This week the world gasped in awe at the raw heroism of Jean Rohe, the student at the New School who gave a speech attacking the commencement speaker, Republican Sen. John McCain, at the commencement ceremony.
We mostly heard about Rohe’s bravery from Rohe — and, really, who is in a better position to judge? As Rohe herself put it: "If there’s one thing that I know about myself, it is that I care for people, and in that sense I have a great deal of character."
According to her posted biography, Rohe "grew up singing and performing folk music with her family. Jean spent a year at Smith College followed by a summer at the Universidad de la Habana in Cuba on scholarship where she honed her Spanish skills, learned about Cuban history, culture and politics, and made some of her dearest friends" — mostly while waiting in line for hours and hours each day to get toilet paper.
In other words, Rohe is just a typical all-American girl, right down to a stint in Castro’s Cuba.
In an unintentionally ironic article about her brave decision to attack the commencement speaker, Rohe describes going around campus the day before her speech and discovering how overwhelmingly popular it would be to attack McCain. At two graduation ceremonies a day earlier, attacks on McCain brought wild cheers from the audience.
See, where I come from, sucking up to the audience is not called "courageous." It’s called "toadying."
Every place Rohe went that day she ran into students and faculty fashioning armbands and preparing their protests. As she said: "The situation seemed pretty serious."
Literally every person Rohe talked to the day before the ceremony opposed the war in Iraq and hated McCain with blind fury. Her mother — the one who tortured the children by making them sing folk songs — wept when Rohe read her illiterate speech over the phone.
Rohe’s resolve to tell the audience what it wanted to hear, guaranteeing wild standing ovations for herself, was only hardened when she was told there would be media at the event.
While some might say it was gutless to suck up to the audience by insulting an invited guest, they didn’t understand the incredible risks Rohe was taking by attacking a Republican at the New School: You’ll be a pariah in the West Village! You’ll never sing in a jazz club on the Lower East Side again! And don’t even think about setting foot on the Upper West Side!
As Rohe later said: "It was something I didn’t want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values" — which happened to be the exact same values as the entire audience, the faculty, her fellow students, her boyfriend and her mother, each of whom shared the value of being rude to an invited guest who also happened to be a Republican, a U.S. senator and decorated war hero.
And so Rohe attacked McCain’s speech before he delivered it, with such devastating ripostes as this:
"Sen. McCain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, ‘have nothing to fear from each other.’ I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet."
Except all the people who want to kill us.
Such as, for example, Osama bin Laden — and that’s according to Rohe, who is furious with Bush for not having caught him yet. Isn’t Osama a person "on this living planet"? Does she think we have something to fear from him?
I’m sorry to be a snob, but this trusting view of terrorists is hard enough to take from smart liberals. When I have to hear the New School version of it, my eyeballs have rolled not only out of their sockets but out of the building.
Maybe in her heart of hearts, Rohe does think Bush is an imbecile, McCain a lout, and the war is wrong. Maybe she would think so even if she had ever met someone who holds a different opinion.
But then she should just admit: "I know, I know. I’m an utterly conventional brown-noser, the very definition of going-with-the-flow, middle-of-the pack, finger-to-the-wind follower, who doesn’t have the candlepower to resist conforming to the beliefs of everyone around me — but that’s what I think."
If you want to find the cool, anti-establishment rebels who don’t answer to "The Man" on college campuses today, you have to go to a meeting of the College Republicans. They are rebelling against at least 99% of their professors. Even the original ’60s anti-war protesters were rebelling against at least 5% of their professors. Today’s college liberals ape the beliefs of 99% of their professors and then pretend they’re on-the-edge radicals.
We’ve always had to endure goody two-shoes apple-polishers — kids with their hands always up, who turn in talkers when the teacher leaves the classroom and volunteer for extra work after school. But not until today’s college liberals have we ever had to suffer the effrontery of the ass-kissers telling us: "I’m bad — I clean erasers for teachers after class because I’m baaad."
I don’t care what liberals think. I don’t care that they’re spineless suck-ups. Just don’t insult my intelligence by telling me they’re brave.