Letters to the Editor

Demonization of other views is the problem

I had no problem with USF inviting Ann Coulter to speak, but I found the event to be a disappointing reminder of an issue that I feel hurts the United States: the lack of a discussion between holders of opposing viewpoints.

People are increasingly able to stay uninformed while feeling they have an understanding of political and social issues, as they are presented in easy-to-remember sound bites and talking points. People’s overscheduled minds find relief in oversimplification of the facts and demonization of viewpoints that oppose their own.

While oversimplification causes increasing spread of misinformation, it is the demonization of opposing ideologies that I think hurts the most. I think the cause is simple: When a rational person feels convinced of the correctness of his or her viewpoint, it is difficult for that person to comprehend that another rational person is as convinced of the correctness of an opposing viewpoint. It is easiest, then, for the first to conclude that the second is insincere, motivated by something unmentioned or is simply irrational.

People see this in political arguments, social arguments and wars. They can’t exclusively blame the media or national opinion leaders. One’s own tendency to feel more comfortable knowing the opposing view is irrational or corrupt – and thus more secure in his or her own understanding – is what really fuels the problem.

When a large number of USF students stood in silent protest and left the Sun Dome during Coulter’s speech, presumably due to her reputation for uttering (and standing by) arguably racist and definitely anti-homosexual remarks, I was pleased to see them raise their fingers in the sign of peace as they left. In fact, it made the hair on my neck stand up. I wanted to stand up and scream to the crowd surging to take their abandoned seats – most of whom were applauding attacking remarks from Coulter regarding the exodus – that all those leaving were sincere people with rational desires for a loving and accepting country and a more peaceful world.

But after they disappeared, leaving Coulter to preach predominantly to the choir and call the U.S. political left anything but rational or sincere, I couldn’t help feeling that, with the staged walkout, the protestors had taken another step in a loss of communication between opposing views in this country.

John Gilmore is a junior majoring in creative writing.

People right to protest Coulter’s hatred

I’d like to express my disappointment in USF’s decision to bring Ann Coulter to campus. The money spent on her speech could have been used to promote tolerance or education. Instead, $35,000 was spent on what ended up being a hate speech. My friends and I walked out after she equated gay activists to supporters of Hitler. Is this the message the University wants to send to students?

Coulter also encouraged the mass killing of non-Christian leaders and actively promoted violence against women’s health clinic doctors.

Coulter didn’t introduce any facts in her speech. She used her position as a speaker to promote hate and attack a large part the audience.

The students of USF deserve an apology. Her speech had nothing to do with educating the audience or encouraging positive change for the citizens of America. Her blatant racism, homophobia and intolerance have no place on a college campus.

Jillian Conner is a junior majoring in English.

Protestors just gave Coulter justification

I saw Ann Coulter speak Thursday at the Sun Dome. Although she often relied on the same sensationalist statements and hackneyed anti-liberal “humor” that made it impossible for me to finish How to Talk to A Liberal (If You Must), I was surprised by a few insightful points that I could, on some level, consider valid or rational.

What concerned me even more than Coulter was the silent protest that occurred about 45 minutes into her speech. After Coulter spoke on abortion, gay marriage and civil rights, a group of at least 100 students clad in red shirts stood up. They held peace signs in the air and slowly filed out of the Sun Dome to show their disapproval for Coulter.

You may have heard about Coulter’s rebuttal to the predominantly gay and feminist-supportive groups: “I believe the correct position is on your knees.”

The Sun Dome was full of applause, for either the defiant protesters or the subsequent insult from Coulter. I am far from a Coulter fan, but I cannot agree with the tactics of these student dissenters. By walking out on Coulter mid-speech, they have chosen ignorance. Not that they were listening in the first place.

These people were eager to express their disapproval for everything that came out of this woman’s mouth. She barely uttered the words “pro-choice” or “gay marriage” before a thunder of applause purposely drowned her out mid-sentence. It was a disgraceful scene in which Coulter’s most die-hard opponents exemplified the very characteristics that have made Coulter famous: intentional disrespect, close-minded inflexibility and a lack of human compassion.

If people consider Coulter a threat, they should stay and hear her out. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, “Know thy enemy.” Not only did the protesters miss the remaining half of Coulter’s speech dealing with the War on Terror and Iraq, they missed their greatest opportunity – a question-and-answer session where Coulter herself said she would field questions “until the students have collapsed in exhaustion.”

I commend the protesters on their organization and intentions, but I feel their “victory” was fruitless. They have learned nothing new about the issues they care so deeply about. They have only fueled their own rage and Coulter’s anti-liberal fire by giving her more material.

Daniel Reskin is a senior majoring in psychology.

Students should take action against gold

It’s that time again. Balfour and Herff Jones are on campus trying to sell students class rings. They claim these rings are glowing symbols of pride and accomplishment.

But there is a darker side. The more you know, the less gold glows. Gold mining is one of the dirtiest businesses out there. The production of a single gold ring generates 20 tons of waste. Open-pit mining is devastating to the environment, creating craters that can be seen from outer space. The same cyanide used to leach gold out of the soil also gets into drinking water, killing people.

Multinational mining corporations, with the backing of the World Bank and local governments, assert they are bringing economic progress and prosperity to developing nations. In reality, they end up keeping most of the profits for themselves.

Moreover, mining towns are centers of human rights abuse and social upheaval. Mining companies bully indigenous peoples and displace entire communities. To top it off, the mining companies do not clean up after themselves; the situation is analogous to not flushing the toilet on a massive scale. Simply put, the way gold mining is conducted today is a bad investment.

More than 80 percent of mined gold is used to make jewelry. Balfour and Herff Jones, which have contracts with mining corporations, need to take a stand. Before doing business with these companies, they should make sure they are endorsing the “Golden Rules,” a set of criteria put forth by Oxfam America and Earthworks’ “No Dirty Gold” campaign. The rules include fundamental provisions such as respecting human rights, staying out of war zones and not dumping into fragile ecosystems. Leading jewelers, including Zales and Tiffany and Co., have already adopted the rules.

It’s up to students and consumers to put pressure on Balfour and Herff Jones to take action. Next time you’re in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center or the USF Bookstore, demand that the ring vendors provide untarnished gold.

Salman Khan is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.

Oracle cartoon misrepresents senators

Re: Editorial cartoon, by Jeff Sheridan, Oct. 19

When I first saw the cartoon on Thursday, my first reaction was to laugh. My second reaction was to realize how sad it was that with all the stuff going on in the world, the Oracle staff decided a cartoon about my resignation was more interesting.

I’m flattered that you all think so highly of my position, but give me a break. Not one Oracle staff member called to ask why I had resigned or about the other issues involved.

The cartoon was misleading in that it made Student Government senate leadership look like quitters. I resigned after all University-wide committees were staffed with the appropriate number of students for the first time in years, possibly ever. I resigned after setting several projects in motion and will be working with my successor to make sure there is a proper handoff of responsibilities. I resigned to focus more on my classes and so I would not be neglecting the duties of my position.

Although I enjoyed the 50 phone calls Thursday, please take five minutes next time to get the story straight.

Mark Vila is a senior majoring in biomedical and political sciences and is the former University Relations Committee chair.