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 Volume 1.21  This View’s Column July 1, 2002 

America: Land of the Oppressed?

This is a “reprint” of a column originally published Feb. 11, The Premier Issue.

At first, I was merely amused. Shortly, I was decidedly appalled.

I was reading an article about some goings-on at Baylor University, in the Waco Tribune-Herald, November 1, 2001. Some students were objecting to the prominent placement, in a well-traveled area, of a display featuring “larger-than-life pictures of aborted fetuses”.

Baylor student Erin Connors, president of the campus organization that was responsible for bringing the two-day display to the school, said, “I feel like we’re just presenting the truth and the facts.... This is reality. We’re not trying to hide that.”

Another Baylor student, a female junior, made a complaint that really caught my eye. To spare her further embarrassment, I will refrain from telling you her name. Besides, I have a feeling she is not alone; so, to avoid getting personal, let’s just call her “Missy Baylor”.

“I believe”, said Missy Baylor, “that if you can’t avoid (seeing or hearing) something, that is oppressive”.

I laughed aloud, and said to myself, Is that what passes for oppression on college campuses these days?

I went on with my websurfing, and immediately came upon an article in the London Times, dated the same day, about an Afghan man identified only as Karimullah, in his mid-twenties. He was jailed by the Taliban in 1999 for having served with the mujahedin for the Northern Alliance.

One day, after about 12 weeks of imprisonment, Karimullah was taken from his cell and driven to a stadium where thousands of people were assembled. About a dozen mullahs sat in a row in the middle of the field, and he was placed on the ground before them.

“Seven doctors approached me”, he told the reporter. “They wore grey uniforms, surgical masks and gloves. I could see one was crying. They injected me. After five minutes my body was numb though I was still conscious. Then they put clamps on my hand and foot and began to cut them off with special saws. There was no pain but I could see what they were doing.”

In five minutes, his left foot and right hand had become spare meat.

He knows no reason for the public spectacle of his brutal treatment, though rumors have reached him that a wealthy man had paid the mullahs to substitute Karimullah to undergo the punishment required for his own crimes.

He was hospitalized for a while, then released to go home. At the sight of him thus maimed, his mother collapsed; already in poor health, she died a few hours later of a heart attack.

And... and... can you believe it? Missy Baylor thinks she is oppressed when she has to walk past a display, for two days, that might actually make her think about something she would rather ignore.

Juxtaposing in my mind the stories of Karimullah and Missy Baylor, which I had read one after the other, my amusement at her attitude changed: this young woman has a life of convenience, privilege, and luxury of which many — perhaps most — people around the world can only dream.

No, her attitude isn’t amusing: it’s appalling.

Most people alive on the Earth today would consider Missy Baylor a child of immense privilege. Radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and computers can bring her the latest news from around the world, with little or no effort on her part, and with little or no official censorship; libraries, housing the accumulated wisdom of centuries, are free (or practically so) for her use; medical treatment — to heal, not to harm — is surely available to her without much more trouble than the making of a phone call, whether for minor complaints or for life-saving surgery; she may engage in the free exchange of ideas, and take part in the daily criticism of government and officials at all levels, that would bring swift — perhaps deadly — reprisal in many nations of today, let alone those of former ages.

Indeed, most absolute monarchs of centuries past — with the power of life or death at their command — could not have imagined as luxuries the ordinary conveniences Missy Baylor takes for granted daily. Artificial light at the flick of a switch, any time of day or night; waste flushed away at the touch of a handle; hot water in a few moments at the twist of a knob; fresh fruits and vegetables available year-round at a market which may be a few blocks away, to be reached in minutes by walking, or a few miles away, to be reached in minutes by driving or riding.

Even today, hundreds of millions of men, women, and children around the world can only dream about the simple facts and ordinary realities of daily life in a civilization of technology, in a society of free assembly, movement, and expression.

No cosmic coincidence has arranged that such a life of convenience, privilege, and luxury exists among men most typically in those nations where freedom of assembly, movement, and expression have reigned longest and most assuredly.

Missy Baylor ought to kiss the ground she walks on — the land of a nation whose society is founded on the Judeo-Christian value of the dignity of the person and on the Anglo-American value of the rule of law. Without those values, and the society built upon them, her life of convenience, privilege, and luxury would be impossible. For evidence, merely look to the realities of daily life where those values never took root or did not bear fruit.

Yes, Missy Baylor ought to kiss the ground she walks on — especially now that we have learned to our sorrow that the ground we walk on can be turned into a gaping inferno of death, without warning: malicious men, with no thought of the dignity of the person or the rule of law, are learning to use our immense privileges and daily conveniences against us.

America: Land of the Oppressed? May all the citizens of the world some day be so fortunate as to be as oppressed as Missy Baylor. I think that I might know of a man far away who just may have been willing to give a hand or a foot to be able to live as she does — but he no longer has any to spare.

ELC 2002


 Volume 1.21 This View’s Column July 1, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”