Saturday, August 20, 2016

Perils of the Liberal Persuasion

One of my two sons went to a very liberal school for high school, the Sidwell Friends School, in Washington, D.C. The place is a Friends school, as the name says, Quaker, and so open minded that the day after the 9/11 attacks, they called a meeting of all students and families and the Headmaster and others from the upper echelons  called upon the flock to turn the other check and forgive and to not react in anger. 

Listening in the audience, I could barely contain my rage, and were it not for my wife who pushed me out the door, I would likely have gotten my son expelled. 

Our "champagne son" had a wonderful career there, but, unbeknownst to his parents, he chafed under the excesses of liberal thinking, to the point where he decided to go to college in the South, at Vanderbilt, where he knew he would at least hear a different point of view. 

Our other son, our communist son, in whose heart beat the passions of his ardently union grandfather,  early on rejected the excesses of wealth he saw mushrooming around him in the affluence of suburban Washington, D.C., where even his classmates, not just their parents, drove BMW's, Mercedes and Lexus cars. He refused to go to private school, and never accepted invitations from friends to hang out at country clubs and he attended the public high school.  Of course, the public school reflected its politically liberal neighborhood, but there was more balance and there were no calls for turning the other cheek there. 

Through his college career and even afterwards, our champagne son stirred some concern by sounding pretty conservative. He particularly alarmed us when he fumed about the unions at the hospital which made his job as a surgical resident more difficult and which he claimed undermined the financial health of the hospital. Actually, he had a point:  By refusing to clean operating rooms in 30 minutes rather than the 45 minutes in their contract, the union house keepers reduced the total number of surgeries the surgical staff could do by 30 surgeries a day and that likely did hurt the bottom line. The fact is, he noted, cleaning the OR's took 20 minutes tops, and the "workers" then went out for a smoke or a Coke.

But, as the communist son pointed out, you cannot expect the union to argue management's side. There has to be some give and take.

On the other hand, I would argue: I am all for the workers. But these are not workers.

When I was a medical student, I too felt the pull away from liberal instincts.  I worked, one summer, in a project run by the notorious Office for Economic Opportunity, which was designed to increase the use of a new clinic which had been built in Bedford Styuvesant, which was then a burnt out, crime ridden part of Brooklyn. The whole effort struck me as a boondoggle, a colossal waste of money, thrown at people who would use it to buy drugs and guns. 

Later, with the perspective of age, I came to appreciate the economic theory that the government could throw bundles of money down a deep mine shaft and simply tell drilling companies where it was and that would stimulate the economy as the drilling companies hired people to go after it. 

The problem with any pole of political thought, is it attracts a whole constellation of opinion--at the center you may have a set of ideas which attracts you--the idea that society is best when it provides good things for all its members and does not simply give up on the idea of trying to raise up those at the bottom, when it attempts to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. But, as we learned in the 60's, around that star swirl all sorts of putrid ideas about life being simply about self actualization, pleasure seeking for self without regard to the effects on others, protecting indolence and self indulgence without demanding effort in return. That is when you start to ask yourself: Do I really want to wear the same logo as these "liberals?"

In today's world, the liberal cause has been more defined by Bernie Sanders than Hillary, so universal health care, free public education through college, an end to endless wars mindlessly pursued are all just fine. But ruthlessly rejecting international trade just because it is international, embracing transgender medicine as a cause, advocating for racial quotas in institutions of higher education also orbit that liberal star. 

Donald Trump's son in law, one of his trusted inner circle, makes a good point when he points at the "speech police" who accuse anyone who refers to an "Asian American" as an "Oriental" as "racist." If that one verbal choice makes you a racist, then what is the man who really does loathe the "dark races" who believes Whites superior to Blacks and Asians?  By cheapening language, we do harm to the real distinctions in life. So Trump's attacks on the idea of John McCain as a "hero" is a serious effort to draw important distinctions. In the world of the liberal, all children receive a trophy, and no child should be at risk for feeling humiliated by losing.

Wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo for Lacoste, was said to be "classist" and college friends actually cut off the brand symbols from their clothes, for fear of being seen as "elitist"--this all happened at Brown University and Wesleyan University, where students whose parents were spending half the income of a typical middle class family every year just to put their kids in a private school which the parents knew, was a sort of assertion of having arrived at upper class status.

At Brown, where a drunken co-ed stripped off all her clothes and climbed into a fraternity boy's bed, where he duly accommodated her by having sex with her,  the boy found himself vilified as a "sexist" and expelled from the college for the offense of having drunken sex.  Never mind, the girl had placed herself in that bed. She was the victim. 

Later, at the same school, transgenders insisted on having their own dormitory and Black students wanted a "safe space" where they could re segregate themselves, having won the right to be admitted to the school, they now won the right to wall themselves off. 

At Harvard and Yale, students were granted "safe spaces" where they could flee from the horrid experience of hearing offensive thoughts, which ranged from racial diatribes to debates about global warming. 

And oh, the horror, suppose you might oppose the idea of paying "reparations" to the African American population of the United States for those 300 years of unpaid slavery!  Get thee to a safe space, so you don't have to hear the disturbing arguments against this, which begin with Lincoln's masterful Second Inaugural Address, in which he observed that every drop of blood drawn by the lash had been paid by blood drawn by the sword--you know, a little incident called THE CIVIL WAR, where white men died for four years trying to undo slavery, and where more Americans lost their lives than in all the other wars combined America has every fought since.

A professor of African American studies at Harvard, who decided publishing papers in "learned" journals was way less fun than trying to release Rap songs was hauled onto the carpet of the university president who told him there was a difference between academic inquiry and musical celebrity, whereupon the professor decamped to Princeton.  This president, Larry Summers, was so hopelessly politically incorrect, he was later thrown out for having the temerity and poor judgment to suggest that there may be a reason there were so few women majoring in math and science at Harvard, implying there may be a genetic difference.  This suggestion was considered so inflammatory and unacceptable, that rather than refuting it, or presenting evidence or argument against the question raised, the Harvard faculty simply voted to throw Summers out. No confidence in this toad.

Of course, Summers is an officious, insecure bully, who never quite got over his own rejection from Harvard when he applied as an undergraduate, and has spent the rest of his life trying to prove he's the smartest guy in the room, but all this episode at Harvard proved is that, at the Harvard faculty club,  the rest of the room is filled with people who are not all that smart, so having that title in that crowd may not be such a crown.

On the other side, however, you have a true black star, the Donald Star, around which orbit unfettered gun rights, advocacy of violence against Muslims, Mexican immigrants, gays, disparaging the handicapped--can eugenic killing be far behind?--advocating for evangelical movements to introduce God into the classroom, the workplace and the bedroom, outlawing abortion, and likely outlawing many of the best forms of contraception, calling for a return of America to being white and Christian, outlawing homosexuality, attempting to return to the Ozzie and Harriet days when American men went off to the factory with their lunch pails packed by their stay at home wives.

Somewhere, there must be a happy center between those two central stars. 

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