitz and Stephen J. Gould. That these are vocal, public intellectuals is surely at the heart of Peninsula's insecurity. But I think that is there is a deeper question of (hypocritical) religious "sincerity" which Peninsula raises. Coles, who through his lectures makes evident the profound impact the words of Jesus Christ have had on his life, is the model Christian--humble, God-fearing and wholly concerned for his fellow man--yet Peninsula castigates his compassionate oratory as "dron[ing] on endlessly about...well, nothing." It is also not surprising that Peninsula cites two of the most renowned Jewish professors on campus for moral corruption; an anti-Semitic strain runs through all its rhetoric. Dershowitz, whom Peninsula deems "a man without honor," could not be a more honorable individual in his apolitical dedication to the preservation of civil liberties. And Gould, whose specialty is the cross-pollination of geological and evolutionary theory, rather than being "a tireless advocate of a godless society," rightly understands the compatible aims of science and religion.
Constituting the third target for Peninsula are: conservatives? Yes, well, Gov. William F. Weld '66 and the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Alliance obviously aren't authoritarian enough for these brutes, to say nothing of the "liberal" Undergraduate Council or President Clinton. It seems as if Peninsula is still fighting the Cold War, making cracks about Clinton "guarding the hallowed halls of Oxford University from a Vietcong sneak attack" and the council's political slicksters opting under a hypothetical transplant to "communist" China "to curry favor with the butchers of Beijing." This is how out there the Peninsula is, how so removed it is from the modern political scene that it cannot comprehend the fundamentally conservative policies of the United States in the 1990s. Perhaps these reactionaries would prefer to have lived during the 1960s so at least they would have had something legitimate to rail against.
It is convenient for Peninsula to draw an imaginary line between "us" and "them," but under their categories, the only "us" left is those fools on the masthead: John Appelbaum '97 of Kirkland House, Christopher T. Brown '98 of Adams House, Polly Brown, Alexandra B. Coppet '97 of Boston, David S. DeSimone '98 of Mather House, James M. Dickerson '98 of Quincy House, Christine Folch '98 of Pforzheimer House, Sarah A. Gervase '97 of Pforzheimer House, Christopher M. Griffith '97 of Leverett House, Randy A. Karger '98 of Winthrop House, Jose M. Padilla '97 of Eliot House, Lev Polinsky '98, Donald J. Rissmiller '98 of Adams House, Christopher J. Russo '97 of Leverett House and last, but not least, the ringmaster, Bradley L. Whitman '98 of Adams House. These undergraduates should be ashamed to be associated with the rotten hatred spewed in the most recent issue. If you know them (which is ill-advised) or if you know that they live in your house, take the time to acknowledge their contribution to the campus press and let them know just how their drivel makes you feel.
What gives these whining students the chutzpah to claim the University as their own? They have been admitted here--God knows why--by the Admissions Committee, just like everyone else (I'm assuming). They think of themselves as grass-roots conservatives with a monopoly on truth, justice and the American way. In fact, they are the fringe: the freakish fascists who parade as Americans under the Stars and Stripes while eschewing all the freedoms for which this country exists. They are the intolerant. They are the fundamentalists. They are the malcontent minority who, guised in hypocritical morality, attack the virtuous elite of which they only long to become a part.
Joshua A. Kaufman's column appears on alternate Tuesdays.
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