Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Tuesday, January 13, 1959.
A few weeks ago, an editorial written by Pete Caldwell appeared in the Washburn Review. In his editorial, Mr. Caldwell explained that the Review had received a letter from the U.S. Post Office explaining that material from the East German Republic pertaining to its Colleges and Universities had been received by the Post Office addressed to the editor of the school paper at Washburn U. The Post Office went on to say that this material could not be sent through the mails by law and demanded to know if the Review had requested, subscribed or in any way asked for this material. Mr. Caldwell very aptly pointed out that such action was a flagrant violation of civil liberties and that any government that tried to establish a set, official line and tried to censor out all other points of view was tending toward thought control and an authoritarian state.
What reaction did this editorial arouse? On the city level, the editorial was reprinted in full by the Topeka State Journal with editorial comment on its own and some fine words about Mr. Caldwell. On the national level, The Nation magazine likewise thought it of sufficient importance to reprint the editorial.
And what was the reaction on the Washburn Campus? As usual, it simply was swallowed up and lost in the great grey blanket of apathy. It seems that most Washburn students really don’t care if the government chooses to dictate to them what they may or may not read. Or perhaps they have so little faith in our democratic system of government or in their own intellectual abilities that they fear they might be seduced by reading “Communist Propaganda.”
This is not intended as a dissertation on that worn out issue of student apathy. I write this only for those people who do care enough about the question of our civil liberties to do something about it. I direct this to those people who are capable of understanding that this act is indirectly important far out to proportion to the direct influence it may have on the personal everyday lives of people on this campus.
If we sit back passively and allow the Federal Government to blatantly assert that we are so inferior that we are not capable of reading communist literature (or any other, for that matter) and judging it for ourselves then we are dangerously near to granting the government the right to censor and exclude any type of information or evidence that does not strictly conform to the official line of “100% AMERICANISM.” If we are so blind that we cannot see that controlling what men read is one more step to controlling what they think or if we are so complacent that we don’t care one way or the other – then we deserve to lose those civil liberties and that we profess to value so highly and we deserve to grovel in the dust in subservience to the “official line.” We constantly read and hear of the terrible though control being carried out in Communist China – and yet, are we so far from it ourselves?
The solution to this problem lies in the democratic processes that we still enjoy. First, there must be an awareness of the grave danger of this action. Then there must be an expression of disapproval on the part of the people. The Review has already written to the Postal Department deploring this action and asking that the material be turned over to them. If every student on this campus were to take a proper interest in this matter that concern all of us – if every student were to write or telegraph their disapproval of this act to both the Postal Department and to our representatives in Congress, then perhaps, it would be all but impossible for it to be ignored. It is now up to YOU. You may ignore this entirely or you may take fifteen or twenty minutes to sit down and write two letters. The choice is yours – to prove that you deserve a better fate than the people of China or any other authoritarian state.
To the editor:
“We, the people of the United States” – this famous phrase, which begins the preamble to our Constitution, introduces a document which has come to mean something quite different from what the founding caters intended when the Constitution was first conceived. Today, this simple phrase brings to mind much more than a simple expression of freedom by a new nation. For the original display of independence, and the ideals which were a part of it, have become perverted into a righteous self-satisfaction.
The American people take a bigoted stand that we, the people, are infallible. We believe that our political, social, and economic conceptions are the only true methods by which people should live. Our thoughts and ideas illustrate our bigotry. Sitting righteously on our pedestal of complacent, we flatly condemn contrary ideas. If we are to continue to possess our idealistic views on freedom, and if we hope to persuade others of their merits, we must first demonstrate them by our actions in our own country.
Our hypocrisy is appalling. While we preach equality, the men in our armed forces are severely frowned upon for marrying Easter women. What brand of equality is this?
What kind of freedom does the southern Negroe have? Our children are taught not to associate with Negro children. In this manner we teach prejudice at an early age. Many of our state governments preach this also by believing and legislating that “separate but equal” facilities in education, recreation, and so on, are sufficient. Does legislated separation denote a belief in equality? Hardly.
What kind of understanding are foreigners treated with? The people of the U.S. show little good old-fashioned “horse sense” when they bombard foreign dignitaries with eggs, pickets, and general abuse. While they may be exercising basic rights guaranteed them by the Constitution, they are certainly not demonstrating what Tom Paine termed “common sense.” It is unfortunate that Americans assume the attitude that we, as members of the free world, are always unquestionably right, and that what we do is invariably justifiable. If anti-American elements picket a free world citizen, we are up in arms – why then do we return this undiplomatic gesture with like conduct?
Do we treat anyone as our is no. Our noble ideas are disgraced by political, racial, social, religious, economic, and sexual barriers. The “equality” of two centuries ago has degenerated into a Frankenstinian form of unjustified superiority.
Trite as it may be, the expression “practice what you preach” should be the slog of zealous freedom-lovers in the United States.
To the Editor:
At the first of the fall semester, some students tried to organize an FM radio station for Washburn. This proposal was turned down by the administrative staff. But a counter proposal was given. In this proposal, the administration gave permission to make ten fifteen-minute tapes to be broadcast on the local radian stations. If theist tapes prove to be successful, the administration would then consider the possibility of an FM station.
The problem now facing us is student participation in making these tapes. All the facilities and tapes are furnished, but we need people to help program the tapes. Dean Bunge explained in an interview that the administration is very interested in this endeavor, and that they would help all they can, if the students express enough interest. If anyone is interested in improving Washburn through radio, please contact the undersigned. A meeting will be announced to be held later.