Discuss Amongst Yourselves

o the Editor: I applaud William Huling’s sentiments in the Sep. 24 op/ed piece “Them’s Fightin’ Words” and agree that it is important that we establish some kind of middle ground here at UVM. But I disagree with his method. By dismissing extreme viewpoints with the assertion that “the freedom to speak does not automatically make you worth listening to,” Huling is adopting the very attitude of his radical leftist and rightist foes. It is exactly this unwillingness to listen, the tendency to close oneself off from varying perspectives, that makes extremists so frustrating, and as we’ve seen tragically illustrated in the past year, what can often make them so dangerous. I recently had dinner with a more innocuous extremist, a member of UVM’s chapter of the International Socialist Organization and an old high school friend. Our conversation inevitably led to socialism, and what struck me most was not the extremism of his arguments but rather his refusal to listen, his failure to consider another person’s ideas before launching back with more defensive rhetoric. Though it was just a friendly dinner, the evening deteriorated into a head-butting session rather than a casual exchange of ideas. As compelling as the desire is to silence some of the UVM community’s more irritatingly vocal members, it is the responsibility of the middle ground to remain open to them and to discern the merits of differing perspectives. If we really want to curb extremism here at UVM, we can do it by listening, considering other viewpoints rather than leaping to defend our own, and by encouraging discourse rather than fueling dispute.Deborah PressClass of 2004