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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 14, 2005
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Diversity issue should not be dramatized

It is disheartening to read letters to the editor such as the ones written by UA alumnus Treyer Mason-Gale and senior Rob Monteleone. While I am not a fan of Mr. Toledo's flagrant and dramatic stance on Latino outreach either, I will be the first to say that the facts point (out) that there may be a problem. Denial of this problem or insensitivity to the issue is not the solution.

The discrepancy rests on the following two questions: Why do the UA enrollment figures fall at 13.6 percent while the Pima County Latino population percentage falls at 29.3 percent (or 25.3 percent if you believe that the UA serves the state of Arizona and not just Pima County)? And why is it that two campuses of Pima Community College and our UA South campus have achieved Hispanic-Serving Institution status while the main campus struggles to hold whatever victories we can receive? While we will probably hear multiple theories posed by many figures over why this discrepancy occurs in following letters to the editor, it is my feeling that nobody will ever really know what the cause is.

Many have theorized and many have been wrong. I will not be one of those people (though if anybody wishes to address the fact that need-based financial aid has not been appropriately funded by the state since the creation of the Arizona Financial Aid Trust, I would be most appreciative) but I wish to discredit any theory that attacks the ability of Hispanic students (such as Mr. Mason-Gale's) or gives the outlandish claim that a problem does not exist (such as Mr. Monteleone's). The value of a global student body is one that should be very appreciated in this school. This is not a topic to either jeer at or one to be dramatic over. It is an issue just like any other issue; let's accept that it exists and debate it civilly.

Fernando Ascencio
political science and psychology senior

Columnist chooses wrong judicial philosophy to assault

In his column on Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court ("Miers too narrow"), Dan Post kicked a straw man so much his leg must be hurting him. Strict constructionism is as dead a philosophy of law as there can be; the concerns brought to bear by Post were what provoked strict construction's evolution to original intent and the shift of most original intent supporters to original meaning. Clearly, though, Post isn't familiar enough with originalism to comprehend its nuances and instead picks its weakest form to assault.

This all, of course, was based on Harriet Miers' statement that she will strictly interpret the law, which places her in conflict only with those who, in bad faith, seek loopholes in the Constitution and read the Commerce Clause as allowing nearly all federal intrusion into private life, and her statement that she'd respect the Founders' vision of the proper role of courts, which is probably that spelled out in the Constitution and Marbury v. Madison. I have yet to see anything that would reveal her to be a vulgar strict constructionist.

Miers is an unknown, and is probably not the libertarian I'd like her to be, but her nomination to the Supreme Court should entail careful review, not baseless attacks or accusations of adherence to dead judicial philosophies. As for folks like Post who feel that the Constitution is somehow not suited for modern life, if they were honest they'd support amendments, rather than judicial deference to the legislature's will and the whims of democracy.

Ben Kalafut
physics graduate student

Anti-war activists rely too much on conspiracy theories

I think Alan Eder's column "The new Vietnam?" made some brilliant comparisons to both wars. However, I believe there are even more similarities that Mr. Eder didn't list.

For starters, it is well documented that the leaders of both Vietnam and Iraq were bloodthirsty tyrants who killed far more of their own people than their enemies did. Hussein is responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 Kurds alone, a figure that includes citizens of Halabja, who were killed in March 1988 to test the effectiveness of chemical weapons.

Communist leaders Ho Chi Mihn and Pol Pot were far more effective killers of their own people. Although both were enemies and Mihn died during the time of U.S. withdrawal, these men were bound by their love of exerting extreme control over the masses (i.e. socialism) that resulted in a million lives lost after we left their respective countries.

Another aspect is the consistent behavior of the anti-war ilk and the mainstream media. During both wars these camps consistently, and almost completely, ignore the blood that was shed by the real tyrants. Instead the focus of their attention and criticism is on the supposed "atrocities" and "quagmires" created by the U.S.

Never is there an acknowledgement that people were suffering under these murderous autocracies, and that it is the U.S. takes great risks to free them from it, while a panel of U.N. councilmen wrings its hands trying to create a way to sweep the problem under the rug. It may sound counterintuitive, but quite often the attempted avoidance of bloodshed actually creates more bloodshed.

I would at least respect the opinion of the anti-war crowd if it was just once even-handed, but it never is. If the argument I've presented here creates some confusion for anyone, try this little trick: Focus all of your attention and deductive reasoning skills on discerning facts from conspiracy theories. Without conspiracy theories, many of you don't have an argument. On the other hand, if you rely on conspiracy theories, you really don't have a clue.

Michael Williams
UA alumnus

Religious symbols blatantly discriminatory, should be removed

This letter is in response to Silas Montgomery's guest column titled "ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious." I would like to start off by saying that I do enjoy sarcastic humor, but it's only funny when you're right. I am a Christian, but I am also a firm believer that religious symbols have no place in law or government. The argument that Christianity is a part of the heritage of this town is irrelevant. If they want to represent their heritage then they can put a picture of a horse or some green chili - you know, stuff that everyone can agree actually exists.

It's wrong to liken a community in this country to a specific religion because it's not required by law that all members of said community have to practice any religion at all. And just in case somebody brings up the argument that they should try to equally represent every religion in the community - there's no way to include a symbol for all types of faith so there's no reason to bother, especially because atheism is considered to be a faith in its own right (lack of faith, but it counts).

So there you have it: Include one symbol and piss off a bunch of people who don't want to be force-fed a belief, include many symbols and piss off those who believe in nothing, or remove all religious symbols and let Old Glory represent the ideas and beliefs of everyone. You know, because we're a "melting pot" and stuff.

Phillip Lybrand
media arts senior

Religious can express themselves outside of public institutions

In Silas Montgomery's guest column ("ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious"), Montgomery paints a picture seen often these days; of Christians as an oppressed group and a victim of an atheist society.

This idea is so far from the truth it is laughable. Every president in U.S. history has been a Christian, and the vast majority of Congress is currently Christian. Additionally, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are Christian (the other two are Jewish). Christians are obviously well-represented in today's government, while, contrary to Montgomery's claim of this being an atheist state, there is not a single atheist representative in any of the branches of the federal government. The U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country.

Even the lawsuits that Montgomery claims are limiting Christians' right to practice their religion are actually upholding the Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." School-sponsored prayer and having religious figures in government displays is endorsing religion and are therefore unconstitutional.

Although the case in Tijeras is asinine and a frivolous lawsuit resulting from easily offended people, it could be interpreted as the city favoring and endorsing a particular religion. Despite Montgomery's assertion, people are still free to practice their religion fully in the U.S., as long as they do it personally and not through government institutions.

Kevin Miller
undeclared freshman

American Christians hardly an oppressed minority

Usually I enjoy the guest columns in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, but Silas Montgomery's tirade against atheists Wednesday ("ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious") was completely ridiculous. I am an atheist, and I feel that he is judging all people of these beliefs by the actions of a few. I may be firm in my convictions, but I think the removing of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is quite silly and that the ACLU does go overboard sometimes.

But Mr. Montgomery's claims of Christians being a repressed minority are absolutely laughable. How can Christians be oppressed and held down when they represent more than 75 percent of the population? Even the highest offices of our government are mostly held by Christians.

His imagery of being bound by "our own wrists and ankles" is insulting to those in the world who really are oppressed and kept from speaking and acting freely. For him to say that he and others like him are kept from practicing their beliefs is just completely ludicrous.

The bottom line is, I have never met an atheist (myself included) who did not respect the beliefs of others and show tolerance toward other religions. For Mr. Montgomery to judge us by people like Michael Newdow is like me judging all Christians by Pat Robertson.

Nick Hornung
journalism junior

Atheism not the omnipotent plight that columnist suggests

As a citizen of the U.S., I take pride in the rights given to us by the Constitution and the liberties we are fortunate to enjoy, with freedom of speech being no exception.I respect Mr. Montgomery's attitude toward religion and atheism ("ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious"), as I would respect any person courageous enough to present his ideas in a widely read publication.

I am, however, dismayed at his attempts to attack atheism and portray it as a plague slowly destroying the nation.Atheism was not devised as a tool to destroy God or religion, nor is it an organized faction with card-carrying members and its own belief system. Rather, atheism is the practice of lacking a practice, a term used to describe the lifestyle of any person who chooses not to adopt a faith.Atheists do not gather on a regular basis to discuss their own agenda, and they certainly do not congregate and conspire to dismantle established religions.

The fact that the U.S. has no mandated religion and that the Constitution specifies a separation of church and state is not an attempt to press atheism upon the masses. Unbeknownst to many, its existence actually protects a right often times overlooked: the right of all religions to never be labeled inferior to another.

Mr. Montgomery, while understandably upset based upon his Christian beliefs and self-stated mission to "spread the message of Jesus' incredible love," fails to properly present the situation in New Mexico and instead manages to display himself as a Christian radical with a quick temper and eager index finger.Who better to blame than the atheist, the only person he fathoms could possibly benefit from the removal of the cross from a government seal?

Has he forgotten the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Hebrews and every citizen practicing a non-Christian denomination?One would be interested to see Mr. Montgomery's reaction had instead of it been a cross on the town seal, it was a Star of David, a Crescent Moon or any of a series of non-Christian religious symbols he himself might find offensive.

Mika Mage
pre-physiological sciences freshman

American Christians hardly an oppressed minority

Usually I enjoy the guest columns in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, but Silas Montgomery's tirade against atheists Wednesday ("ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious") was completely ridiculous. I am an atheist, and I feel that he is judging all people of these beliefs by the actions of a few. I may be firm in my convictions, but I think the removing of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is quite silly and that the ACLU does go overboard sometimes.

But Mr. Montgomery's claims of Christians being a repressed minority are absolutely laughable. How can Christians be oppressed and held down when they represent more than 75 percent of the population? Even the highest offices of our government are mostly held by Christians.

His imagery of being bound by "our own wrists and ankles" is insulting to those in the world who really are oppressed and kept from speaking and acting freely. For him to say that he and others like him are kept from practicing their beliefs is just completely ludicrous.

The bottom line is, I have never met an atheist (myself included) who did not respect the beliefs of others and show tolerance toward other religions. For Mr. Montgomery to judge us by people like Michael Newdow is like me judging all Christians by Pat Robertson.

Nick Hornung
journalism junior

Constitution doesn't declare U.S. to be atheist or Christian

Religious right-wingers like Silas Montgomery consistently misrepresent the primary role of the ACLU, which is to employ the courts to protect the principle of individual liberty against governmental and majoritarian infringement ("ACLU, atheists taking aim at the religious").

And contrary to Mr. Montgomery's hyperbole, nowhere does our Constitution declare the U.S. to be "officially" either atheist or Christian, because the Founding Fathers believed that religious decision-making was best left to the individual and the dictates of his or her conscience and not to the state. Individual freedom is best preserved when the state stays out of our religious business.

But I'm curious. Why do conservatives such as Mr. Montgomery need government support for their religious preferences? I certainly don't.

Brad Taylor
Keyser, W.Va.

First Amendment proscribes religious expression in public forums

I am writing in response to Silas Montgomery's guest column "ACLU, atheism taking aim at the religious." First, I want to note that I do not have a problem with religion, but simply feel it is not for me. I am a firm supporter of any person's right to practice whatever religion they choose as granted in our Constitution. No one should be persecuted for his or her religious beliefs and no one should be force to live a life of a religion they do not practice.

However, I believe the removal of the cross from the village seal is supported by the First Amendment. There is a difference between public displays of religious symbols and those that are state-sponsored. If you want to advertise your church on a billboard or wear a T-shirt that says "Jesus is my homeboy," you should have every right to do so.

But no government, local, state or federal, has the right to impose any religious symbols or practices because that would breach the social contract of the Constitution as provided in the First Amendment. Also, if the Tijeras case is ruled favorably for the town, then you will definitely see areas voting to include other religious symbols, such as the crescent or Star of David on local emblems, depending on the religious backgrounds.

Contrary to Mr. Montgomery's argument, the separation of church and state is evident in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the phrase "separation of church and state" is not explicit, the meaning and intent behind it is evident. It proclaims the inability of the government - local, state and federal - to establish a single religion as favorable to the state.

Unfortunately for Mr. Montgomery, atheism is not a religion. It is the absence of religion, and that is how I prefer my government to remain. I am refusing to accept my fate at the hands of others. In fact, I am writing to prevent others from shaping it, a little at a time, to eventually mandating myself and others to live Christian lives.

Matt Ortega
political science senior

Fasting facilitates concentration needed for atonement

I am writing in response to David Schultz's column "Food for thought on Yom Kippur." Like many aspects of Judaism, the significance of fasting on Yom Kippur has no universal interpretation. The differing viewpoints made in the article by Deborah Kaye and by Schultz himself are certainly both common interpretations of the meaning (or lack thereof) of the fast. However, I d like to offer my own perspective on the fast's meaning.

Schultz is correct when he asserts that fasting is detrimental to one's ability to concentrate. But does fasting impair one's ability to atone and reflect? I would say no - quite the opposite, in fact.

Is atonement something that should require our concentration? To me, the act of atonement shouldn't require thought or concentration; it is something that should be done simply because it's the right thing to do. I believe that deep down inside, we all know the things we're sorry for and the reasons we're sorry for them; but we have our reasons for why we don't offer our apologies to those who deserve them.

When fasting, concentration and thought are replaced by pure honesty. We don't dwell on why something in our lives is right or wrong; we simply know that it is right or wrong. When we realize something isn't right, we have the opportunity to honestly and meaningfully atone. If we ask ourselves why we didn't atone for our transgressions when we had previous opportunities, we once again obtain an honest answer; we see that our inability to atone was because of pride, guilt, jealousy, ignorance, etc. By realizing these honest answers, we can concentrate on self-improvement and becoming more at one with ourselves.

Adam Rosenthal
mathematics senior

Many opportunities available to regional development majors

In response to Ryan Johnson's column, "Don't be a real estate agent," there is more than one type of agent. I do agree on the fact that the future of residential real estate agents can be bleak because of overcrowding, yet most people raising their hands were probably not going in that direction.

Being in the regional development and knowing many of the people, most are interested in commercial real estate. Commercial real estate is a much harder field to get involved into and takes more skill then being a residential real estate agent. Also when the teacher asked, "Who wants to go into real estate?" he was not asking, "Who wants to be a real estate agent?" One can go into real estate and still be successful without being a real estate agent.

Development of land, planning of urban areas, property management, along with real estate consulting are all more in-depth fields of real estate than a simple agent. In all, most of the students won't be disappointed in raising their hands because Johnson should understand that there are more opportunities in one field than the most obvious.

Jonathan Barkan
regional development senior



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