The American Empire As Santa Claus

Peter: …and who voted for this administration's foreign policies? People from red states. And red, I remind you, is the color of hell.

Me, after rising and being recognized: May I remind you, sir, that red is also the color of Santa Claus.

Peter: Ah yes, Santa Claus. And may I remind you, sir, that Santa Claus was a creation of the Coca-Cola company as a way to sell more products. More of the greed that characterizes this American Empire.

Me: Do I understand the government to be arguing that Santa Claus does not exist?

Peter: Yes. Santa Claus does not exist.

Me, shouting: Think of the children, sir!

—Paraphrased from last night's student-faculty debate on the resolution "U.S. foreign policy is going to hell in a handbasket." We had flipped a coin, and Peter and his student partner were assigned the role of the government -- speaking for the resolution -- while my student partner and I were assigned the role of the opposition -- speaking against the resolution. But because of the phrasing of the resolution, I and my partner were in effect defending the Bush Administration's policies, while the government side was critiquing them.

I should explain that this was a parliamentary style debate, in which the audience gets to vote afterwards -- and in which the point of the debate is to entertain and amuse in addition to argue. People rise to ask questions and place one hand behind their heads to hold their imaginary wigs in place, and getting off topic to provoke laughter and catcalls is promoted. Such as in the above exchange.

I love doing things like this, in which I get to interact with students more informally. The classroom is a space for more of less structured interactions, and there's a measure of professorial authority that always follows one around in that environment, no matter how hard you try to shake it -- and in most cases it's good to retain that authority, because in the end I still have to grade the students. But a setting like these debates (I've done three now, going 0-3 -- a perfect record!) is somewhat different, because my authority is diffused and I can interact with the students in a different context -- more as a fellow human being, and less as a PROFESSOR. Which also helps students feel comfortable in coming to talk to me about other things outside of the strict confines of their classes with me…plus, it's a lot of fun.

Later, we determined that the American Empire is a lot like Santa Claus:

It sees you when you're sleeping
It knows when you're awake
It knows when you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

Okay, so maybe not so much like St. Nick, unless he was really pissed off.

[Posted with ecto]

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