Originally posted on May 30, 2003:
In last Sunday's Magazine of that stalwart of the Liberalmedia, The New York Times, John Colapinto writes about arguably some of our brightest youth who've apparently found themselves as fervent conservatives. On Point on WBUR, Boston's NPR - anything with "Public" in its name could only be infested with liberals - station, discussed what being a young, conservative, college student is all about. One of the guests was Charles Mitchell, an activist from the Bucknell Conservatives Club (BUCC). Regardless of our ideological ilks, I think what these kids - I use that as a term of appreciation, not diminution and I'm not saying this to be politically correct, honest! - are saying needs to be listened to, where they are coming from appreciated and what this might say about our future leaders pondered.
It took me a couple of minutes to get over the envy that I felt at the clarity, confidence and feistiness of these 20-year-olds that I might only have dreamed of garnering when I was their age. Thankfully it passed. They're defending the Individuality and Freedom, they say, that has been under attack by Groupthink Liberalism. They're mad as hell about Political Correctness and they're not going to take it anymore...well, so am I. I can't stand all the four-letter words being bleeped on my favorite late-night shows on Comedy Central and I've given up watching network TV because it's so damn sanitized...that must be why they're called the Liberalmedia...but I digress. Anyways, yes, Individuality & Freedom good, Political Correctness bad but what I'm having trouble understanding is how legislating civility and good taste can be considered liberal, seems quite the opposite to me. Isn't it liberal on the other hand to cherish and defend the freedom of expression no matter how vile it might be considered?
College campuses in particular ought to be environments where the open exchange of ideas and opinions is encouraged and even initiated in the classrooms. This applies as much to Liberal Arts schools as to those devoted to Science, Business or any other field. Do any Business schools of repute have courses that might entertain the notion that unfettered Capitalism might not be universally applicable as a means to effectively meet our needs or substantively enhance our lives? I don't doubt that there is an entrenched orthodoxy at these places and, although its specific ideologies may vary with the times, it is likely to always be at odds with those whom they seek to educate and thank god for that. The educators especially ought to be thankful for without that their own education might be at a dead end.
As I listened to Mr. Mitchell on On Point, I sensed a kindred spirit so later I checked out the BUCC website and his piece on racial preferences in college admissions in the April 28 issue of The Couterweight, their periodical. This is what he says (wish it were in HTML so I could copy-&-paste):
Part of why we have affirmative action programs is the fact that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately poor and living in inner cities, with terrible schools and no access to the Land Rovers and SAT training with which many Bucknellians have been blessed. We should have affirmative action for those very reasons - to make up for socioeconomic status and other factors beyond students' control that artificially conceal less fortunate students' qualifications. It is great that Bucknell doesn't just do its recruiting in posh New England suburbs.
Why it might be that "blacks and Hispanics" are "disproportionately" disadvantaged was perhaps beyond the scope of his article but this is what he calls the "conservative vision":
Instead of simply relaxing standards once kids get to college, let's fix the intolerable schools and broken institutions that foster the decay of our inner cities.
Right on, brother! Let's stop pussy-footing around our responsibility to our children and end the restraints on their access to quality schools based upon the "socioeconomic" conditions where they live. Before the next tax-cut for the wealthy or spending hike for our already awesome military let's demand the funding to "fix the intolerable schools." What could be better use of our tax-dollars than investing them freely in all our children?
In the same issue Michael Boland and Kyle McNeel take on "multiculturism" in separate articles. It runs counter to the aim of appreciating our diversity, they say. This subject is particularly close to my heart. With my longer-than-I'd-like-to-admit life split in continuous halves between my country of birth, India, and now the US, I can pretty confidently claim to be multicultural. The existence of a dominant culture is a fact in every society and ours is no exception. Like it or not, "Whiteness" may be as apt a name for it as it is crass. The aim of multiculturism, as I understand it, is to assert that in a pluralistic society legitimacy cannot be reserved solely for the traditions, myths and mores of a single culture. In other words, this is not supposed to be an attack on the dominant culture, only on its dominance. I realize that 'dominant' is a strong word but the dominance I'm talking about is not necessarily the kind that seeks to victimize; rather, it's the kind that ends up victimizing because it is unable or unwilling to appreciate experiences other than its own. Of course, no culture, dominant or otherwise, is immune to this inability or unwillingness so I'd expect a true multiculturalist to strive to make this a two-way street. I don't know if this new "ism" has indeed become a rallying cry for people who want to vilify everything "White" but if it has then Mr. Boland and Mr. McNeel's objections are justified. I do wonder, though, whether challenging prevalent attitudes is getting confused with vilifying their ethos.
So far I'm having a very hard time thinking of these kids as conservative. They're rebelling against orthodoxy and intolerance, they value diversity, they don't like the standard-issue "paleoconservatives" and they're not coy about our class disparities. Yes, they don't like liberals but what they don't like about them are the ways in which some of them have become illiberal. I can't help thinking that they're a version of me when I was their age but, heart-warming though that is, I wouldn't for a moment claim the "conservative" label.
Sadly there's a political machinery involved in ways that might not always be obvious; that's my explanation until I come upon a better one. It's not all bad though. How could it be if today's conservative kids are so...well, I gotta call it like I sees it...liberal? Liberals, take note.
I want to stay with that happy thought awhile so I'll leave musing about Individuality and Freedom for another day.