Staff editorial: Patriotism requires an open mind

Business professor Tom Nagy’s recent trip to Iraq demonstrated his deep belief that the United States should not attack Iraq. Some contend the professor’s trip was unpatriotic and are “sickened” to have such a teacher – who must be filling students with “blatant propaganda” – instruct at GW. Students should not disregard Nagy as simply an anti-American activist whose views can be ignored.

Since September 11 there has been a surge of patriotism, but blind patriotism can lead to ignorant approval of administrative actions. Students should be open-minded to the ideas expressed by others, even if they are against those of the President or Congress. Nagy and others that voice concerns against war with Iraq are not necessarily against the country because they disagree with policy decisions. However, in the foreign policy arena, it seems many consider people to be either for or against America, leaving dissenters placed in the same category as turncoats and terrorists. This is a dangerous state of affairs in a democracy.

The Iraq situation is complex, with many interests involved. Many students only know what the U.S. government tells them – and that should not always be taken at face value. Even the media in many instances simply regurgitates what the government argues. Students should take it upon themselves to become informed on the subject from all angles. They should be able to form an opinion that is not just spouted by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer on the evening news.

Students are the future leaders of the world, but many do not care about the current situation with Iraq. They do not care that several blocks away officials will decide if our country will send our peers to war in Iraq. GW students, especially, should take going to school in D.C. as an opportunity to become involved with national and international political discussions.

Students participate by supporting President George W. Bush, as some College Republicans and others did when he visited the Media and Public Affairs building last week, or by protesting against the Bush administration’s policies and war with Iraq, as students from across the country will this weekend in D.C.

There is no reason students should be angry when protests against the war took place while President Bush was on campus. Anti-war does not equate to anti-government. It is just as legitimate for educated students to disagree with opinions of government officials, even the President, as it is for students to agree with them.

There is nothing wrong with patriotism, but blind patriotism is bad for the country. Part of patriotism and democracy is questioning government decision-making and letting minority views be heard. We are close to labeling everyone with dissenting views on international affairs as being unpatriotic or sympathetic to terrorists. This resembles the dark period of McCarthyism in American history where many Americans expressing dissenting views were automatically considered communist sympathizers.

Views like those of professor Nagy must be heard with an open mind and not shut out by the majority opinion. Only then can the public make educated decisions about possible war in Iraq or other issues facing the country.

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