The end of Reconstruction in 1877 gave birth to the Solid South. In both Presidential and state politics, the South retained its essentially single-party identity until the passage of the Civil Right Act in 1964. During that time, Southerners would reportedly vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket.
My own voting history has followed a a similar pattern. As one of the first beneficiaries of the Twenty-sixth Amendment, at the age of 19 I donned my Republican cloth coat and voted for Richard Nixon in 1972. My self-imposed penance for that youthful indiscretion has been long and ardent. I have embraced the soul of the liberal Democratic vision of America–the belief that the government has the responsibility to take care of the marginalized, to stand for racial justice, and to protect the rights of the weak against the tyranny of the majority. However, in recent years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the excesses of my left-leaning bedfellows and have come to understand that those who lie down with yellow dogs get up with yellow fleas.
Everywhere I look or listen, the media reveal that the party to which I have sworn allegiance for my entire adult life has become a platform for extremists that betray every principle I hold dear about educational values, personal responsibility, freedom of expression, and tolerance of difference. I realize that what follows is more a catalogue than an argument, but I have decided to let the overwhelming evidence speak for itself.
Because teaching is my vocation, I am most disturbed about Democratic educational policies. My idols in the classrooms of the 1970s competed for the title of most radical behind the lectern. From them, I learned to couple my passion for learning with clarity of thought in open debate. We were expected to disagree–and to be shocked and to squirm. By contrast, education in the 2000s has become a place where ideas go to die because of the overarching fear that someone, somewhere might be offended.
- Retention and graduation rates have taken precedence over classroom standards. Grade inflation has become so rampant that A stands for average at many colleges and universities; in the spring semester of 2012, 62% of the grades received at Yale were A’s.
- Professors are expected to offer “trigger warnings” when curriculum content might cause discomfort, and those who fail to do so are accused of “microaggressions.” For example, “Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart [an Oberlin College policy states] is a novel that may ‘trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.'”
- American history–and the history of Western civilization more broadly–has become the whipping boy of the left. In their zeal to destroy the relics of America’s racist past, they are depriving coming generations of context for nuanced historical debate. In fact, many school systems across the country are de-emphasizing American history in favor of more broadly defined social studies and even diversity studies. At Stanford, as early as 1985, Diane Ravitch of The New York Times bemoaned “The Decline and Fall of Teaching History,” and in 2017, Karol Markowicz opined in The New York Post, “We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.” Stanford University students recently rejected a proposal to require an undergraduate course in Western civilization because it would mean “upholding white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.”
- Even mathematical theorems are condemned as racist and imperialist, according to math-education professor Rochelle Gutierrez, because “math itself operates as Whiteness” and “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.” Moreover, if not inherently racist, mathematics is certainly a means of discriminating against students whose talents arise from the right side of the brain–at least according to esteemed political scientist Andrew Hacker.
- Nor are my own fields of English composition and literature immune from attacks by the left. For example, Asao Inoue, director of the the writing center at the University of Washington, Tacoma, proclaims that “expecting proper grammar from others perpetuates racism and ‘unjust language structures'” and promises students that the writing center will “emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts [and] challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.” Concerning literature, in 1993 Edward Said took to task writers from Shakespeare to Conrad, warning against The Tempest, Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and Heart of Darkness because they help to validate European imperialism and overseas dominion. Sadly, I encountered that stance even earlier when I was writing my master’s thesis on Heart of Darkness in 1992. It was difficult to sift through the scholarly articles for discussions of the novella’s unique narrative voice because so many were mere diatribes against colonialism whose authors apparently neglected to read Conrad’s work.
The classroom, however, is only a microcosm of society, where my party has also betrayed its former devotion to free expression in the marketplace of ideas. The values expressed in the First Amendment have fallen victim to the zealots of the left who believe that only their side deserves to be hard.
- In 2014, the 23 campuses of California State University denied recognition to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship because it limited membership to adherents of Christianity.
- In February 2017, violent protests at UC Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement in 1964, forced administrators to cancel a speech by the self-styled “cultural libertarian” Milo Yiannopoulos.
- Two months later, Ann Coulter‘s on-again, off-again planned speech at Berkeley was also cancelled because of fears of violence.
- “Disinvitations” to speak have become the norm on college campuses when left-leaning student bodies disagree with the views of the speakers. Provocateurs such as Charles Murray and Ben Shapiro have accumulated an impressive number of disinvitations over the years. However, even James Watson, co-disoverer of DNA’s double helical structure, had his invitation to speak at the University of Illinois/Urbana’Champaign revoked in 2017 because of his purported views on race; and in 2012, a Methodist College in Michigan actually disinvited 1950s pop singer Pat Boone for his views on sexual orientation.
It is, indeed, the obsessions of the left with such topics as sex, sexual orientation, sexual assault, and gender (s0-called) that leave me most disaffected.
- George Will, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and commentator, received a rebuff of his own in 2014 when Scripps College rescinded its invitation to speak on campus because of his skepticism about the epidemic of campus rape statistics that “make[s] victimhood a coveted status.” How right he was.
- However, even such a maven as George Will could scarcely have predicted the proliferation of victimhood since the Harvey Weinstein allegations launched the #MeToo movement a mere eight months ago. Al Franken was forced to resign from the Senate based largely on a posed photograph in which he pretended to grope a sleeping woman’s breasts. Garrison Keillor, beloved host of “Prairie Home Companion,” lost his job at Minnesota Public Radio for touching the bare back of a colleague. And just this week, Morgan Freeman has been accused of touching a woman’s lower back, trying unsuccessfully (pretending?) to lift her skirt, and commenting on other women’s bodies. Even worse than the ludicrous nature of the alleged assaults is the fact that these men are publicly shamed and some summarily dismissed without any requirement of legal proof.
- Children as young as five are encouraged to express gender dysphoria and live as the opposite sex, and North Carolina has lost an estimated $3.76 billion in business revenue because it passed a law requiring people to use the public bathroom designated for the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Not only civil discourse, but simple civility itself, has become the latest casualty of the efforts of the left to promote tolerance with intolerance and free speech with red paint and clubs. Here are just a few examples from the not-so-social media:
- Randa Jarrar’s contribution to civil debate speaks for itself:
- Zinzi Clemmons, whose accusations that he forcibly kissed her led Junot Diaz to withdraw from a writers’ conference in Australia, finds similar language her only refuge when confronted with a reasonable argument:
- A high schooler’s choice of prom dress–a high-collared, form-fitting Chinese dress she found in a second-hand store–prompted this Tweet that led to a social-media firestorm:
- And even I, an anonymous 65-year-old college English instructor who blogs under the nom de plume Boz, have encountered this kind of verbal attack masquerading as reasoned debate. For example, Emmy R. Kegler, a woman of the cloth, responded to one of my Lenten blog posts by telling me, “GET OFF MY LITURGICAL LAWN, abusive hack.” And when I posted on Facebook my views of the whiny victims of so-called harassment in the workplace, various responses called me “an accomplice to rape culture”; told me, “You are deeply fucked up, Vicki. Holly [sic] crap”; and summed me up as follows: “Vicki Bozzola you are a piece of shit for advocating rape culture. . . . You have no virtues! Advocates of rape culture like you are not entitled to respect so get off your false sense of entitlement. Stop the double standards ya sick lady!”
Enough. As itchy as I am from the yellow-flea infestation, though, the party of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin has no place for me either. In our increasingly polarized and hate-filled society, I can only ask: Where does one go from here?