So, I’m sitting here with my old friend Socrates, chatting about our favorite subjects: intellectual curiosity, civil discourse, and how to cook chicken (he prefers a spit over an olive wood fire), when a news story comes in over the e-transom:
“This Community College’s Form of Protest to Anti Gay Speaker Peter LaBarbera is Awesome!” The story is on a website called instinctmagazine.com, and the page is littered with images of seminude men.
Socrates seems confused. “Why protests this community college its own guest speaker? Is not a college a place of learning? What does ‘gay’ mean, and why is it wrong to oppose ‘gay?’” (We haven’t gotten past the headline yet, and Socrates is already spewing questions like an erupting volcano. He doesn’t touch-type, so I’m doing my best to keep up.)
“Yes, a community college is a place of learning, but they didn’t want to hear what LaBarbera had to say, Socrates.”
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“That is most strange for a place of learning. Is it not better to hear out a speaker, even one with whom you disagree, and then counter his arguments with better arguments?”
“They don’t see it that way. ‘Gay,’ by the way, means men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women.”
“Really? What a strange word to describe such practices, though now the undressed men on your viewing slate make sense. Know you that people also did such things in Athens? We considered such sexual acts to be perversion, and we called the men who indulged in them ‘wide-anused’ or ‘gapers.’ They made a terrible mess in the public privies.”
“Let’s not go there, Socrates, at least not until after dinner.”
“Sorry, I keep forgetting how squeamish your culture is. No discussing this, no discussing that. So the protestors think ‘gay’ cannot be criticized? And why use they a misleading euphemism like ‘gay’ in the first place?”
“They’re trying to convince the public their sexual behavior is normal, by diverting attention away from the behavior itself and claiming that ‘gay’ is their inherent identity. Sort of like being Macedonian or Persian, only it’s all about sex. Then they claim that anybody who believes same-sex sex is morally wrong, even though God says so, hates their, uh, nationality. It’s a good way to silence their critics.”
“Appalling. We had Sophists in Athens, too.”
Socrates leans over my shoulder, peers closely at the laptop, and reads the article with blinding speed, mumbling under his breath all the while. “A group of professors at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, encouraged students to walk out of a guest speaker’s presentation! Professors did this? Shocking!”
Suddenly Socrates stands up straight as a ramrod and cries “Unbelievable! Brian, have you read this comment below the article? It claims to have been written by Rebecca Morean, an English professor who actually boasts that she led the students out of the meeting!”
“Haven’t gotten there yet, Socrates. What’s it say?”
“She writes, ‘The college did NOT invite Peter LaBarbera. The Traditional Values Club did and the way the laws are now, there is no way to censor groups like this on public institutions (sic). We have freedome (sic) of speech.’”
“Brian, she opposes freedom of speech! I gave up my life rather than allow the mob to limit my speech! And she is a teacher? Is not her entire profession dependent on freedom of speech?”
“It’s supposed to be. What else does she say?”
“I understand this not. She writes, ‘As the “liberal professor” who led the group out, I spent three years trying to figure out some way to humiliate the speakers at TVC events.’ Is not a liberal a person who encourages respect for others and tolerance for opposing ideas, rather than seeking to humiliate her adversaries?”
“Wrong century, my friend. Liberals haven’t believed in free speech since they bought into Marx’s twist on Hegel’s dialectic. They don’t care about truth anymore, they only care about being on the right side of history. In their view, anybody who disagrees with their cultural and political revolutions is on the wrong side of history and deserves no respect. They only tolerate people who agree with them.”
“Philistines,” Socrates replies with a scowl.
“Give her a break, my friend. Sounds like she doesn’t have much of a life.”
Grumbling something like “Marx and Hegel are idiots” under his breath, Socrates probes further into Morean’s comment.
“Brian, she boasts that she prompted the walkout when LaBarbera began to speak! Listen to this: ‘At that moment, I rose and left, followed by nearly everyone there. The pictures say how effective this was and how empowered the students felt.’ Your youth feel empowered by closing their minds? And you allow people of this age to vote?”
Then Socrates stiffens again, his face a mask of utter disgust.
“Listen, Brian. Morean tells where she led the students who followed her out of the speech: ‘A truly great day for all. We went to another building, ate cookies, signed posters and hugged.’ Ate cookies and hugged? My sheep were better thinkers than this!”
While Socrates regains his composure, I click on a related link. “Hey, Socrates, check out this video. A Sinclair professor wearing a butt-ugly tie-dyed T-shirt, Anne Soltysiak, says she couldn’t participate in the walkout because she was teaching a statistics class. She admits she ‘catalyzed’ the whole thing.”
“I am not surprised,” Socrates replies. “In Athens, statistics was not considered a profession for honorable people. Remember the old saying, ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure?’ That one’s been around since Hammurabi’s scribes invented bookkeeping.”
His pulse back below 120, Socrates returns to the Morean comment, only to snap to attention yet again. “This is beyond belief. Here she writes, ‘… the TVC organizers shouted at students and faculty who were leaving. But NO ONE ENGAGED, which is what made this so successful. The moment you engage you’ve lost.’”
“Can this be true?” Socrates thunders. “The goal of these teachers is to avoid engaging with people who disagree? This is the triumph of anti-intellectualism over honest dialogue! I gave my life 2400 years ago to encourage questioning the dominant paradigm, so that mankind could eliminate error and find truth, yet the human race has made no progress at all!”
Behind me I hear a stopper pop out of a wineskin, a gurgling sound, and … THUD. Socrates is down.
“Brian, my friend,” Socrates whispers weakly, “I cannot stand this madness any longer, so I swallowed the hemlock. I shall awaken in another 2400 years. Perhaps by then, mankind will have resumed the quest for truth.”
Let’s pray it doesn’t take that long, my friend.
(With apologies to Peter Kreeft, whose wonderful book, Socrates Meets Jesus, I happen to be reading.)
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