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Defending academic forum

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 29, 2005

I firmly believe that Matthew Hamilton’s Sept. 26 Viewpoint letter is almost entirely made up of wild and unsubstantiated claims. Therefore, I offer these critiques of it in the interest of the sincere pursuit of truth.

What’s wrong with “engineering” some “polite” inter-faith dialogue? I’d rather have calm, rational discussion than an angry shouting match. As for the “meaningful alternatives” you claim were left out, I have one point to make. Consider the alternatives to some of the major ideas supported by the panelists. An acceptance of religious and/or secular fundamentalism, rather than a rejection of it? A de-emphasis on women’s rights, rather than concern for them? A combination of church and state, rather than a separation of them? Let us loudly lament that these “extremist,” “self-righteous,” and “overly disruptive” views were kept out of the forum.

But perhaps you meant that there are reasonable but misrepresented views that were ignored. You, Hamilton, certainly brought up a few in your letter. Let’s see if the ideas you support are worthy of inclusion in a good dialogue.

You claim that the U.S. is an empire and certainly imply that it is an oppressive colonialist empire. But what native races have we deliberately and purposefully oppressed (terrorists don’t count)? What territory have we forcibly annexed with the intent of permanent occupation? Iraq? Afghanistan? They’ve both had elections free of U.S. control or influence, other than physical security for voters and polling places. So much for “the American way of life” equaling “the racist colonization of the Middle East.” As for the other claims you make on the true meaning of phrases such as “prosperity and freedom” and “helping the poor,” no one I know and no one I’ve heard, other than a few Communist dictators, uses those phrases in the manner you describe.

I will grant that Israel may be guilty of immoral and/or illegal actions. In that respect, Israel has failed as a democracy by failing to uphold democratic values. But to call the Intifada “noble” is to liken murder and suicide to heroic deeds. No amount of repression or injustice justifies the murder of human beings. Your defense of Palestinian terrorism and call for the end of the Zionist state sound like the latest Hamas and Hezbollah talking points. There are many in this world who believe, unlike you, that the continued existence of Israel is compatible with “… Jews, Arabs, Muslims and Christians [living] side by side as equals …” Building a path toward that end is part of why places like Notre Dame have forums such as this one. By the way, I’d like to thank you for your crass and baseless implication that my fellow conservatives and I are anti-Semitic. Such thoughtfulness is a hallmark of a competent and considerate thinker.

You engage in similar untruthful characterization regarding Cardinal Rodriguez. For you to jump to the conclusion that the cardinal “… denied the reality of the abuse of children …” simply because he criticized how the scandal was covered is a logical fallacy. Many believe that some media outlets have little love for the Church and often misrepresent it. I share that belief, but I certainly do not deny that the abuse happened and caused real harm.

There are many more claims in your letter that I wish I could expose for the tripe they are. With the space I have left, let me offer a suggestion. Before you go spouting your trash in this or any other medium again, Mr. Hamilton, I suggest you first present us with credible evidence and reasoning supporting what you say.

Cole R. MilliardjuniorO’NeillSept. 27