Monday, May 29, 2006

Leftist Marquette Student Moves To the Middle

Greg St. Arnold, political activist with JUSTICE and blogger, has been away from campus this past year, in Africa.

It seems the experience has affected his politics.

From My Fourth Blog: Politics, some reflections on how:
I’ve just spent eight months away from America. I was in Kenya studying for two semesters and got to travel around a bit in East Africa and pay a visit to South Africa as well. The thing I’ve been telling people since I’ve been home is that it was amazingly educational for me; it wasn’t all great, it wasn’t all dangerous, it wasn’t anything you would think it was. I’ve just learned a lot and readjusted my ethical and political philosophies accordingly.

In another forum I called myself politically moderate, prompting close friends to email me and ask if I was joking or lying. In the past I was planted rather firmly on left-most side of the political spectrum, appreciative of Michael Moore’s documentary prowess and Dennis Kucinich’s bilingual oratorical ability. I was uncompromisingly dismissive of George Bush’s bumbling foreign policy, Condoleezza Rice’s vision of postwar international politics, and virtually all things with the word Republican attached to them. Retrospectively, I can say this was a bit unfair. My time abroad has opened my eyes a bit, in two ways especially.

First, I have come to appreciate, around the edges at least, some of the goals of the Bush foreign policy. I have seen firsthand how dogmatic some people are in their hatred and denunciation of the United States, and how their hatred itself is built on a foundation of simplistic platitudes, caricatures, and prejudices. (Example: You Americans are so fat, You Americans have so much money, You Americans live in a filthy decadent society.) Letting these attitudes fester can birth terrorism, and so it is right to take the fight to these attitudes globally, aggressively, proactively.
St. Arnold then explains he doesn’t necessarily favor the war in Iraq, but does like the thrust of Bush’s anti-terrorism policies.
What Bush has said unequivocally is that 9/11 was a transformative event in international relations, and America needs to aggressively fight to counter the forces and ideas that spawned 9/11. I’ve come to find myself in agreement with this goal.

The second part of the Bush agenda I have found myself agreeing with more and more is the continual push to open new markets and promote free trade amongst nations. By supporting such initiatives, this administration, like its Clintonian predecessor, is seeking to raise the standard of living, reduce poverty, and provide billions of others access to the consumer goods we so often take for granted here in this country. . . . there is really no suitable alternative that seeks to do what NAFTA, FTAA, and CAFTA are doing. Bilateral trade agreements can and do work, but why not create a framework for broader international participation and enrichment? That is what these regimes seek to do. Promoting economic freedom is what has facilitated the introduction of a Swahili language version of Microsoft Windows in East Africa, a product that will grant millions of people formerly shut out of the technological world the opportunity to join it. Obviously Bush wasn’t personally responsible for this, but the economic ideology he espouses laid the groundwork for such an event.

Two dramatic departures from previously held positions, I will admit. . . . My sophomore year I manned a table in the Raynor library urging people to call their representatives and oppose CAFTA. Can’t say I’d do that again. My freshman year I emceed an anti-Iraq War protest. Can’t say I’d do that again either. Probably won’t work for Kucinich ‘08 if it materializes. In fact, I’ve had to reevaluate whether or not I can call myself a Democrat still. I can and do, as a matter of fact, but I don’t think it prohibits me from appreciating or approving of certain policies espoused on the Republican side of the spectrum. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but I really feel like my mind has been liberated from the partisan shackles that once held it captive. And ultimately I think that’s the goal of education. So it was a good time abroad.
St. Arnold still would not be entirely at home at a meeting of the College Republicans. He likes Russ Feingold, and seems to favor gay marriage.

On the other hand, he bristles at the rhetoric of Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chavez who called George Bush “the biggest perpetrator of genocide the world has known.”

Here is an interesting question: how would St. Arnold’s politics be different if, instead of going off to Africa he had stayed at Marquette taking the usual classes that left-leaning students take (and spending a lot of time with JUSTICE and Office for Student Development folks)?

We doubt that change would have occurred.

Perhaps it’s a good thing for Republican students to be exposed to a liberal or left-leaning faculty.

But for left-leaning students, this amounts to merely more of the sort of indoctrination that caused them to be left-leaning students to begin with.

For them, nothing is better than seeing how ideas work themselves out in the real world.


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