Readers weigh in on rabid young Republicans and the ongoing construction of a massive Israeli security wall.

By Salon Staff
Published July 30, 2003 9:47PM (EDT)

[Read "Beautiful Young Shock Troops for Bush," by Michelle Goldberg.]

As an educated, middle-aged person of liberal-progressive persuasion who works in the political arena, I'm sometimes embarrassed by the some of the arguments, causes and inconsistency of the nuts-and-berries crowd. Nevertheless, I've been advised now and then to check out the opposition and their arguments.

If this is the best the "shock troops" can do, then we either don't have anything to worry about -- or we'd better prepare for an Argentina-like civil war. The worship of Bush, the abject hostility towards anyone who doesn't think like them, and the closed-mindedness of these eager young pups scares the hell out of me. If this is the future of America, then they can have it, because I don't want to live in this country anymore.

-- Steve Hodges

I was rather disappointed in Michelle Goldberg's article about the college Republican convention. Goldberg's focus on a handful of students is an interesting read, but misleading. It seems as if she's chosen a small cluster of idiots and focused on the juiciest bits they spewed after having a few drinks. While I follow the point that these people are the ones being groomed to run the Republican party of the future, I don't agree with her method of interviewing primarily the chaff of the pile.

Inadvertently or not, I think Goldberg has probably misrepresented the group as a whole. I'm a student at the University of Virginia, but I'm not a member of the College Republicans, nor am I even a Republican. You don't have to be in the College Republicans to meet morons of this ilk. You'll find them in the University Democrats, you'll find them in debate societies, and you'll find them in the Shakespeare troupe, too. The bottom line is that there are an awful lot of dopey, delusional college kids at any school, and the fact that some of them are Republican has little to do with the problem at hand. I tend to think that's more a symptom than a cause.

-- Paul Pugliese

If I didn't know any better I might think Michelle Goldberg's report from the recent College Republicans conference was some kind of twisted Swiftian satire. I mean, educated young people just cannot be as ignorant, arrogant, ugly and just plain hateful as those interviewed by Goldberg, right?

Well, unfortunately, I do know better. I attend a large, generally conservative public southern university and I am employed there as well. I can confirm that the opinions expressed by Goldberg's interviewees are not aberrations but are representative of an alarming number of college students today. And these scary people could well be running this country in 20 years. Think about that for a minute.

-- Greg Doty

It is comforting to know that the next generation of extremist right wingers isn't any brighter than the last one. Refusing to examine more than one side to any situation? Finding relevance in the President's inane jet fighter stunt? Blaming the nation's economic condition on welfare which accounts for a small part of our budget and is actually received by more white people than any other group? And let's not even discuss their complaining about affirmative action when their hero President is the ultimate legacy-admit, having performed poorly in every academic and professional setting while counting on his connections to pull him through.

Despite our relative lack of bombast, racial prejudice and firearms, please be assured that we liberal, tree-hugging whiners will meet these "shock troops" on the streets, in the courtroom and in the boardroom for years to come. Given the quality of their remarks, I like our chances.

-- E.J. Boyd

Michelle Goldberg's article was interesting, and, of course, disturbing. Most of the young people she interviewed -- with the exception of the French, it seemed -- were long on blind ideological passion and short on substantive, reasoned arguments for their positions. Was this a carefully selected sample of the conference's attendees, or are the College Republicans (and, by extension, their Washington funders) really that rabid?

-- Joy Ziegeweid

As a 20-year-old College Republican, I was disappointed by this article's characterization of our recent national convention. A proud member of the George Washington University CRs and former College Republican National Committee intern, I attended the convention and shared with a thousand other students an experience completely different from the one Michelle Goldberg described. She completely missed many of the key messages of the weekend. It seems she attended the convention with a preconceived expectation, and set about hunting down attendees who could support her limited vision.

An overly generous portion of the article focused on the opinions of three CRs whose antagonistic and bigoted views are in no way representative of the group's majority, and which belie the message set forth by our previous National Chairman, Scott Stewart, and our recently elected chairman, Eric Hoplin -- one of change and inclusiveness, which was repeated over and over by nearly every speaker. Even if she hadn't listened to a word that was spoken, a mere glance at the head table where the brand new board members sat during Saturday's awards luncheon would have revealed that this fresh crop of leaders -- male and female, Hispanic and white -- differs greatly from the stereotypical image of Republicans that her article so erroneously presented.

Manny Espinoza, the new First Vice-Chairman and Director of Minority Outreach has led an outreach effort that has established CR clubs at historically black colleges and Hispanic institutions all over the country. Thousands of new Hispanic and African-American students joined the CRs this past year because they believe that this party best represents their values and interests. More importantly, they recognize that this is a party that on the whole, accepts and welcomes them, regardless of what a handful of ignorant kids who drank one-too-many "fuzzy navels" had to say.

I had the pleasure of staffing the check-in and registration tables, giving me the opportunity to meet and talk with hundreds of the attendees. Students from all over the country passed through our table and I can assure you that those faces were not all male and white. Perhaps if Goldberg had talked to me, a Puerto Rican from Northern New Jersey, she would have heard a completely different story about the views and beliefs of a College Republican that have nothing to do with "resentment," as she so misguidedly put it. She would have heard me say that I'm a Republican because I believe that as an American, it is my duty to uphold the values upon which this country was founded. I believe in this party because this party believes that the strength of this nation lies with the individual and that he or she should be conferred the freedom to succeed, regardless of race or creed. And that freedom to succeed does not and will not come from dependency or self-victimization; it will come from a realization of our intrinsic worth as individuals and as Americans.

-- Alejandra Ramos

While I agree that hip-hop culture leads to young black men shooting themselves in the foot economically, I'm surprised that the young people interviewed in this section don't know that the majority of welfare payments go to rural whites. Sometimes I wish that a video game maker could create "real life" role-playing games where a rich Asian guy from Long Island could experience the life of a poor black guy in inner-city Chicago. Maybe then he wouldn't be such a jackass.

-- Maureen Craig

My God, this article made me completely sick to my stomach. The vulgarity, the intolerance, the unthinking fervor -- astonishing.

Perhaps the author intended to sicken by picking out the most thuggish characters? Surely these were the most obnoxious and radical flame-throwers she could find? Surely these were not the rank-and-file? Please tell me this was only the lunatic fringe.

-- Martin Ickes

Thanks for scaring this shit out of me. I didn't even need coffee this Monday morning.

-- Jason Osgood

[Read "When Security Becomes Apartheid," by Ferry Biedermann.]

I'm sickened when I read more vacuous and highly biased accounts of Palestinian (Arab) -- Israeli relations. This article spent 90 percent of its time talking to Arabs who seem to have a penchant for lying about brutality by the IDF as a means of justifying their political gripes. There are two main facts that need to be brought out about this wall:

At a recent speech in the U.S., Ehud Olmert, the former mayor of Jerusalem, was asked about the wall. His reply says it all -- that the wall is disrupting the flow of millions of shekels normally given to schools, hospitals, and other necessary projects; and that it is placing the government into a deep well of debt from which it will be difficult to emerge, especially during hard times. The wall, he said, is a necessary evil to protect Israel, which has few natural barriers from suicide attacks. If the Arabs weren't bent on killing Jews, there wouldn't be a wall; it's an expensive and desperate response to Muslim militancy.

If millions of people were dying in this country because Muslim extremists were streaming over from Canada or Mexico into our cities and towns, you can bet that liberals and conservatives alike wouldn't waste any time building barriers.

-- Joshua Pincus

Thank you so much for tackling this subject which the mainstream media seems to want to avoid at all costs, giving Israel a free ride on the many injustices that are being perpetrated under the guise of "security," by using a paradigm of parallel universes -- one for Jews, another for everyone else. Israel calls itself a "democracy," but has somehow lost its way.

As a Holocaust survivor and lifelong Zionist, I am appalled not only at the number of human rights violations Israel is committing, but also at the way the memory of the Holocaust is being politicized by the Sharon government and many Jewish organizations in order to avoid criticism.

-- Susan Berger

Your comparison of Israel's security fence with South Africa's laws of apartheid is intellectually and morally dishonest. South Africa's minority government enacted a series of laws to preserve existing conditions of physical and economical oppression and segregation of a majority of that country's population. Black South Africans' armed struggle was always directed toward the military and paramilitary forces which maintained apartheid.

In stark contrast, after Oslo and before the second intifada, Israel sought maximum integration of and freedom for a Palestinian minority, so far as the Palestinians' willingness to live in peace allowed. Palestinian per capita income was 800 percent higher than any other Arab population, and the Israeli economy was one of only two open to Palestinians seeking jobs. (Kuwait is the only other country, Arab or otherwise, that admits Palestinian guest workers.)

The fence certainly seeks separation of the peoples, but is born of Israel's desperate attempt to protect Israeli civilian citizens from murderous Palestinians who, despite the hopes and aspirations of many of their own people, as well as those of Israelis, do not wish to live in peace with the Jews of Israel. Moreover, the fence seeks to end or minimize Israel's need to police the Palestinians. If Palestinian terrorists posed no threat to Israeli security, Israel's moribund economy could be spared the expense of building a wall that nobody -- Israelis or Palestinians -- really want.

The Jewish state has no aspirations of territorial conquest. They neither wish to, nor profit from control of the lives of Palestinians. The most common prayer in Hebrew is for peace. Though I am ignorant of most Islamic religious tenets, I am aware that a fundamental Arab prayer is for the Jews to be driven into the sea.

I am also aware that Islam and Judaism are monotheistic faiths. If our mutual focus was turned toward what unites us, the ideological as well as physical divisions would diminish to insignificance.

-- Stephen Kaufman

Salon Staff

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