An Inclusive Litany

6/7/02

Playwright Tony Kushner delivers the commencement address at Vassar College, May 26, 2002:
Having some answer to the WHY ME question, having done the work to change the way you inflect that question from the adenoidal to the introspective, is useful as you try to answer the other question, WHAT AM I DOING HERE, a question which vast forces of reaction, otherwise known as the devil, the Republican Party, the petrochemical industry, Dick and Lynne Cheney, call them what you will, vast and nearly-ineluctably persuasive and pervasive forces of reaction will seek to answer for you: you are here to consume and to surrender....

That's what happens when you despair, you open the door to evil, and evil is always happy to enter, sit down, abolish the Clean Air Act and the Kyoto accords and refuse to participate in the World Court or the ban on landmines, evil is happy refusing funds to American clinics overseas that counsel abortion and evil is happy drilling for oil in Alaska, evil is happy pinching pennies while 40 million people worldwide suffer and perish from AIDS; and evil will sit there, carefully chewing pretzels and fondly flipping through the scrapbook reminiscing about the 131 people he executed when he was governor, while his wife reads Dostoevsky in the corner, evil has a brother in Florida and a whole bunch of relatives, evil settles in and it's the devil of a time getting him to vacate.

Feminist Studies Professor bell hooks, visiting Scholar-in-Residence from Brown University, delivers the 2002 commencement address at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas:

Our nation's call for violence in the aftermath of 9/11 was an expression of widespread hopelessness, the cynicism that has been at the heart of our nation's ongoing fascination with death. Any society based on domination supports and condones violence. Yet as that violence wreaked havoc in our own hearts and in the lives of our loved ones and fellow citizens, many Americans experienced for the first time a moment of clarity when they knew without a doubt that to choose life, we must stand against violence, we must choose peace.

And yet that moment of collective clarity was soon obscured by the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal hunger to show the planet our nation's force, to show that this nation would commit absolute acts of violence that will wipe out whole nations and worlds. The world was held spellbound by our government's declaration of its commitment to violence, to death. Yet just as the violence of the terrorists who slaughtered the innocent on 9/11 does not lead us closer to justice, to reconciliation or peace, the violence acts of imperialist aggression enacted in the name of bringing an end to terrorism have brought us no closer to reconciliation, to peace, to justice.

[Ed.: hooks represents her name in lowercase as a protest against grammatical conventions.]

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