April 23, 2002

Letter to the editor

To the Editor:

After reading Andrew Brokos's recent Viewpoints article "Courageous Candidates," I couldn't help but write a response. Frankly, I think it is to the MAROON's discredit that the article was even published. It is certainly important for campus publications with a liberal leaning to represent a more conservative viewpoint, but it should be intelligent or at the very least informed. However, in the spirit of giving every opinion its due, there are several points in Brokos's article that are worth taking up.

First, it is a disservice to the candidates of the Somebodies slate to mask an elitist and possibly racist rant as an endorsement of their platform. I am quite sure that when they suggested a shuttle service to the CTA red line as an alternative to the 55 bus, they were simply responding to the general complaint that no one likes to wait in the cold in a fairly unsafe neighborhood. Certainly, they were not trying to escape "every jobless scoundrel, every teenage mother, every junky gangbanger" that rides the 55 bus.

In fact, most of the people on the 55 bus, for the benefit of Brokos, who doesn't seem to be very familiar with it, are lower middle class, and perhaps poor residents of Hyde Park and Garfield. They aren't morally corrupt criminals, nor are they all on drugs, and most of the teenage girls aren't pregnant. They are average working-class people trying to get from one place to another. My general impression is that students who use the bus are doing the same thing, and as far as I know most of them aren't morally superior to any of their fellow riders. Anyone who has been to a frat party at this university would be hard pressed to make any claim of moral superiority on the part of the students here. As a student body in general we break laws, our sexual morality is at best questionable, and our consideration for others is not particularly impressive.

Brokos has clearly confused poor with morally inferior, with stupid, and with violent. It's true that most of the riders on the 55 are not as rich or well educated as the average U of C student, and that may even mean that at times people on the bus do not show the finest etiquette or the most genteel manners. However, anyone who's had any life experience knows that the great majority of the general populace, poor or otherwise, can be annoying and rude. Not to mention the fact that most of the students at elite institutions are equally irritating, morally bankrupt, and at times quite ignorant. The fact that someone is poor, and therefore dressed in dirty clothes, or clothes you might associate with criminals doesn't qualify them as second class citizens (though I can't imagine that people are riding the bus with ski-masks on).

I haven't met that many residents of Hyde Park; of the ones I have met, some are great and others are pretty terrible, but I think that's the general experience people have everywhere. The kind of ignorant ranting Brokos's article represents is a clear result of xenophobia and generalizations from TV and movies taken to extremes. Brokos couches his useless views in some sort of Nietzchean language to give it the credibility of being philosophical: "For too long we've allowed the slave morality of Marxist professors and Christian doctrine to turn us from that is rightfully ours." That's not philosophical, nor is it a particularly convincing argument. To arrogate the ability to generalize about individual moral character of entire populations is absurd, especially coming from a student who has little experience with the community he is generalizing about.

The South Side has the problems of any poor urban area, and admittedly some of these are linked with the socio-economic status of the people who live here. But to take that fairly unsurprising fact, and use it to justify calling residents of Hyde Park "wretches" is unconscionable. If the non-student population has anything against U of C students, it is as a result of the disdain and discomfort worn on the faces of people like Brokos while they are on the bus, walking down the street, or patronizing a local business. Do I want a shuttle to the red line? Sure, why not? However, I would rather forgo the small convenience than allow smug elitists to think it their birthright to avoid associating with anyone not as rich or as smart as they are.

David Noah

A response to David Noah by Andrew Brokas

Mr. Noah's response only demonstrates the need for a paper like The MAROON to publish my original piece. He is so absorbed by his own liberal, holier-than-thou, love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself attitude, so busy criticizing everyone else's racism and elitism, that he is blinded to his own. He agrees that, "no one likes to wait in the cold in a fairly unsafe neighborhood." However, after posing to himself the question of whether he would like a shuttle to the red line, he responds, "Sure, why not?" He would be happy to hop into the shuttle and leave the "lower-middle class" to wait in the cold in a fairly unsafe neighborhood. After all, that is where they belong. Only those who are richer and smarter deserve the shuttle, and by acknowledging his willingness to ride, he takes his place among our ranks whether he 'intends' to do so or not. People who stand in the cold while others have a shuttle are "second-class citizens" and no amount of bleeding-heart moralizing will change that. Until Mr. Noah gets off his high horse and finds the racism that his "compassion" is concealing, he should refrain from pointing fingers at those with whom he disagrees. Mr. Noah's ignorance demonstrates that, 'legitimate' philosopher or not, Nietzsche was right to declare morality immoral.