Perhaps there is something about the early days of November when the facade of civilization, which drapes over barbarism like a thin garment of propriety, succumbs to the darker angels of our nature who scream to the world that a new order has arrived and they are its leaders. It has happened before.
During the evening of November 9-10, hordes of Brown Shirts from Hitler‚??s Sturmabteilung rampaged through cities in Germany and Austria, killing Jews, ransacking their homes, and shattering so much glass in Jewish shops and synagogues, that the event became known as Kristallnacht, crystal night, or night of the broken glass. Like the mayor of Baltimore in the present, only instead on the vast plateau of an entire country, government officials stood by and permitted throngs their tacitly agreed ‚??safe spaces‚?Ě so they could annihilate the last vestiges of law and order in Germany. The country, and the world, would never be the same again.
Fast forward to the United States, 2015, to the silly merriments of that most silly of days, Halloween, and later to an overblown event often rendered outlandish by virtue of the passions it provokes, a college football game. By this point, the facts in each case are well known, if perhaps only dimly grasped. A college official at Yale University advised students that offensive Halloween getups should not be taken seriously, even though certain costumes might ‚??appropriate‚?Ě‚??whatever that means‚??the culture of a particular group in which the ornamented reveler is not a member. ‚??After all,‚?Ě came the reminder, ‚??Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.‚?Ě
Precisely. Except, as everyone knows in American college campuses today, much of the training is bent toward expunging free speech, not tolerating offence, and wrecking the hallmarks of a society that rests on such principles. Preventing bruised feelings takes precedence over preserving a country based on freedom of expression for all citizens, while shrieked obscenities vanquish reasoned debate. So, what did the leaders of this prestigious institution do? They met with aggrieved students, felt their pain, and issued a groveling apology to the entire campus, which culminated with the president confessing that he had failed them. This is enough to make any decent person throw up.
The situation at the University of Missouri was even worse, involving a series of complaints about how a few students had been subject to racial slurs. To make matters worse, President Tim Wolfe seemed not to have displayed his concern, perhaps also because sympathizing with felons such as Michael Brown of Ferguson fame‚??one of the complaints about him‚??was not his strong suit. For these sins he was accused and sentenced as ‚??insensitive‚?Ě to the feelings of the university‚??s African-American students. A bevy of football players went on strike with their coach‚??s blessing, thus threatening the university‚??s financial intake for the coming weekend, and campus demonstrations burst forth, exacerbated by a handful of sympathetic faculty. An exuberant time of ceremonial indignation was had by all, culminating in the ritualistic submission of demands. The list began with an ultimatum insisting that President Wolfe ‚??acknowledge his white male privilege‚?Ě and resign from his job, which he did. Like the Yale incident, this case sets a horrible precedent. Again, the stomach churns.
Question:¬† Is this America‚??s Kristallnacht? The answer is, of course not. In terms of mayhem, destruction, and death, these events obviously belong to different orders of magnitude. However, one thing Yale, Missouri, and that evening of November 9-10 have in common is that they each represent a turning point with national implications. Mobs gathered, threatened the stability of institutions, and those in charge not only permitted disruptions to the vast majority of lives for which they were responsible, but submitted to the humiliation of surrender. It seems that courageous acts of academic leaders have evaporated, succumbing to the demands of the disgruntled, armed with nothing more than the petulance of children, the minds of cyphers, the slogans of liars, and the determination to disrupt or destroy.
In short, what we are witnessing today is the flayed detritus issuing from the hubris of liberal academic governance, resembling fields of confetti scattered across American campuses only to be blown away by the slightest of breezes, the inconsequential bleats of angry mobs. Before a national audience, prominent academic leaders exposed their cowardice and shallowness, as well as contempt for the principals of the country that has blessed them so richly, by betraying the ideals their institutions proclaim. For two generations, they have sown the wind. Now they, and all America, are reaping the whirlwind.
—Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a retired professor of political science. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled “The Thirteenth Commandment.”
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