Saturday, April 16, 2005

My Rebuttal

"Polite society should strive for higher standards and should reject gutteral attempts to degrade and shock."
- Andrew

Some thoughts on this statement:

1) What "polite society" are we referring to? Is it the same polite society where a U.S. Senator likens sex between consenting adults who are of the same sex to incest (Rick Santorum re: Lawrence v. Texas, asserting that if the court struck down the law banning sex between homosexuals "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything"). Or the one where the nation's president implies that non-traditional families are less "moral" than nuclear families in his State of the Union address?

2) Shock can be a good way for people to realize there is a need for change. Sometimes shock is a way to jolt us into a different perspective, even for a moment, to realize that where we're at and where we've been going may not be what we really want. Shock can be an effective tool to drive home a more subtle point; it may make you stop and think "why does that message mean so much to someone that he would deliver it in that manner." Shock is how you get people talking about little pondered issues while huddled around the water cooler.

3) Whose "higher standards" are we striving for? The higher standards of empirical science and strongly demonstrated mechanisms of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology? Or "higher standards" in the divine sense where the standards are so elevated that they cannot be brought down by something as pithy as the theory of evolution or "arguments" that the Holocaust really occurred?

I do agree that the comment Mr. Brendt made was rude and did not show deference to such an esteemed member of our nation's judiciary. At the very least, it made for a very uncomfortable situation for many who were trying to impress Justice Scalia in hopes of earning a clerkship in the high court. However, I commend Mr. Brendt for his commitment to his belief and his acumen in illustrating, although lost in the controversy, a good point - the way two consenting adults choose to be intimate is not an issue for a public forum such as a Q & A session at NYU, let alone the legislation.

As an aside, I am an NYU alum and made-it through four years of walk-outs protesting the war, sit-ins against the military’s biased recruiting practices for the JAG core, marches against abortion, rallies for equal protection of Muslims after 9/11, petitions criticizing President John Sexton's investment of university proceeds in mutual funds connected to prison industries, and letter-writing campaigns to local papers protesting the university's hiring of non-union contractors. While I was not involved and am pretty apolitical, all this definitely made for a very rich, very rewarding, and very enlightening college experience. I am not surprised this "degrading and shocking" event took place at NYU, especially since the university is more than supportive of the free exchange of ideas.


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