My school had John Yoo to come and speak about a book he wrote about globalization and international law.
In case you don't know who Yoo is, he is a legal scholar who during the Bush Administration worked for the Justice Dept (Assistant Deputy Attorney General). There, he authored several infamous legal memos, including the "Torture memo", which interpreted Presidential powers so broadly that actions normally considered torture under Geneva would not be considered torture for purposes of the "War on Terror".
Once, he was asked, "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?" John Yoo said "I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that."
So yes, John Yoo is one evil man.
Most of us were intrigued enough to sit in for the panel discussion. But some kids were pissed. They posted signs for boycotting the meeting and staged a silent walk-out during the meeting, holding illustrative flyers as they left the room, drawing the attention of at least a hundred thirty faculty students, and the distinguished guest himself. They were not angry at Yoo as they were at my school for letting him speak.
Before the meeting, my friend (let's call her Mary), handed me one of the flyers and invited me to join the protest. I told her I'd consider it, but I knew I wouldn't, since I wanted to sit for the meeting and listen in. Right as the discussion was about to start, people were murmuring about the protesters, and I was asked again why I didn't join (all my friends were in on it.) I recited what I had prepared rehearsing all afternoon: "Because I don't believe one should exercise her freedom of speech so as to prevent another from exercising his."
Don't get me wrong: I'm all for assembly, and I think torture is morally awful (but I think the issues are much more complex than people are willing to concede). But I do not believe one should ever protest allowing a scholar to speak, only because they find his views morally repugnant. A more enriching response is to attend the meeting and listen to what he has to say. Allow yourself to digest his words. Re-think your own views and consider whether he's clarified his views at all. Then, if you still hold to your views, there is such a thing as Q+A.
The panel discussion, by the way, was excellent, but I found Yoo's views on international law almost silly. He thinks no treaty that the U.S. is a party to places binding legal obligations on the U.S. I challenged him on that point, arguing that that flies against the Constitution's supremacy clause, which holds all treaties authorized by Congress to be supreme law of the land. His response was less than satisfying.
But I came home that night enriched. I understood some of the man's views. I wholeheartedly disagree with them. And I feel that those kids who stormed off missed out on a great discussion.
| ||Posted 7/19/2012 11:54 PM - 657 Views - 20 eProps - 14 comments|
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