“I think the answer to bad speech is different speech. The answer to bad speech is not shutting down speech.” Larry Summers

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“I worry very much that if our leading academic institutions become places that prize comfort over truth—that prize the pursuit of mutual understanding over the pursuit of better and more accurate understanding—then a great deal will be lost.” Larry Summers [Weekly Standard interview]

WATCH INTERVIEW WITH FORMER HARVARD PRESIDENT LARRY SUMMERS ON THE STATE OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION HERE.

 

Political Correctness: Ideas in Exile

A victim of political correctness . . . The Martyr of Solway by John Everett Millais

A victim of political correctness . . .
The Martyr of Solway by John Everett Millais

It’s tempting to tsk, tsk at little remembered holidays celebrated in America’s past like POPE’S DAY in Boston. Oh, how intolerant we say. Did they really set aside a day to burn effigies of the Pope? Not the Pope! We may applaud the current pope’s stance on global warming, no cooling, no warming. We may think it’s nice that he lives in modest housing. We may laugh dismissively at his seemingly hypocritical notion that gun manufacturers cannot be Christian (even as he asks why bombs weren’t used sooner on Germany in WWII). But it’s impossible to ignore that at times in history the pope and his minions have ruled with an iron fist. (To be fair here, I don’t believe only Catholic popes rule this way)

It’s hard for us Biblically, theologically and historically illiterate secularists to see what all the fuss was about. As Hillary Clinton might ask, “What difference does it make now?”

I’m not sure. I’m going stream of consciousness today.

But wait.

A sudden qualm.

A dread.

It comes over me as I formulate a post about Irish Catholic immigration in the mid 1850’s and the anti-slavery parties of New England. Will someone be offended that I made a Hillary joke about gun-running allegations? Will people hate me for insulting a woman? Will someone be offended if I say that New England Protestants feared the mass immigration of Catholics because in part their memory was long and they remembered when Protestants were burned for not following human authority?

Might someone dismiss me as a “climate denier” because I hold a healthy skepticism for  scientific and political authorities who have been wrong so many times over the course of history and have often been knowingly deceptive in order to profit on fear? I DON’T WANT TO BE CALLED NAMES. I WANT TO DISCUSS IDEAS. Is this a pipe dream?

HISTORY IS NOT BUNK. Does that statement offend you? I hope, dear reader, that it does not for if it does we are truly doomed in our hyper-sensitivity and ignorance.

Protestants in New England worried what a mass influx of hard-drinking, Pope-following poor people would do to their society because the Pope hadn’t always been this great guy and drinkers can sometimes be a bit of trouble (I know, not all Irish people drink–I’m part Irish). They worried too about crowded cities unprepared to deal with mass poverty and violence. THESE ARE NOT FOOLISH CONCERNS. Do any of us really know what it must have been like to live with the constant threat of disease and the endless amount of funerals for children under the age of five? Have any of you lived next to a rowdy bar? I have–it’s not fun. Don’t look down your noses at human concerns, please. We need compassion. Can we at least try to see that while their fears may have been overblown they were human concerns?

It is true that the media as always wanted to sell papers and novels. If anyone believes journalists and novelists don’t have agendas I respectfully tsk, tsk you. Just as novels and newspapers sold best when stories of slave-owners raping slaves appeared in them, stories about priests raping virginal nuns reaped a hefty profit. The media machine is only impartial in the sense that it finds whatever position best helps line it’s pockets. That position is usually one of fear and hate mongering. Now there are thoughtful papers that come and go from time to time but they don’t make money and no one reads them.

The shock to American society (especially in the North) was huge as the Irish poor fleeing an engineered famine (a great way to consolidate land for powerful elite) swarmed cities and joined the Democratic party (mainly because they saw in the Whig party a Puritan value system they didn’t like and because their friends led them).

So here’s the thing: At one time the pope and the monarchs the pope liked ruled Europe. If you did something as a monarch to piss off the pope he threatened excommunicating the whole country. To us moderns this seems silly. We’d just say F***-off and move on, but back then people–regular people–wanted their kids baptized by the church–THE CATHOLIC CHURCH because they were told their babies couldn’t be saved  any other way. We can tsk, tsk again at how dumb they were as future people will probably laugh at stories published in the 1970’s about oil being gone by the 1980’s.

Once the Bible became available to people some of them read it and some of them questioned the rules forced upon them by the authorities. Question the authorities? Question the thought police? They must have been mad! But no matter. They were dead soon enough. Dead or gone.

Gone sailing to the rocky shores of New England to live quiet, harsh and cold lives as outcasts and pilgrims who dared protest against thought police and the cruelty and injustice of what must follow.

Winslow Homer Nor'easter

Winslow Homer Nor’easter

Forbidden Words

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I fear the following words could not be printed in a modern history book about an American town without some debate:

“The pioneers of ’59 placed our house  on a foundation already prepared of Dutch thrift, industry and religious faith. Their children and children’s children, in like manner, added to the story, strong and beautiful, until Englewood stands today a fair edifice, harmonious in detail, into which have been built the faith, truth and ideals of the men and women of the past and of the present day as well.” The Book of Englewood, Adaline W. Sterling 1922

Ten years after its founding Englewood New Jersey had already become the home of bankers, boarding schools and active Christianity. The churches were considered the foundation stones of the city.

This was no small-minded town across the Hudson River from New York City . The writer of Englewood’s history expressed no sense of shame or embarrassment in declaring that Christian values helped build a beautiful town. Somewhere between 1922 and 2015 “Christian” and “values” have become synonymous with something akin to evil.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

You can read what my characters think of their town in my novels: THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD and WEARY OF RUNNING.

RELATED: The Novel as Protestant Art

Books I’ve Known And Loved

This one gets some people mad. Not me. I love a writer who dares you to think in new ways. Every page of this book offers something to ponder deeply. A lot of it feels true and just a bit sad. I think I have  more hope in Americans than Allan Bloom did but his takes on political correctness, the plight of black students and how nihilism and relativism have made students unable to think in decisive and human ways are very thought provoking. It seems there was reason enough when the book was released for people of all philosophical and political persuasions to take offense–my kind of book.

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http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/04/allan-bloom-closing-of-the-american-mind.html

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/96601/allan-bloom

A Cowgirl Ain’t Nothin’ Without Her Gun.

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Little did we know that the thought police would soon determine our costumes offensive, our plastic guns a danger and the awesome looking Redskins logo–the one that celebrates the bravery and nobility of the Indians– a crime against humanity. Gotta go now–I’m off to protest the Fighting Irish leprechaun since I’m part Irish and have no sense of humor–you can’t make fun of us because we suffered through the famine engineered by those evil Brits! Oh, wait I like the Brits. Hmm.