Against Free Speech and for Cultural Weakness

On Thursday, Paul Caron (of TaxProf Blog) pointed to another article that would prove to represent a convergence of issues within a couple of days.  Among the student cry-bully uprisings across America is one at Vanderbilt, where the radical whiners have been attempting to unseat black female professor Carol Swain:

In the January column, Swain asked, “What would it take to make us admit we were wrong about Islam? What horrendous attack would finally convince us that Islam is not like other religions in the United States, that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration?”

Even those who take the view that Swain is wrong to suggest that the government should undertake targeted monitoring of people on the basis of their religion should be able to see the value of American freedoms in such situations and understand how the campus fascists may bring about precisely the outcomes they seek to prevent.  Imagine a non-tenured member of a university’s staff or faculty writing such things.  Even more: imagine somebody just starting out, as early as applying to attend as a graduate student.  He or she would have to hide any such feelings until securely tenured, some years and years down the road, perhaps in a world in which his or her warnings come too late.

If we don’t want to get to a place in which government is monitoring targeted populations (although I suspect the brainwashed students would think it only natural for the government to monitor Christians and conservatives), and if we don’t want to get to a place of such division that we’re behaving as if one religion “poses an absolute danger to us and our children,” then we need more open dialogue, not less.  People must be truly free to articulate what it is that makes their beliefs better than others and to highlight what in other beliefs seems dangerous.  And that freedom must extend not only to people who can only be fired in extreme circumstances, but also to those who still need to find doors in their careers.

That’s the only way we can, as a society, work our way down to defining the good and the bad and determining who is in the thrall of each and why.  As it is, anything that resonates with the tones of traditional American beliefs is treated as suspect, and the only way that attitude won’t have bad results is if there is nothing amazing about our country and nothing in our tradition that enabled it.

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