Memory is a tricky thing. For better or worse, it keeps the past alive and alters our perceptions of things prior. To make something new, to start anew, we almost have to abandon our memory.
The last few years, St. John’s, and especially our country, have been wrought in petty politics. It is time for a new year’s resolution: let’s start off new.
Residence Life policies have grown tighter in the past, each time addressing a need for on-campus safety. When a rape was reported in the Residence Village, it forced the administration into a frenzy in September, they responded by bolting the windows shut on the first floor of DaSilva. After making the guest visitation policies stricter, the bolted windows led to a fair amount of student outrage.
Was the decision to bolt the windows shut a mistake? Maybe. It seemed a bit knee-jerk at the time, but it is certainly understandable why the administration would make such a decision. After all, they are answering to parents, and first and foremost, they have a responsibility to protect their students.
Nonetheless, there has been much ado about the Residence Life policies in the past few years. It has been my experience that most of these criticisms are baseless and ignorant. Certainly there are criticisms to be had about the visitation policies, fair ones at that, but most students just do not make them. They simply do not take issues seriously enough to place logic and reason above impetuous emotions.
The same can be said for the national political climate. Just look at Judge Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings of two weeks past.
As much as it irked me to watch Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) interrogate Alito with accusations of racism, as much as it killed me to listen to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blatantly interrupt and ignore Judge Alito’s answers over and over again, and as much as I wanted to jump out of my chair and throw my television set when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) insisted that Judge Alito “admit” that he opposes abortion- I didn’t. As best I could, I stripped them of their name and their party. I watched them, I gave them a new chance, and I listened to each one of them spew some of the most disgusting political drivel I’ve ever heard. One can only pray that Republicans won’t do the same when the tables are turned.
The Democratic senators played stupid. They pretended they did not know that it was inappropriate for Alito to tell them his opinions on ideological issues that could confront him in the Supreme Court. They made believe that Supreme Court judges decide cases before they go to trial. They turned an innocent inquisition into a malevolent effort to make an honorable man slip up and say something stupid. Luckily, he proved to be too smart for that.
Witnessing intelligent senators choosing partisan ignorance over objective reason reminded me of St. John’s.
Let’s start acknowledging that the administration, just like the students, have unique points of view and responsibilities. Let’s not assume that administrators are out to get us. Let’s be like Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) who, unlike many vigilant Democrats, takes the war in Iraq seriously. He has called for honest discussion about the issue, not brash propaganda insisting that everything including the recent West Virginia coal mining accident is somehow, indirectly President Bush’s fault. It is time to for everyone to get serious about Iraq just like it is time to get serious about the residence policies.
Let’s not make the mistake of giving opinions the titles of absolutes, something that Alito must continually avoid as a future Supreme Court judge. Let’s not listen to Senator Feinstein when she insists that we never revisit Roe v. Wade just because there is court precedence. That kind of mistake would have never allowed us to realize that the world is not flat. That kind of mistake would have prevented African Americans, which make up 18 percent of this school’s population, to attend this University.
After all, while Roe v. Wade has 33 years of Supreme Court precedence, slavery and segregation was an established part of this country for much longer. They were “settled laws.”
Let’s think rationally this year. Let’s not let our memory interfere with a chance to make it new.