An Open Letter to President Roth
May 1, 2012:
“Last [spring], during the HOLI festival on Foss Hill, several members of Shakti, one of the groups that organized the event, put up signs on the doors of Usdan…that prompted broad student criticism and discussion. The posters were intended to prevent festival attendees from entering Usdan while coated in the colored powder that is flung during the event.
“The signs, which read ‘NO COLORED PEOPLE ALLOWED IN USDAN,’ followed by the text, ‘(but seriously, if you’re covered in colored powder, you can’t come in),’ were considered offensive by many students….”
Your launch: “…the signs posted on Friday for many evoked patterns of injustice and violence that our society has not left behind.” Well, what else is new? Out there in the land of the bitter clingers to guns, religion, and un-X-rated fun, the grass is always ungreener, while here in your own backyard the Managing Editor of Wesleying reported that his on-line journal had received reports that one of the HOLI organizers “…was receiving threatening phone calls, so we decided to remove her full name and contact information for her own protection.”
Michael, did you deplore those threats your comments may have prompted? Or did you avert your eyes from the sight of a girl being driven into a dreadful state of mind? This after she had supinely apologized. Granted, you too were driven, given the need to mobilize your fat-fannied corps of social engineers. What’s more, you had to enter the signs’ unspeakable message into the Campus Climate Log. It wasn’t enough that the girl had been privately threatened and publicly pilloried; you had to rub it in. Nay, burn it in.
You must have imagined SHE’S the one who holds the highly prestigious and hugely-coveted chair of University Troublemaker. You must have imagined SHE’S the one whose pen is wont to pinpoint some bubble-headed construct (“Just call me ‘O Bwana!’”) you’d built up on Denison Terrace in halcyon ’08. You must have imagined SHE’S the one whose knotty cudgel weighs in whene’er we hear your high and mighty trying hue and cry.
“Who dares to mock my high and mighty eruction? Speak!”
I hear you, O Hammer of Mockers, but looky here: Your hammerhead has missed a mockingbird in your own department. The postered photo “2010 Wesleyan Film Presentations,” is a send-up of “The Last Supper.” That Passover repast, as you know, was the prologue to a crucifixion. One must admire your mute sangfroid in the face of that poster’s hilarious prologue to no laughing matter. And you a humanist too. Truly, you’re something else.
The mockingbird is something else, too. Surrounded by her adoring flock, she’d chosen to cast herself against type as the Incarnation of humble pie. Enough said: That bird isn’t MY last supper, so why should I be biting? I’ll not clock the cluck.
Let’s cut to a change of scene: a Harlem club in “New York, New York,” where Robert De Niro asks permission to sit in and jam with the jazzmen. He’s answered with a welcoming grin: “Come in through the back door.” De Niro returns the grin. Caught being playful, all of them jazzmen under the skin.
And caught being playful, all of them Wesleyan students under the skin. The handful of hardened, repeat offendees aside, the HOLI signs offended no one. My scan of the student body turned up an eruption of something benign: an altogether collegial spirit. That mass psychosis was, alas, too good to last, for Team Roth was facing the spectre of a would-be crisis going to waste.
Quick action was called for. Hopping into the cockpit of his ever-ready-to-roll Agenda (it happens to be a jalopy, but it’s HIS jalop’ – it’s what he drives), wroth Michael (one daring race-card driver!) effected a hairpin turn of events with a ghostwritten manifesto: “Maligners of the signs, unite! You’ve nothing to lose but your chums!” – or some such call to the colors.
The rest is History: Every wannabe maligner anxious to please the Man out-elbowed his fellow to fall into line. Thus did the man inspired by Yes!We!Can! (“Just call me ‘Massa’”) rescue Crisis Incorporated AND the jobs of his fat-fannied corps. GM’s rescue party has nothing on HIM.
Black economist Thomas Sowell, born in Jim Crow Alabama, had eased his way through sundry back doors way back when, but higher education’s barred doors wouldn’t budge: His every effort to cultivate a furtive little furrow free of ideology’s tares, his effort to plant the furrow athwart the encroaching PC fields and poisoned groves (an infestation you wonderfully label “liberal education”), had been shown the schoolhouse door.
And so he left for the private sector, where facts are not a four-letter word, then anchored his craft at the Hoover Institution. There he authored 43 books for non-smokers of the race-, class-, and gender-pushers’ peyote, AND for smokers tempted to quit.
In “Intellectuals and Society,” Sowell deconstructs those top-heavy towers of babble who richly bank on their ready cachet, the I-word, as they sweep in a gelding horde across the heretofore yielding fields, to leave in their path a bleak and barren swath of deconstruction. “Intellectuals,” Sowell concludes, “exalt themselves by denigrating the society in which they live and turning its members against each other.” Is THAT all?
Michael, picture a ripping good yarn for a screenplay: the tearing apart of a student body’s social fabric. Call it “Mike the Ripper.”