Wednesday, October 19, 2005

E pluribus nihil

Judgment is given to men that they may use it.
-John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"

I’m relieved to hear that there was some actual thought process going on in the sociology-anthropology and education departments at Monmouth College, this season. Doctors Vivian, Buban, Kessler, and Kuppinger explained that their paid invitation for a terrorist to speak before students and public is an exercise in hearing extremes in opinion, and, besides, he didn’t really kill anybody, personally. That’s very comforting.

I gather by that, we can also look forward to seeing the Reverend Matthew Trewhella come speak to the masses assembled in the Dahl Chapel, Kasch Auditorium, at Monmouth College. In case you had not heard of Trewhella (and few of us have), he’s an activist who, in the 1990s, conducted seminars in Wisconsin on how to form militias to oppose abortion, gun control, and taxes, and has supported violent methods to gain his ends. So far, he hasn’t actually killed anybody, nor has he been convicted of attempting to do so. Let’s bring him down for the kids and the public to hear.

Not sure we can hire Matt Trewhella? Well, I understand H. A. "Buster" Dobbs is available. He’s the guy who travels around with his own mob, protesting funerals for gay and suspected gay citizens, calling the deceased “degenerates”, and their behavior “foul and evil”, utterly corrupt. And, he says, the “Sodomites must be driven out”. Even if they’re only suspected of such. Of course, he hasn’t exactly said in what manner they are to be driven out, but I’m guessing it’s not supposed to be a peaceful process. When is Dobbs slated for speaking to the Scots? And, is he going to instruct the kids on morality and ethics, too, like Bill Ayers does? Hey, at least Dobbs has the Bible as his supporting moral and ethical code, such as it is. That source of structure sort of fits in with that of a Presbyterian college’s. Where does the leftist professor from Chicago get his idea of ethics?

But, maybe Dobbs is too busy carrying placards at funerals to speak to good old MC. I hear David Duke is available. The Grand Wizard is always happy to share his message of anti-Semitism, anti-black, anti-whatever-he-isn’t. He’s an interesting extremist -- AND he supported Cindy Sheehan in her anti-Israel protests outside the president’s ranch in Crawford, so he can’t be all bad, can he? Let’s see if we can bring him on up from his bayou for an afternoon at the lectern.

Out-of-state Klansman not good enough? Forget Duke, then, and let’s try a little closer to home, with Matt Hale, leader of the neo-Nazi Church of The Creator, native of East Peoria. He probably could be released from prison for a day trip. After all, he wasn’t convicted of a violent crime. He only obstructed justice in the case of somebody else killing people, and encouraged further violence against Americans. He has a lot in common, then, with Ayers. Perhaps Doctors Vivian, Buban, Kessler, and Kuppinger might arrange for him to speak on the same day as Ayers. That way, we can have two diametrically opposed regional voices -- one who hates America’s rigidity, and the other who hates America’s languor.

I’m sure Doctors Vivian, Buban, et al will support it. They’re for hearing all sides, no matter how radical, aren’t they?

As one reads Mill’s essay “On Liberty”, one is reminded that intellectual freedom (liberty of conscience) is, of course, the first stage in true individual liberty, and that, “from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others”.

A young, malleable mind is the ideal nesting ground for radicalism, and instructors who work with these young people know this full well. The faculty of any college is not charged simply with bringing new ideas to the students who pay their way into those lecture halls, but to do so responsibly, to assure the rest of us that these young people are not going to become the next generation of terrorists. The sources for said ideas are as important as the ideas themselves -- sometimes, moreso. Mill asks, “In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so?” Men and their methods must be trustworthy, or their ideas must be equally suspect.

Critical thought, like anything of real worth, requires much skilled training to acquire, and must be long maintained through hardened discipline. It can be neither offered easily in exchange for a few hours with a radical in a lecture hall and a little casual post-lecture discussion, nor guaranteed with the receipt of a degree.


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