Over the last few weeks, there has been a shameful display of political intolerance, ignoring of the fundamental right of free speech that this country tries to maintain, sustain, uphold and protect for the good all. But it has been roundly trashed in Berkeley CA on the campus of UC Berkely the few weeks. The controversial right-wing political commentator Ann Coulter who has become I suppose in the last several years the left wing-nuts vision of Joe McCarthy, Rasputin and The Wicked Witch of the West for that Far Left. Ignore that she is in her own right, very bright and in my opinion DOES speak for a very sizeable segment of the American populace unhappy with the decline of the middle class, wage freeze, resentment of the growing power of the Federal Government etc. She has useful things to say and a number of them need attention and to be welcomed into the world of political discourse in this country. They do represent a “sizeable portion” of our citizenry’s heartfelt ideas.
I am a centrist which means I catch it sometimes from all sides it seems. Personally I find Ann Coulter astonishingly fascist in some of her remarks but I have to give her credit for raising issues that the liberal elites in this country ignore, pooh-pooh as beneath them or as the by product of inferior minds or the less educated. And therein lies the dead giveaway that those who denigrate Ms. Coulter, who dismiss her observations and points out of hand, are just as prejudiced and “fascist” as those they label as such.
I am personally glad to hear that the ACLU whom some quarters loathe and still see as the fount of communism, radicalism, or some other evil “ism,” is coming to Ms. Coulter’s defense. Ms. Coulter was not only extremely shabbily treated by Berkeley but her freedom of speech was trampled on just as if she had been stampeded over by a herd of my maternal grandfather’s vast cowherds of New Mexico of the 1930’s.
I went to college in one of the hotbeds of student left wing radicalism of decades ago and remember the exact same issue transpiring. A very conservative well-known figure’s announced appearance at an upcoming educational colloquium at the university was reviled days and weeks ahead of time and would have cancel or be subjected to embarrassingly shameful treatment, being interrupted by horrendous offensive heckling to the extent they could not speak and so on. I feel cheated as I was a big naive student sponge back then and wanted to hear what everybody had to say unfettered so that I could digest their ideas, mull them over and decide what I thought was legitimate and useful no matter what end of the political spectrum it came from. I saw the exact same kinds of brutish, intolerant, shouting down of reasonable advocated for the exchange of ideas played out semester after semester. I came to conclude that the wing-nuts from bosideside of the political spectrum were more similar, more “fascist,” equally intolerant, and equally dangerous to rational reasonable discourse and debate as whatever dictator was in power and in power in some other part of the world back them. And if I voiced my sentiments as I did a few times at student colloquia when I was an upperclassman and more sure of myself on a stage with a microphone in my hand, I was shouted down until I had to give up and leave the stage.
I foresee right wing backlash this time as being more likely than it was 40 years ago when I was a student. Fortunately back then the local state legislative leaders looked upon those “student antics,” as not so dangerous and were peacefully paternalistic about it all with some sort of “students will be students,” mantra and trusting that most of them would “grow out of it.”
Not now. I fear that after decades of this kind of dumb behavior, right-leaning legislators are going to realize that they have legislative power over their state-funded universities and could easily come to the ideas of retaliatory financial punishments as consequences. The older generation in power could easily economical severely spank the upstart pesky intolerant students. Loyalty oaths for faculty efforts could follow. And we would be off to the races of more polarization which would no do any good at all and only “harden their hearts,” on both sides, and make their “necks stiff”-er than ever. And there would go trying to find common ground and be moving toward the unifying middle and the needed art of tolerance of another’s differing point of view, so necessary for a democracy such as ours has been for so long out the window sucking all dieas out into the void of dead intellectual “space,” which would be a great loss for all of us.