Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Something’s Shameful, Professor

Galloway:  Why do you hate them so much?
Weinberg:  They beat up on a weakling; that’s all they did.  The rest is just smoke-filled coffeehouse crap.  They tortured and tormented a weaker kid.  They didn’t like him, so they killed him.  And why?  Because he couldn’t run very fast.
Why do you like them so much?
Galloway:  Because they stand on a wall, and they say, “Nothing’s gonna hurt you tonight.  Not on my watch.”
—Demi Moore as Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway, and Kevin Pollack as Lieutenant Sam Weinberg in A Few Good Men

Some are heroes.  Some are, well, not.

Suffolk University School of Law Constitutional Law professor Michael Avery sent a five paragraph email  to his faculty colleagues last week, blasting as “shameful” a school-wide drive for “care packages” to be sent to soldiers and marines deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to Avery:

I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.”

He went on to explain that sympathy for troops in harm’s way is “not particularly rational in today’s world.” 

When challenged, he will no doubt defend his statements as the exercise of his God-given right to free speech under the First Amendment, and probably invoke some tired axiom about universities and academic freedom.  Hell, he may even bring up tenure.

It’s too bad he forgets where all that comes from.

I will leave aside any discussion of the merits of the policies we’ve adopted with respect to military action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, which really misses the point here.  Professor Avery’s statement that it’s “shameful” to send support to men and women who have gone overseas to kill other people makes it sound as though those men and women got together like some rogue gang of street thugs and decided on their own to go do that.  In effect, he’s calling our soldiers and marines murderers, and therefore sending a care package—or otherwise supporting them as human beings—is tantamount to aiding and abetting murder.  Apparently Professor Avery didn’t get the memo that the Army and Marines don’t actually make policy decisions on where, when, or for how long they are deployed.  Apparently Professor Avery didn’t learn one of the fundamental lessons of Vietnam about the harm and divisiveness that is caused when we fail to distinguish between our opposition to the policy and the men and women who are the mere instruments of that policy.  These people don’t make decisions; they do their job.

To publicly campaign against soliciting a few personal comforts—a bottle of sunscreen, a roll of toilet paper, a box of cookies—to send to soldiers and marines off in some Godforsaken hellhole doing what they’ve been ordered to do by policymakers they’ve never met is simply despicable.  As we all know, a few of those men and women will never return.  Many more who do will come back horribly disfigured.  Disagree with the war all you want; but to take it out on a 20 year old Pfc who hadn’t even been born when we first became involved in the Persian Gulf, and who was 10 years old when the current conflict began is, well:


A little background—as published on the Suffolk University School of Law website—on Professor Avery sheds some not-so-surprising light on who he is and where he’s coming from.  This is essentially a career Northeastern academic who received both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Yale.  He attended the University of Moscow from 1968-69 (that’ll come as some interesting news to those of you who spent some of that time on an all-expense-paid trip to Southeast Asia courtesy of Uncle Sam).  He’s spent the last 35 years as a member or leader of a string of ACLU-type organizations, and has also worked in something called the “Political Justice Workshop” at Yale.

Since the mid-1970s, Professor Avery has also been a frequent lecturer on the subjects of “police accountability” and “police misconduct.”  Avery’s publications include (full citations available in his online Suffolk University bio—I’m sure they’re scintillating reading for those of you who are interested):

  • Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation
  • Obstacles to Litigating Civil Claims for Wrongful Conviction: An Overview
  • The Constitutionality of Warrantless Electronic Surveillance of Suspected Foreign Threats to the National Security of the United States
  • Paying for Silence: The Liability of Police Officers under Section 1983 for Suppressing Exculpatory Evidence
  • Unreasonable Seizures of Unreasonable People: Defining the Totality of Circumstances Relevant to Assessing the Police Use of Force Against Emotionally Disturbed People
  • Police Chases: More Deadly than a Speeding Bullet?

This is a guy who appears to have made it a significant part of his life’s work to make it as difficult as possible for the people charged with ensuring the safety and security of this country to do their jobs.  One wonders if he goes to sleep at night with the voice in his head chanting:

We’re gonna free ya, Mumia, Abu-Jamal!
Brick by brick, and wall by wall!

And it scares the crap out of me that this is who’s teaching the Constitution.

I understand, Professor Avery, that you hate George W. Bush down to the last atom of your DNA.  But what, exactly, do you have to say to the single mother whose only child is now a Lance Corporal stationed at a firebase outside Kandahar?  Is it his fault he’s there?  Because you hate Bush and his “illegal wars,” should we decline to send that young marine a prepaid phone card so he can call home?

What do you have to say to Mrs. August Cabrera, who last Friday--Veteran's Day-- buried her husband, Army Lt. Col. David Cabrera, and received a last love letter from him four days after she learned he had been killed in a convoy bombing?  Huh, Professor?  Was he some rogue criminal undeserving of our support?  You want to tell that to his four kids?

What is your message, Professor Avery, for 22 year old Marine Corporal Tyler Southern, who lost both legs and an arm to an IED?  Should we shun him because he "[went] overseas to kill other human beings"?

Or how about Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, who had his face burned off and lost a hand, and yet has had the tenacity to pick himself up and become a standup comedian and motivational speaker.  Do you have the stones, Professor, to look Sergeant Henline in the eyes and tell him that his service to this country was something so wrong and so immoral that it would have been shameful and irrational for Americans to provide him and his fellow troops with personal support?

I would rather you just said “Thank you,” and went on your way.  Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post.  Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Readers, I want to know what you think about this.  Better yet, let some of those who matter know what you think, and get some of your buddies to join in: 

Suffolk University
8 Ashburton Place
Boston, MA  02108-2770

Suffolk University Law School
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA  02108-4977
(617) 573-8000

And consider making a donation of time, money, or both to one or more of the following organizations supporting our wounded Veterans (h/t Huffington Post for compiling the list).  I’ll leave it to you whether to make it in honor of Professor Avery.

1 comment:

  1. My donation just went to the Wounded Warriors Project. Thank you for the reminder of those who serve in my name every day -- especially those who return from a tour in the cargo hold of an airplane under a military honor guard.