Letters to the Editor

Are the UA & GSC Pulling Their Weight?

At the sight of citizens voting for state and federal officeholders, Dan Yelin laments that MIT’s officers, from President Hockfield on down, are not accountable to their constituents (The Tech, Volume 128, Issue 54).

But the mission of MIT’s UA and GSC are “to express our views and represent ourselves before other groups whose decisions affect [undergraduates]” and “to represent the graduate students on all matters pertaining to their general welfare.” Are Mr. Yelin and, more importantly, the students participating in the Oct. 17th tool-in, satisfied with the UA’s efforts to increase transparency and student participation? Were these issues a priority for the UA or GSC before the Campaign for Students took action?

In the national elections Mr. Yelin cites, the American electorate demanded change, and began by replacing our country’s head of government. Why shouldn’t MIT students do the same at the next opportunity to their student governments’ executive boards?

‘All Men Are Created Equal’

As a proud supporter of Barack Obama, I was dismayed to see that his coattails extended all the way to the ‘Yes on Prop 8’ Campaign in California. Proposition 8, like its successful cousins in Florida and Arizona, was a constitutional ban on gay marriage and added California to the list of 47 other states that recognize a fundamental difference between straight and gay citizens.

The success of these bans (particularly in California) breathe new life into a toxic religious movement while defeat could have realistically broken the political will for bans on gay marriage. Moreover, while Prop 8’s success is mitigated by pre-existing California domestic partnership laws, other states have seen an escalation of the gay marriage opponents’ agenda. The battle now includes bans on gay adoption and domestic partnerships (which have caught many non-traditional straight families in political crossfire).

These marriage bans seriously call into question the idea of November 4, 2008 as a watershed day for ‘transformative’ politics — particularly since the group ostensibly celebrating political progress was instrumental in advancing this discriminatory legislation. In an election where America saw through the fear based campaign of John McCain, the electorate in these three states bought the utter nonsense of gay marriage opponents hook, line and sinker.

No one benefits from hyperbole — the 4th was a generally good, “two-steps-forward-one-step-back” kind of day, and as Americans, we all frankly have more (sadly, a lot more) to worry about than gay marriage. That said, Prop 8 wasn’t about balancing priorities or pragmatically navigating the odd confluences of modern politics — it was about equality.

When voters, legislators, governors and presidents come to take away my right to be a husband, come to take away my right to be a father, come to criminalize me, please reflect on the quintessential genius of the American Revolution: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

America’s Constant Revolution

I spent the evening of November 4th listening to Strauss and Brahms at the Boston Symphony. When friends asked why I wasn’t watching the election results on television I shrugged and replied “I’ll hear about it tomorrow.” It’s not that I didn’t care — in fact I went to great lengths just to vote back home in Texas — but as an American, I had lost sight of how profound the first Tuesday in November of years divisible by four is.

By being a part of it for so long, I had taken for granted the beauty of the political system that America operates under. I forgot how to see the forest for the trees. The symphony has a way of forcing one to think, though. While I’m not proud that I didn’t give the proper respect to November 4th 2008, I am grateful for the chance to reflect on it all.

Every first Tuesday in November, and this one in particular, the world changes. As a European friend put it when I asked why she cares about the American election so much — “the votes that you all cast here directly affect the rest of us.”

I cast my ballot for Senator Obama, but listening to the BSO play Brahms while much of the rest of the world (yes, the world) was glued to precinct reports, I realized that which candidate won is far less important than the system itself. Every four years the most powerful nation on earth, the greatest consuming nation on earth and the world’s economic juggernaut has a revolution.

The leadership of the United States of America was changing. It was changing because a two century and counting piece of parchment said that it must. An old guard would soon be giving up real power, a new guard would soon be assuming it, and it would all be done completely peacefully — and I was listening to violin concerto in D, opus 77.

The truly amazing part of it is that I wasn’t wrong to be doing what I was doing. Somewhere between one- and two-thirds of all Americans voted and each had the luxury to spend the evening doing whatever he or she wished. That’s between 120 and 240 million Americans participating in the most orderly revolution on earth, spending the night however they wished, and the next morning, irrespective of their side of choice, accepting the results and instantly being given amnesty. People from across the political spectrum, many with very strong opinions, all tacitly agreed to accept the results of the election. For something that I thought was mundane, it’s really very crazy stuff.

After the show, I went to get some dessert with friends. The ice cream shop we found was showing election coverage on a T.V. I got to see the final results and to later hear the victory and concession speeches. I sincerely hope that the results usher in a new era of America’s relationship with the rest of the world and with itself.

I hope that individuals don’t get caught up in finger pointing and assigning blame to others who chose to cast a ballot for a different ideology. Most of all, though, I hope that I, my fellow Americans, and our comrades of the world continue to appreciate the system that makes such profound changes possible overnight. Remember, remember the first Tuesday in November.