Retiring Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, in his farewell comments, said that democracy was in danger in this country. As one who has fought this notion for a long time, I have finally come around to agree with him.
There is a danger of this happening through the kinds of behavior shown in Washington, both in the White House and in the Congress. But, sadly, there is evidence of the danger here on the Pacific University campus.
We have become a nation not of discussion and compromise, but of command. We are told what is right and what is wrong and the one question that is never addressed is “Why?” It is like the old parental cliché, “Because I said so.”
People are told they are offended by a variety of behaviors. Not that they could be offended or that they should be offended, but that they are offended. One very astute student told me this semester that what offended him most was somebody being offended for him. “I can decide myself if I am offended or not,” he said. “Don’t tell me to be offended.”
We are also told that we are victims. Not that we might be victims, but that we are based on what happened, whether we want to or not. And, because we are victims, we should act a certain way.
Twenty-two years ago my son committed suicide. I was chastised by many because I did not seem to be grieving properly. I had lost my oldest child in a violent manner and I should be feeling and acting a certain way. No one really asked why my son had killed himself. The “Why?” was not important. How I handled it was.
Earlier this semester I was reported to the University Title IX committee for failing to properly respect the MeToo movement in my class. I did not even mention the MeToo movement, it is just that something I said about the definition of sexual assault was improper in the minds of three of the students in the class. It was wrong because they said it was wrong. Nobody ever explained “Why?”
I hear complaints and accusations on this campus all the time and never any attempt at explanation. Students say they feel unsafe. Why? Students say they feel discriminated against. Why? I am not talking just about the minority populations but also the white conservative groups. They all feel marginalized. Another key term. I would like someone to explain to me, from any of the various populations on campus, why they feel this way.
You cannot just tell people they are bad and not explain why. What this leads to is a tyranny of enforced ideas. “You are bad because I said so.” And it does not make any difference what direction this comes from.
This university established an Office of Diversity in the past year yet it has made no effort to explain to the broader campus what it is and what it does. Buried deep in the student portion of the university website is how to make a bias report but there seems to be no definition of the kind of things to report. A personal attack, something that was overheard in Washburn University Center or, in my case, a comment that was made as part of a discussion in class.
Please tell me what this office is there for and maybe I can help it with its mission. I am not arguing against it, I just want to know what is it and what it is supposed to do.
Pacific has developed a reputation, both on and off of campus, of being a very politically liberal university with some very progressive ideas, many of which are exemplary. But drilling highly biased political rhetoric into the heads of students without a serious consideration of opposing ideas does not create better citizens or better people. It creates a potential danger to a democratic system based on discussion and compromise that is no different that the danger from the radical right. The insistence on being completely correct and unwillingly to address opposing ideas is what has divided and stalled Congress and prevented this country from moving forward.
Historically some of the most repressive societies have been right wing dictatorships, North Korea, but others have been left wing socialist governments, USSR, China. The insistence on one train of thought, whatever it is, is the most dangerous threat to our country today.