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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Don't avoid 'the politics of fear'

Have no fear - all right, have a little. Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC), the Institute for Global Leadership's signature program, presents its annual symposium beginning tomorrow night.

Always compelling, but rarely terrifying, EPIIC's theme this year is "The Politics of Fear," a topic of such convenient timeliness that it's a wonder the IGL staff chose it last spring and not yesterday.

Running through the entire symposium is a question that finds echoes in every corner of modern life: What role should fear play in politics?

On the EPIIC website, the program's overview asks, "Has any country gone untouched by the politics of fear?" In today's world, where we've plenty to be afraid of, it's not easy to answer yes.

Living in the Tufts bubble, it's sometimes difficult to truly comprehend from within the horror and instability of the outside world.

Programs like EPIIC bring to Tufts a much-needed dose of reality, however unsettling that reality may be. Public inquiry is an essential component of education. This symposium is a can't-miss event.

While this year's theme is obviously relevant, "The Politics of Fear" is unique in that it challenges our conception of fear. We're asked whether we have our fear priorities straight and forced to confront today's dominant worries from diverse and often contradictory perspectives, but EPIIC's aim is not pedantic - "The Politics of Fear" requires our participation in its scholarly inquiry.

EPIIC doesn't shy away from bringing former torturers, torture victims, dissidents, bureaucrats, journalists, lawyers and military officials onto the same stage, asking them hard questions and expecting compelling answers. The Tufts community can only benefit from EPIIC's audacity and, appropriately, total lack of intellectual fear.

The various panels of this year's symposium cover a broad range of issues related to the politics of fear, all of which can be found every day in the headlines of major papers.

The recent controversy over the Bush administration's wiretapping program couldn't be more apropos for "Fault Lines: The Tension between Security and Civil Liberties," featuring a host of international legal specialists.

Similarly, the debate over American treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere sets the stage for "The Necessity of Torture? Ethics and Utility," a topic so divisive that the argument has even extended to the Daily's Viewpoints section.

Of course, EPIIC always looks for the international perspective, and most of the panels require us to think of ourselves not merely as Americans, but citizens of the world.

Anti-Americanism, terrorism, pandemics, proliferation, climate change, genocide; no topic related to the politics of fear is too foreign, too complex or too horrifying to escape EPIIC's examination.

One of the goals of Tufts, according to the University's Web site, is to "cultivate in our students an understanding of the citizens and cultures of the world...[and] contribute to global intellectual capital, harmony, and well-being." Without a doubt, EPIIC contributes profoundly to these ends.

The Tufts community is fortunate to have such a sophisticated and worldly program on campus. EPIIC may not have all the answers, but it's willing to ask the tough questions to the people who might.

Make every attempt to attend "The Politics of Fear" this week. You'll face many fears, but you'll be better off for it.

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