Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Violence Against Hope



Along with the tendency of some liberals to be overly credulous when it comes to "alternative" medicine, rejection of vaccines, and other forms of medical woo, I find myself deeply disturbed by the persistence -- increase, really -- of thin-skinned political correctness and complete misunderstanding of free speech, unwillingness to brook, much less listen to opposing views, that seems to characterize many college campuses. It's no more liberalism than the theocratic promulgation of ignorance we see in today's Republican party is conservatism.

There've been plenty of examples recently, the latest having occurred at Smith College, just down the road from where I went to college, and where I distinguished (!) myself playing Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye Birdie" about fifty years ago.
... Lawyer and author Wendy Kaminer found herself at the center of that heated debate this year when she joined a free speech panel discussion at Smith College and used a racial slur while discussing its use in literature and academia. Kaminer joined HuffPost Live on Wednesday and explained what transpired on the panel. 
"I was accused of committing an explicit act of racial violence because I questioned our growing list of words we can only know by their initials," Kaminer said. "I questioned the value and the uses of euphemisms and in doing so, I uttered a few forbidden words, including a racially charged word. And by doing so, I was accused of committing an act of racial violence." ...
The mind reels. Racial violence. For using a word. In a discussion about free speech. Even Jerry Seinfeld agrees it's gotten ridiculous. Well, sure, if you can't be a little crazy in your youth, what's the point. But these are "elite" students at an "elite" college, and you'd hope they'd be smarter than that. More able to hear hard stuff and deal with it.

Hard as it is to agree with them, conservative pundits are right when they criticize this stuff, and these kids are handing them all they need to convince teabagger types that liberalism is effete nonsense. They have no idea what liberalism is but neither do those students. Kids getting drunk and screwing on the beach over Spring break bothers me a lot less; hell, if I'd been able to get girls in my college days, I might have, too.

This, though... this is not very different from the denialism and preference for falsehood, the rejection of unpleasant realities that characterizes today's Republican party. It's unwillingness to hear stuff they don't like. And if today's yutes are gratifyingly more open-minded about same-sex marriage, less fundamentalist in their religious views, less frightened of immigrants, less militant than the last generation, this sort of thing makes me less optimistic (if that's possible) about our future and theirs. Because I sort of count on them to reverse the effects on our politics of the Palin/Gohmert/McConnell/Bachmann/Ernst/Hannity/O'Reilly/Inhofe/Graham/Huckabee/Santorum/Walker/Perry/Jindal brand of mendacity and stupidity, and return us to the days of honest discourse about things that are real and that matter.

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