Originally created 09/08/02

It's about freedom



It is a sad fact of life that some people build things and others try to tear them down.

This is the telling difference between the Augusta National Golf Club and National Council of Women's Organizations Chairwoman Martha Burk. The former has built one of the most beautiful and exclusive golf courses in the world, and the most revered tournament in the sport; the latter would seemingly take a torch to it all if she didn't get her way.

In a quixotic and misguided adventure to prove a fallacious point - that women should be able to do anything, go anywhere and join any organization they want to - Burk set out to demand a woman's entry into the Augusta National membership rolls.

In tactics Sherman might envy, Burk first attacked the Masters tournament, urging a boycott. At one point, exhibiting her profound ignorance, she suggested the Masters could simply go somewhere else. Then, when the Masters boldly cut ties with sponsors in order to save them from Burk's unprovoked and mean-spirited wrath, she turned her sights on tournament broadcaster CBS.

Some people build; others tear down.

In truth, this isn't about a golf tournament or the separate and distinct golf club that stages it every year.

This is about freedom - the freedom of association that is an American birthright, and which so touched French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville that he saw Americans' propensity to form associations as one of the new nation's strongest assets.

In truth, Americans' freedom to associate is what's at stake. And Augusta is ground zero in that battle.

Any club of any kind is at risk if the Martha Burks of this world get their way. No private club or association can truly be said to exist if its membership is determined by others.

This isn't about discrimination. That's pure poppycock. The simple fact is that no man, woman or child has a constitutional right to go anywhere they wish, or to be members of any organization they merely wish to impose themselves on.

It's not about public accommodations, either. This is about a private club that is more than accommodating during its Masters tournament. As for its membership, that's not up to Burk or anyone else outside the organization. There are plenty of men who will never be members, too.

It's about the right of private organizations to determine their memberships. Period.

What next? Will Burk be knocking down the doors of college fraternities to demand female members? How is this instance any less preposterous?

Ironically, Ms. Burk has only set back the cause of women. Her actions have offended both men and women, and have given feminism a bad name. Plus, when she inspired the shutoff of sponsorship money, she hurt charities that benefit from the Masters - many of which help women.

And even if Augusta National were disposed to invite a woman to join, how could they do so under these conditions? It's tantamount to Palestinians expecting to win statehood through suicide bombings.

Some people build things. Others try to tear them down.