Pomp and Circumspect
Robert Frost, A Hundred Collars, 1915
Barney Frank had it right.
When the odious Rev. Phelps and his crew of anti-gay protestors fro the Westboro Church showed up at a military funeral in New Bedford for a soldier killed in Iraq that Cong. Frank was attending, he was asked about his take on the protestors, who go to military funerals and hold up signs proclaiming that the soldiers were dead because God wants to punish the U.S. for becoming a homosexual nation.
“They died so that these guys”, he said hitching a thumb at the scraggly crew, “could do what they’re doing right now.”
Porcupine wishes Congressman Frank would share that wisdom with the faculties of some colleges who are leading their impressionable students in protest against the invited commencement speakers because the ideas they hold do not conform to the cherished opinions of college notables.
At the New School in New York City, University President and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerry (he of the lightbulb-shaped head) invited last January his former colleague Sen. John McCain to be the commencement speaker. The New School takes exception to this -
"Senator John McCain does not believe in a woman's right to control her own fertility," shouted Ann Snitow, a professor of literature and gender studies. "He has been opposed to Roe v. Wade for more than 20 years. He is a man who believes in female sexual slavery." Ms. Snitow added: "What would he have to do to not be invited? Would he have to say we should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran tomorrow?"You get the idea. In fact, there is a whole thread devoted to this protest argument, with comments mostly from students, that is one of the saddest things I have ever read. (HERE)
Closer to home, Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice is enduring a similar embarrassing rejection after accepting an invitation to address the graduating class at Boston College. Reportedly, over 100 theology profesors signed a protest letter which stated in part -
''On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work."
Porcupine wonders why there were no similar protests when that redoubtable warmonger, Clintonian Secretary of State Madelyn Albright, gave Commencement speeches during the war in Bosnia and Kossovo. At least the Boston College professors do not object to giving Rice an honorary degree - of course, they know she already holds a doctorate.
It was not always thus. In 1969, the Hasty Pudding Club invited John Wayne, exemplar of Vietnam support and cowboy ways, to Harvard. You can say that the Hasty Pudding isn’t the same as a Commencement, and you would be correct – the Hasty Pudding is more cherished by the students and is more important to them. The Duke obliged by roaring into Harvard Square in a tank, and having a great time trading jibes with the hirsute undergraduates. Certainly, no minds were changed, but at the same time, there was a cessation of hostility as each side appreciated the other.
Why do we not have these wary truces today? Porcupine believes it is because Academe knows that its silken walls are gossamer thin, and one sharp remark will rent their feeble superficiality asunder. In 1969, the faculty protesters and zealots were true believers; now, they are tired retreads, intellectually vapid and morally spent. What is sad about this is that most of these students will be expected to function in a real world where unkind remarks will be made, unpopular ideas will triumph, and they will not be regarded as authorities but as neophytes. What will they do then – organize a protest?
Commencement is a time to emerge from the hothouse of academic theory and into the world, armed with an education and the reasoning skills to make up your own mind. Next weekend, perhaps a single exposure to conservative thought may be a way of finishing off what seems to have been an incomplete education.