This I Believe

James - Greenville, South Carolina
Entered on June 5, 2008

Last Saturday President Bush spoke at the Furman Graduation. I was one of the 14 faculty who stood during the president’s speech in silent protest, displaying a tee shirt that said “We Object”. This essay was written to offer an explanation of how my beliefs led to my protest.

Recently I have been most impressed by what is often called the anthropic principle. To a physicist it is fascinating that there is a delicate balance in the relative strengths of the gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear interactions that makes life possible.

If the nuclear interaction were stronger, large nuclei would have formed very early in the universe and there would have been little hydrogen left to fuel stars. If gravity were stronger stellar lifetimes would be very short and stars like our sun would have long burned out before we humans appeared. On the other hand if gravity were weaker, the fire of nuclear fusion would have never started in the core of stars and the universe would be cold and dark.

Indeed it seems that intelligent life was all but inevitable from the moment of the big bang. Yet it also seems very possible that we may never make contact with other intelligent life in this vast and fertile universe. It may be that intelligent life is inevitably extinguished by disease, war or an unsustainable life style.

For these reasons the value of human life cannot be overestimated. But President Bush has allowed the use of torture and imprisonment against those perceived as enemies, without the benefit of those rights and freedoms I like to think this country stands for.

When we treat even our enemies from other countries and faiths as less than human, we weaken ourselves and degrade our society. Not to mention the damage to the cause of world peace.

I stood to say that our president is wrong to have allowed humans to be treated this way. I was inspired by great souls like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. They helped bring about important changes without violence.

I also stood to show our students that we can and should peacefully protest against what we believe is fundamentally wrong. And that we can be heard even when we are silent.

I stood because it is my right as a US citizen. And I stood because I felt it was my duty as a human.

This I believe.