An all-state student civil liberties conference is being called for students on California campuses, April 22, in Los Angeles. A temporary steering committee has emphasized that the conference is not to present any organization’s ideology, nor to be sponsored by any one group, but to focus attention of students on the problem of attacks on student civil liberties, and to achieve student unity for action. A spokesman for the move says that “Civil liberties in our day are intricately related to political events and armament races. Abrogations of human rights are justified, for the most part, in the name of military necessity.”
Endorsement of ministers, business and civic leaders, labor leaders, and faculty members is being sought for the conference, in addition to student leadership.
It is encouraging that students themselves are becoming aware of the importance of the rights of the individual in these times when those rights are being ignored, violated, and trampled upon, for upon them rest our freedoms to worship as we please, vote as we choose, think and say what we please. And it is these rights that distinguish democratic freedom from dictatorial tyranny. Church leaders have been in the forefront of rushing to the defense of human freedoms. Ironically and discouragingly enough, it has been the school men, the colleges and universities that have been the most timid and uncertain. Freedom of the intellect is as important in our way of life as is freedom of religion, and it is indeed a sad commentary that those who are loudest in their preaching of the democratic way have been the least certain as to whether they should take a forthright and determined stand. It would appear that our students are better defenders of our own responsibilities than we teachers ourselves are.
And in line with the preceding news note, comes this week from the U.S. Postal Department a ruling that the Soviet newspaper, Pravda Izvestia, and other publications of like nature originating in Russia, can no longer be delivered to private subscribers in America. This hostility to men and women of thought which is found among our national and state legislators is startling, disturbing, and strikes at the root of fundamental right to knowledge. (And let me assert here that for two reasons I subscribe to none of the prohibited reading. 1st, I could not read them if I had them; and 2nd, my salary as a teacher will not permit this luxury if I could read them.) However, were I financially and educationally able to read them, I should very much like to do so, and would, were it not for the fact that a political appointee in Washington has just said that I do not know what is good for me to read, but that he does. Hence, he will censor my reading materials.
This arbitrary ruling is, or certainly should be, a matter of concern to Americans, since it is apparent that we in America can know very little of what is taking place in the Soviet Union or other Iron Curtain countries unless we have full access to the publications originating in these lands. We need no barriers to cultural freedom here. Apparently the powers that be these days are consecrated to freedom of enterprise in all areas but that of ideas, but their bureaucratic arrogance can well do harm to American scientific and humanistic learning. The ironic part of the recently exposed regulation is that it contrasts strangely with the continued operation in New York of two concerns that arrange for the import of thousands of dollars worth of books, magazines, and newspapers annually from the Soviet Union. Hence, while we draw an Iron Curtain over one entrance of thought to this country, we keep another one open, without any concern about it. Also, school libraries and similar institutions are permitted to receive the banned publications. Apparently there is no harm in them if they go to institutions where individuals have free access to them, but they are highly dangerous, even explosive if they go directly to those same scholars by subscription. One cannot but be reminded of the observation of our own Emerson of a century ago when he remarked that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” It would seem that our Postmaster General is not troubled by consistency, whether it be of the foolish or any other variety.
At least twice before on this program I have reported the efforts of the Protestant Church of Christ to win legal recognition and the right to worship unhindered by the Italian government. Again this past week, police have torn down, for the third time, signs erected near or on their Rome church, indicating the name of the denomination.
Italian courts have already held that the church had legal freedom to maintain its services. However, the police, in destroying the signs before insisted that they “had other orders.” The U.S. is extremely cautious in the matter, for it is not clear what if anything we can do about it. Our chargé d’affaires, Francis Williamson, acting in the absence of Ambassador Clare Boothe Luce, has made no protest, though the embassy has voiced official regret about the matter.
This week has seen continuing close attention by the United Nations to the tensions between Egypt and Israel as a result of the costly border fighting touched off near Gaza recently. You will recall that in this clash, 42 Egyptians and eight Israelis were reported killed. This tension was heightened by militant statements from both Egyptian and Israeli premiers regarding progress toward a new Arab lineup against Israel.
While some of the factors in this dispute are still obscure, the Arab-Jew conflict is always involved in religious overtones. Basic religious differences between these two people make more difficult the settlement of nonreligious differences, and it is these latter differences that the U.N. Security Council is watching, for Israel has charged that Egyptian armies attacked Israeli troops; that a virtual state of war has been brought about by Egyptian belligerency; that propaganda and threats have been used against Israel; and that Egypt has refused to negotiate their differences.