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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Please Stop With the Orwellian Campus Stuff! And Thoughts on Original Sin and America's Political Divide



Today's Most Clickbaity Headline award goes to....

"What a Pro-Trump English Professor Thinks Now"

Yes, I clicked. Yes, I read. And yes, I threw up in my mouth a little bit when he compared Trump to Walt Whitman.

After a little mouthwash, I kept reading. And then this...
...we are living in a society today that is so damn unforgiving. People say dumb things, they make dumb jokes, and we film them and humiliate them and shame them. On college campuses, everyone is frightened to death. My liberal colleagues are scared of saying the wrong things all the time. This to me is a perversion of liberalism. One of the greatnesses of liberalism, the John Stuart Mill liberalism, is that we give people space to say the wrong things sometimes, to think the wrong things, and we allow for human frailty. I am a believer in original sin.

First up... the "scary liberals are creating an Orwellian nightmare on campuses" narrative. I've got nothing. Nothing at all. I've got nothing because this in no way matches my reality. Instead, I see a community doing the best they can to learn, teach, keep financially afloat, and move forward with life.

But hey, I'm not at Emory (where Dr.-Trump-Professor-Guy is). So maybe that is his reality. I can't say. What I can say is that elite schools in Georgia and throughout the United States are not representative of "college campuses" everywhere. So let's put the "Orwellian Campus" stuff where it belongs--in a trash heap right next to the "War on Christmas."  

I will save further ranting on this issue for another day. For now, I'd like to talk more about Original Sin!

Indeed, if you want to understand Trump's appeal to rural America, Robert Leonard says that you need to begin with Original Sin. Leonard is a radio news director in Pella, Iowa. And in a recent piece in the New York Times, he explains....
Political analysts have talked about how ignorance, racism, sexism, nationalism, Islamophobia, economic disenfranchisement and the decline of the middle class contributed to the popularity of Mr. Trump in rural America. But this misses the deeper cultural factors that shape the thinking of the conservatives who live here. 
For me, it took a 2015 pre-caucus stop in Pella by J. C. Watts, a Baptist minister raised in the small town of Eufaula, Okla., who was a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, to begin to understand my neighbors—and most likely other rural Americans as well. 
"The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good," said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. "We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that. "We teach them how to be good," he said. "We become good by being reborn — born again." . . .  
Hearing Mr. Watts was an epiphany for me. For the first time I had a glimpse of where many of my conservative friends and neighbors were coming from. I thought, no wonder Republicans and Democrats can't agree on things like gun control, regulations or the value of social programs. We live in different philosophical worlds, with different foundational principles.
You can also hear Leonard discuss all of this on To The Best of Our Knowledge, which devoted an entire show to the topic of "Original Sin."

It reconfirms to me that understanding difference requires us to also understand how people view themselves and others. Specifically, it's about our view of human nature--how we are, how we develop, and what we might aspire to become. Once we begin to wrap our heads around that, then we have a firmer hold on how different people interpret the world through alternative lenses.

So I'll keep all of this in mind. And maybe with some work, I'll figure out the Trump-to-Whitman comparison.

Damn.... I just threw up again.

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