The Wills of the Majorities

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And we're back to 1970. Back then, as the Vietnam War -- a war we genuinely had no business being in -- was gearing to its explosive anticlimax, thousands of students, faculty and administrators packed McArthur Court to hear the University Assembly vote on and pass a resolution condemning the war.

At 3 p.m. today, the assembly meets again to vote on a resolution condemning "the U.S. engagement in war in Iraq at this time."

I've said before that I support a war against Saddam Hussein, but I do not relish it. Having said that, neither side has totally swayed me to believing that no war is necessary or that this immediate moment is the right time. I have also, ashamedly, felt the cold grip of apathy claw at me more and more. Every time I see philippics like "Bush = Hitler" or watch as the president seems more and more set on making a war a fait accompli immediately, I feel more and more enervated.

Rational debate is being crowded out by the shouting of handy anti-war slogans and an increasing chorus of, "Bomb him now, bomb him now." This is one reason why the assembly's meeting gives me some hope that something of a reasoned discussion can be had, if only for an afternoon.

I have to admit though, in a way, I resent the idea of the resolution. I've watched a group of well-meaning faculty go from one campus body to another and be rebuffed, only to keep pressing through with it. On the one hand, it looks like they are hellbent on getting this resolution passed no matter what. To me, it does seem quite a lot like this group of professors and anti-war students are trying to press their view of how the world should run on everyone else.

And, since these are the same professors we deal with in class, I could reason: What if, given the horror stories passed around about professors trying to push their own political views on their students, they try to use the resolution as "carte blanche" to punish pro-war students who speak out?

But then, I just have to stop and remind myself that every four years, someone gets a viewpoint rammed down his or her throat by the majority. That's how this country works. For eight years, the Democrats were doing the ramming. Now, it's the Republicans' turn. It doesn't mean that those who are in the minority have to suddenly come into harmony with the majority's ideas -- hell, if that were true, there probably wouldn't be a resolution before the assembly.

And I'm fine with this. I may not agree with either party's viewpoint in its entirety, but the party in power usually has the backing of the majority. I feel the same about the resolution. I don't agree with the University having a stance on a war that hasn't even started, and I'm not sure that a resolution is all that useful -- President George W. Bush isn't going to stop the war just because the University Assembly says it's against it -- but I will respect the decision. I do believe the assembly has the right to take on any subject it wishes.

However, if the resolution passes today, I hope the assembly recognizes it for what it is: the will of the University's largest legislative body. It is assuredly not the will of the University as a whole. Should the resolution pass, remember that there are still some of us who are not opposed to war with Iraq, and respect those voices.

To paraphrase assembly members themselves: This should be the beginning of a discussion, not its end.

Pat Payne is a senior at the University of Oregon where he majors in the News-editorial sequence at the School of Journalism and Communication.  He is the editorial editor for The Oregon Daily Emerald, the campus newspaper where this column originally appeared.  Students at the University of Oregon watch the Fox News Channel on their campus cable system.

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