Following the Prevailing Winds

May 22nd, 2004

To the Editor:

With all due respects to Ms. Applebaum, it is entirely possible to predict what will happen when people are faced with choices between “good and evil”. The majority go with the prevailing winds of pressure to either side of that coin, regardless of educational level and economic status.

The Milgrim studies of the early 60’s pressured Harvard students to administer increasingly painful electrical shocks to another person, resulting in 60% compliance to demands for “obedience to authority”. Yes, the parties being “shocked” were actors, pretending to beg for release from this “study” while most of our Ivy League students kept pushing those buttons when ordered to continue. No combat here or possibility of being “shot” for refusing an order.

A law professor in San Diego named Hartwell found nearly every one of his students agreed to violate the law in advising a “client” to commit perjury when given this “evil” counsel by their teacher/mentor. Again, no gun to their heads but the need to conform with the expectations of one in authority.

What makes us so anxious to suspend our own judgement in matters basic to human decency and law – simply for the positive regard of others? It does not matter why any longer. We know from Nazi Germany, from our own internment of Japanese-American citizens and from our students at Harvard and San Diego that we are wired that way. We know from our own executive branch of government, who take the counsel of their former (and future) business cohorts in secret policy meetings, that constituents crying out for protection from toxic pollutants or unsafe working conditions will be ignored.

Profits, you say, explains that? Okay, let’s look at the vast majority of congressional members who voted to suspend constitutional rights to due process via the Patriot Act. They also deprived themselves of the right to provide oversight for executive branch decisions in the matter of waging war on foreign soil. What was their gain except to relieve themselves of the burden of independent judgement? In so doing, they set the stage for the war crimes now being paraded before us in words and pictures.

We must look towards our essential educational system that trains lemmings rather than thoughtful, responsible persons. When test scores become paramount, curriculum content in the area of intangibles such as critical thinking skills, personal responsibility and non-relative concepts of “honor” are the first casualty of the educational “wars”. An entire society, “left behind”.

Let’s return the checks and balances provided within the constitution which recognized the need to protect the individual, be he President or laborer, from the forces of conformity. Yes, we fear freedom but cannot claim its benefits without bowing to its harsher demands.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Washington Times

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