I’ve started to feel much the same premonitory dread about the divestment question, which Stanford Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER), formerly Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel (SCAI), has revived again this year. It’s not hard to see what’s going to happen — in part because it has happened so many times already.
Newt Gingrich has gotten a lot of flak recently for aggressively promoting his vision of a permanent U.S. base on the moon, populated by a sufficient number of citizens to make it America’s 51st state. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle seemed to find the idea more loony than lunar.
Nothing would be worse for America than for Americans to lose faith in capitalism. It is an indisputable fact that free markets are and have been the greatest engine for sustained economic growth and prosperity in the history of the world.
Relativism, roughly speaking, is the idea that what’s ethically wrong in one place, in one culture or in one era may be ethically right or permissible in another, and that we therefore ought to refrain from criticizing objectionable practices that occur outside our nation, our culture or our time period.
As a lifelong Christian, it’s always perplexed me how successfully the religious right has constructed such a conservative political agenda around so profoundly liberal a figure as Jesus. How has a visionary who cared for the poor been employed in the service of an ideology that so blatantly favors the rich?
As the Christmas (or holiday, if you prefer) season approaches, I’ve started thinking again about how tricky dealing with religion can be, both individually and as a society. It is a subject that has divided persons of a liberal political persuasion, like myself, into two main camps: those believing that we ought to be free to choose our own religion and those believing that society ought to be free from religion altogether.
Things get a little tougher, though, when we apply the same strategy to our real-life Taboos: things that are difficult to talk about because society deems them unsettling, controversial or potentially divisive. We have a lot of these at Stanford: race and affirmative action, multiculturalism, religious faith, political beliefs and sexual orientation prominent among them. And just like in the board game, there are a lot of words and concepts we can’t use, for various reasons, when talking about them.