Thursday, December 01, 2005

John Ashcroft's Appearance at Columbia

To second Nick's comments, I have to say that it was certainly a treat to hear John Ashcroft speak last night in that bastion of liberal nonthink a.k.a. Columbia University. The atmosphere of Roone Arledge Hall was charged by the group of protestors in the peanut gallery whose contributions were meant to disrupt the proceedings, but really only served to embarrass them as a whole.

They were there to rail against everything they could - from pleading to save Tookie Williams (they can't) to demanding that we pull our troops out of Iraq by the time you finish reading this post (we won't). And their lack of manners, good taste, and general common sense gave us YRs a good deal to chuckle about during the evening. But enough about the kooks.

John Ashcroft demonstrated with his own words last night that we were blessed to have a measured mind like his when it came time to reevaluate our law enforcement tactics in a post September 11th world. His respect for the law and jurisprudence is over and above what even some of his casual supporters give him credit for, and the depth of experience he brought to bear in the creation of the USA PATRIOT Act deserves recognition.

Ashcroft's keen intellect and folky humor were on display as he took on some of the more colorful comments and questions directed at him. His response to an inquiry about due process in the handling of terror suspects was far clearer than the question that was actually posed. When questioned (or maybe 'attacked' is a better word) about the prominent role that faith plays in his life, Ashcroft's response drove home the realization that those who seem to fear religion the most are the ones who have no faith in anything in this world or beyond it.

If there could be one item from the night that I could take home and call my own, it would be a comment that Ashcroft made in regards to individual vs. group rights. When he was challenged about his stance on homosexuality, Ashcroft put the forth the concept that it's not that gays, or any other group for that matter, deserve fewer rights than anyone else. We are all equal under the eyes of the law. It's just that they do not deserve more rights than anyone else, and that is what is at issue. The most challenged minority in this country, Ashcroft went on, is the minority of the individual.

And that's a sentiment I've held for some time now. Individuality, and the accompanying exercise of choice coupled with responsibility, are pretty fundamental to the way things work around here. If the kids in the peanut gallery at Columbia and their "grown-up" counterparts had their way, that would all come to an end.

Which is why we need more people like John Ashcroft.

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