EDITORIAL: Where’s the activism?


During the past two years, students at the Law School have found a great number of issues to actively protest against. The Black Law Students Association staged a moving silent protest against perceived racial insensitivity. Lambda organized an effective public rally against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Justice for Palestine sent students not only to Harvard Square, but to Prof. Dershowitz’s door as well.

These are all worthy causes, and ones that deserved greater public attention. Yet what is perhaps one of the most controversial issues of the past quarter century has gone largely unremarked among student activists.

HLS students have no doubt participated in anti-war activities. Some have traveled to New York and other locales to join the thousands taking to the streets against the Bush administration’s plans for near-unilateral preemptive war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. At Harvard College, bulletin boards are littered with anti-war propaganda, and students have staged public protests that Law School students have certainly participated in.

But on the HLS campus itself, the anti-war movement has been oddly quiet. While there has been discussion in the pages of The RECORD, in classrooms and by individual campus speakers, the failure of any coherent anti-war movement to emerge is perplexing.

This is especially true in light of the fact that those who favor war in Iraq — largely drawn from the Law School’s conservative ranks — have a group to call their own, and a counterpart at the Kennedy School. It seems extraordinary that groups exist to propound the majority position, while opponents — scarcely fewer in number than supporters, and probably the majority at HLS — have been silent or disorganized. Even established left-leaning campus organizations, such as the American Constitution Society, HLS Democrats and HLS Greens have done very little to express opinion either way on the war. It is possible that such groups have been holding events, but it seems incongruous that the Federalist Society’s book drive has been better-publicized and more discussed than any single anti-war event so far.

While it may be the case that most students actually are in favor of war in Iraq, and thus, a large anti-war contingent does not exist, that seems extremely unlikely given students’ political proclivities. It may also be true that the most fervent anti-war students have decided to concentrate their efforts on the broader world outside HLS, where they perhaps feel their voices are most effective.

But if activists are ignoring HLS in favor of bigger markets, that is a mistake. Not only does the Law School provide a unique forum for discussing issues with intelligent, articulate opponents, but its relatively small population is extremely influential. Furthermore, the Law School’s small population is also easily accessible — all it takes is a few hours and a couple of pieces of chalk to reach virtually every student at the school.

We as a generation have never faced a more decisive moment in our history. We must decide not only what kinds of leaders we want to be, but what kind of country we want to lead. How we respond to today’s events, and this proposed war in particular, will be a litmus test for our shared future.

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