Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Trick That Never Seems to Fail

The Crimson has published one thing I've written, a letter to the editor about Kofi Annan. Annan was named Commencement Speaker (in 2004), and The Crimson rejoiced. Here is my response:

When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan comes to mind, I am reminded of a favorite passage from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Desperate to save face after the reckless actions of a bombardier lead to unnecessary deaths, his superiors decide to give the offender a medal and a promotion: “You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.” Such must have been the reasoning of the international community when, for being one of the first to look the other way during the genocide in Rwanda, Mr. Annan was punished with an election as Secretary-General of the United Nations and a Nobel Peace Prize. The past century might very well go down in history as the Age of Mutually Ignored Destruction, and we have all been guilty of refusing to acknowledge the internecions among us (the Sudanese slaughters of a month ago spring to mind), but Mr. Annan held a special position as one of the few people in the world whose actions could have stopped the killing, and his failure to do so must reserve him a special share of the blame. The Crimson’s attempt to absolve the Secretary-General in its April 30th editorial reads like a Politburo press release as it glosses over massacres as “missteps,” acknowledging their existence only as unhealthy fixations in the minds of Annan’s critics. Arguing that Annan’s unsavory role in certain events is overshadowed by the glories of a lifetime in public service, the editorial gives new meaning to the term ‘diplomatic immunity.’ The Crimson notes approvingly that Annan encourages volunteerism, and that he has been a leader in the fight against the curiously equated evils of globalization and HIV/AIDS. With some of his youth programs, his occasional support for tariffs, and his promises of humanitarian aid to Africa, George W. Bush has decent marks in all those campaigns; if memory serves me well, however, The Crimson has never shown the same willingness to gloss over blemishes in the public service record of the President. True, Mr. Annan has one more Nobel Peace Prize than President Bush will ever receive, but then again so does Yasser Arafat. The editorial reminds me of my own most eloquent attempts to deflect blame (“Boy, Mom, it was a really beautiful day today, i-got-a-D-on-my-exam, and I met this absolutely gorgeous girl – and she’s Jewish!”); it is nothing more than a talented work of misdirection. I am frankly ashamed that the University has made Heller’s absurd reverse psychology into a reality, and I can only hope that the audience at Commencement will show more sense than the administration and The Crimson expect of it, and that Mr. Annan will not be punished, yet again, with applause.
Adrian Gaty

I post this now because I was reminded of that great Heller quotation when I learned that the hunger strikers will be marking the pathetic end to their embarassing campaign with, you guessed it, a big celebration! An excerpt from the latest email:

"The Coalition was planning a daily rally on what would have been Day 10 of the hunger strike, but the rally has turned into a celebration and kickoff for the next phase. Join us, and bring your friends!"

I like a good laugh as much as the next guy (well, assuming the next guy isn't your typical student activist), but I think I'll pass.

P.S. Okay, I can't keep this from you. My favorite line from that same email, displaying the touching depths of "Student-Worker Solidarity":
"Yesterday, the hunger strikers ended their strike after 9 days, as security officers served each of them their first bowl of soup."

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