The shame of Rockford College
At the commencement exercises at Rockford College recently,
journalist Chris Hedges was booed off the stage for speaking frankly
about war and empire in our time. Rockford, a small liberal arts college
eighty miles northwest of Chicago, evidently has not taught its students the
liberal art of listening to opposing points of view. Ironically, the belligerent
“patriotism” exhibited by a large minority in the audience served to
illustrate the lament and warning that formed the basis of Hedges’ address.
“We have forfeited the good will, the empathy the world felt for us after 9-11.
We have folded in on ourselves, we have severely weakened the delicate
international coalitions and alliances that are vital in maintaining and promoting
peace and we are part now of a dubious troika in the war against terror with
Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon, two leaders who do not shrink in Palestine or
Chechnya from carrying out acts of gratuitous and senseless acts of violence.
We have become the company we keep.
The censure and perhaps the rage of much of the world, certainly one-fifth of the
world's population which is Muslim, most of whom I'll remind you are not Arab,
is upon us. Look today at the 14 people killed last night in several explosions in
Casablanca. And this rage in a world where almost 50 percent of the planet
struggles on less than two dollars a day will see us targeted. Terrorism will become
a way of life, and when we are attacked we will, like our allies Putin and Sharon, l
lash out with greater fury. The circle of violence is a death spiral; no one escapes.
We are spinning at a speed that we may not be able to hold. As we revel in our military
prowess -- the sophistication of our military hardware and technology, for this is what
most of the press coverage consisted of in Iraq -- we lose sight of the fact that just
because we have the capacity to wage war it does not give us the right to wage war.
This capacity has doomed empires in the past.
‘Modern western civilization may perish,’ the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr warned,
‘because it falsely worshiped technology as a final good.’”
Here is the complete text of Hedges' speech, including evidence of audience disruption.
Perhaps the Rockford mob would have been happier with the display at last weekend’s
graduation ceremony at my university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – a flyover by
a B-2 Stealth Bomber!