Amusement explores dicey Miami topics

Dr. Ronald B. Scott and the Faculty Learning Community:

We appreciate your feedback on the Sept. 25 issue of Amusement. However, after reading your letter, we can’t help but feel that our intentions were completely misunderstood. The satirical articles that you considered to endorse “exclusionary practices” were in fact intended as inclusionary, anti-racist and pro-diversity. We also don’t see this as a “teachable moment,” but rather a “discussion moment”-an opportunity for individuals to engage in debate about the responsibilities of satire in relation to community.

On one item that you addressed, we do agree: the statement that “most girls hit their prime at the age 14” was taken out of context from an anti-sexist statement one editor had made the day before publication. Regardless of that staff member’s intentions, it still resonates as questionable and in bad taste. One of our missteps over this past semester has been printing a higher rate of goofy, lewd jokes that have little to say, and we apologize for this.

In response to your question, “do you really believe that human skin, especially black human skin, is an appropriate substitute for leather?” No, we do not believe that human skin-of any color-should be used as a substitute for leather.

But by focusing on the punch line of this particular piece, we feel you missed its broader purpose. While we at the Amusement have deep sympathies for environmentalism, this joke attempted to point out a difficult truth: In a globalized world, environmental protection is incredibly complicated and wracked with paradoxes. Indeed, stewardship of the environment is as much a social and cultural issue as a political one. Accordingly, this piece took a few friendly jabs at the hypocrisy of organizations like PETA and the suddenly “fashionable” nature of the green movement. Fashion seemed an apt symbol for discussing resource consumption, given that virtually all Americans (Amusement staff included) buy far more clothing than can be justified as necessity, often with little regard to their environmental and social costs. 

Admittedly, this piece’s fatalistic dark humor and racial content may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the format certainly isn’t new. For a similar work, may we refer you to Jonathan Swift’s satirical 1729 essay, “A Modest Proposal?” 

Environmental destruction, Western unwillingness for even basic compromise and rampant resource mismanagement result in the death of thousands of people every day-and the majority of these victims are darker-skinned people from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. So while literally using human bodies as natural resources remains sheer dystopic fantasy (as in the 1973 film Soylent Green), millions are trampled underfoot by our catastrophic appetite for an increasingly unequal piece of the pie. The time has come for those of us lucky enough to live in America to stop saying, “It’s no skin off my back.”

The listing of diversity under “Things that should be protested at Miami” was also entirely misinterpreted. We thought that being surrounded by a word such as “eating,” this would be recognizable. The joke there is not that diversity should be protested, but rather that some individuals at Miami University-a school known for it’s fervent homogeneity-care so little for diversity and the perspectives of others that they might promote protesting it. And it’s a swipe at narrow-mindedness that is backed by fact: At Ohio University in 2005, one student organization invited a speaker and advertised his speech’s theme as: “Does diversity matter?” And their answer was “No.”

One response to this might be that the wrong group of people-e.g., white supremacists-could read these articles, view them the wrong way and utilize them as a call to possibly violent action (however unlikely). Or even if this was not the case, some may still read these articles and feel personally offended. The logical solution then would be to avoid risking offending people-even with good intentions-because of the potential consequences. We personally find such a solution to be counterproductive, specifically to Miami’s Plan for a Liberal Education, which lists “thinking critically,” “understanding contexts” and “engaging with other learners” under its objectives. Wouldn’t it be “thinking critically” to look beyond these articles’ face value? Wouldn’t “understanding contexts” be analyzing the surrounding articles (such as those that were pro-Obama and anti-Palin), considering past issues and realizing the publication’s pro-diversity streak? And “engaging with other learners” would lead to comprehending each other’s sense of humor and the motivations for their actions. Thus, in silencing liberal, satirical voices for sensitivity’s sake, Miami contradicts its own aims and fails to maximize its potential.

Tom SpeakerEditor

Liz CaskeyAssistant Editor

Annie BilanciniBobby GoodwinRachel PetersonLiz RiggsDaniel SmithAnnie KimBen PhilabaumAdam HecklerThe Amusement staff

Bush support shows ignorance of last 8 years

I couldn’t have been more outraged at Joe Polzin’s letter, “Back off Bush, he deserves some respect” (Oct. 28, 2008). Seems to me Polzin has had his head buried these last eight years. As the old adage goes, “you have to earn respect”-President George Bush and company have done nothing to garner my respect during the tenure of his dynastic reign. Gloats and quotes such as, “I’ve earned political capital” or “Bring ’em on” or “Mission Accomplished” are clear indicators to me of his “cowboy attitude” and youthful immaturity.

America wanted a regular Joe for president in 2000 and 2004, and that is what they got, someone that wasn’t able to competently handle the tasks that the office of the presidency requires. Yes the president should have competent advisers. But the inner circle of the Bush administration has been filled with nothing but old friends and cronies, most of which are definitely not up to the task.

Is his memory that short that he can’t remember how George Tenant told us Iraq would be a “slam dunk” or how Paul Wolfowitz’s policy of U.S. unilateralism has been an abject failure. Or how about Donald Rumsfeld’s arrogance and incompetence in conducting the Iraq War, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, essentially ripped a nation to shreds and has served as a recruitment tool for young terrorists. Or how Condeleeza Rice and Bush have failed miserably in their attempts at Middle East peace agreements. These are only the more glaring highlights of the worst presidency in the last 50 years and to dissect the inadequacies of this administration could fill tomes.

When Bush took office in 2001, the centerpiece of his campaign was to bring “decency” back to the office of the presidency. Instead, upon his departure, he will have brought animosity and disgrace to the institution that represents the face of our nation to the rest of the world.

Polzin’s letter speaks directly about the propaganda and brainwashing this administration has perpetrated on the American public for the last eight years: “Do not question or criticize the emperor,” “to do so is unpatriotic and disrespectful.”