Friday, November 11, 2005

November, from Arts to Ayers

On last Saturday’s Review Atlas front page, it was announced that a new Monmouth College campus organization -- the Social Awareness Coalition -- would sponsor a week of activities under the umbrella of Anti-Violence Week*. So far, they have had scheduled the showing of the film, “City of God”, which explores urban youth violence; a “Crash Course in Diversity”, where students will explore the issues of race, sexuality, xenophobia, and so on (it’s always nice to know that the students are willing and eager to explore ideas that weren’t on their minds before they came to college -- and that there are faculty members there to guide them through the difficult parts), a battle of the bands they label “Rock Out for Peace” and a subsequent candlelight peace vigil (the final two occur this evening).

Not only have the students offered plenty of activities, but the campus itself will also host the Monmouth Civic Orchestra (MCO), tomorrow evening -- Saturday, 12 November -- at 7:00, in the Dahl Chapel in the Kasch Auditorium.

The MCO has ties to the college, with many of its members alumni or family of faculty. But theirs is more of a community legacy, as director/conductor Donna Hauge has encouraged its use as a teaching program, allowing young musicians to work in a professional setting with members of all levels of skill and experience. One of those young local performers, Mary Johnston, will be performing a solo with the MCO, as will the slightly older Monmouth College Director of Instrumental Activities, Stephen Richter. Mrs. Hauge, herself, has been teaching music, raising bright, skilled and talented children, providing a role model for our city’s youth since my early school days here in town. I encourage you to support them all. Come. Listen. Enjoy. It may bring you some peace.

Over the past few years, a small portion of the MCO’s expenses has been met by grants via the Buchanan Center for the Arts (BCA), and they, too, are having a civilized, fun event tomorrow evening. If you are inclined to favor a full meal and door prizes over an hour or so of fine, live music, then contact Karen at the BCA and see if there are any tickets left for their annual Taste of the Arts supper, at Generations. Or, you can give directly to the BCA, and then skip the dinner in favor of listening to my friends and yours perform a series of concertos at the Auditorium on campus. Either way, you are supporting our community in its efforts to better itself through the arts. And, either way, you can have a pleasant, peaceful Saturday evening.

In light of all this, I finally understand why some members of Monmouth College’s faculty decided to bring terrorist Bill Ayers to speak here. They needed somebody for a rebuttal. When your student program is all about peace, love, and understanding, the must-have in the opposite corner is a pro-violence, bomb-building, America-hating lowlife (but with a degree!). In order to counter the message of diversity, they are bringing in a white guy from Chicago to teach us how wrong we are for respecting each other and the system we’ve taken more than three centuries to develop.

I can get behind that. Sure. Complete exposure to diverse thought must be part of a proper education. This Friday evening, we can listen to music as the students Rock Out for Peace. Next Friday, in the hour before lunch, we can go hear the guy whose aim was to rock our nation’s foundations. Cool. Let’s not forget that it was the same mindset, some of the same resources that Ayers used 35 years ago, which killed an innocent student in Madison, Wisconsin. If you’re going to get an advanced education from somebody like Ayers, you’d better understand where he has drawn the line.

And, now that we have a small grasp of that, I encourage folks to attend the event and, in your most civil, small-town, church-going (or not) manner, ask him as many questions as you can. Ask him why he still supports organizations which undermine our democratic society. Ask him if he still feels that our society is so far gone that the only solution is to tear it down from within. Ask him if he would still encourage the killing of our own soldiers in the course of their defending liberty. If he says “no,” ask him why, then, has he never expressed or shown any remorse for having been active in a violent, militant, murderous organization. If he says “yes,” cosider discussing the financial future of any organization (including our beloved college) which gives a traitor money.

You can contrast Ayers, who, in the 1970s, was on the lam from the law for his ties to violence, with Mrs. Hauge, who, at that same time was helping young people here in town build self-discipline,self-confidence, and self-respect through the development of their own artistic skills. Change the world through music, or change the world through murder. I know which one I’d choose.

*only one of these events is clearly indicated on the college's calendar for this week. However, they have listed the MCO concert.

Update/correction: 17 November is Thursday, not Friday as I said above. Ayers is scheduled to be making his appearance at Kasch Auditorium Thursday, 17 November, 11:00 a.m. Please attend if you can.

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