Forwarded: aaa and activism

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Thu, 1 Dec 1994 15:56:22 PST


A few comments on your posting. I didn't intend to give the
impression that I condemn political discussion though some
individual messages sent to me indicate that stance. I was
opposed to soliciting activism but not opposed to discussion.

> = Bob Graber Nov 29 posting

>In I think it was 1985, I proposed that the AAA adopt a reolution
>favoring a freeze on development of nuclear weapons. Walter Goldschmidt
>argued, before a crowd of thousands of anthropologists, that it was not
>the business of the AAA to take a position; I replied that taking no
>position was, in effect, to take a position in tacit support of what was
>happening. The membership then voted overwhelmingly to support the
>resolution. Later, the AAA was attacked, along with other scholarly
>associations, by conservative commentators for this and other outrages.
Advocating public positions is difficult because all the facts
are sometimes not apparent to one particular academic discipline.
Some cases do justify advocacy. However, in this case, would it
be better to try and influence thinking (i.e. improve
understanding of social/cultural context) rather then compete in
the decision process?

>Now I am surprised to find myself somewhat sympathetic with the content,
>though not the tone, of L. Hendrickson's response. Yet ten years ago, I
>would have come down firmly with A. Fox. I look forward to hearing more
>argument; for now, I am puzzling over how and why I have changed so
>much.--Bob Graber
O.K., the tone of my response could have been less harsh. I
suppose I'm influenced by frustrations from living in a border
town (San Diego) and seeing the illegal influx increase for
years. We have a system that teaches them, from the beginning,
that success depends on getting away with something. It should
not be characterized as a "racist" issue. In fact, Hispanics
that live here legally are generally not happy with current
conditions (I'm not their spokesman, but I've heard much of their
opposition to the illegal presence- in talk shows and through
personal contacts).

I think we should have more compassion for the poverty on the
other side of the border. The unexpected cold weather we've had
here in the past few weeks has been responsible for at least
seven infant deaths (according to T.V. news accounts) due to
freezing in their meager shelters across the border in Tijuana.
Seems to me the system we've created is simply one of "survival
of the fittest" by rewarding those who have the stealth to sneak
across the border. Activists that characterize change as
"racist" or "fascist" don't help matters.

I wouldn't venture to form conclusions as to the "how and why" of
your thinking process though would comment that maybe there is
now more importance in understanding a problem first (consequence
of age?) before casting conclusions in concrete. I do hope there
will be informative postings on this issue which correlate to
actual facts. I don't oppose debate and discussion.