Lee Bright and the Defense of Western Values

The following might be the most lengthy candidate endorsement of this election cycle. To understand why I support Sen. Lee Bright for re-election requires more than me simply touting the typical “God, Guns and Country” slogan used by every Republican. You deserve a better explanation.

Beyond believing that his political courage is necessary for the health of the General Assembly, my support for Mr. Bright comes as a reaction to the climate of political expediency that has settled over Columbia like a tropical depression. In my eight years in office, this election cycle may be the first where groups demanding political expediency outworked and outspent groups demanding political conservatism. Political expediency values convenience over consensus at the expense of ideology – liberal or conservative.

Needless to say, the pro-expediency groups hate Mr. Bright. To them, he’s an obstructionist. He stands in the way of their economic progress. He’s an embarrassment. He even still believes in something called a culture war . . . Yes, the broad culture war against the history and values of our Christ-haunted Western Civilization.

Back in the late 1980’s, most Republicans stood where Mr. Bright stands today. They condemned attacks on our Western values as acts of “political correctness.” Bolstered by Allan Bloom and his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, along with conservative thought magazines such as National Review and The American Spectator, Republicans made solid arguments against the wholesale acceptance of multiculturalism and relativism taught by liberal college professors at the time. While all cultures have value, conservatives argued, not all cultures have achieved or desire individual liberty for its members. Some cultures are incompatible with ours and hate the broad liberties that we have earned. The conservatives of yesterday would have no problem understanding the Islamic threat to us today.

Somewhere along the way, Republicans stopped believing that the end logic of multiculturalism leads to the demise of our Western values. Maybe they started listening to their college-aged children and stopped thinking as adults. Whatever the reason, they withdrew from the fight and allowed the notion of political correctness to mutate into a hypersensitivity that now threatens our First Amendment rights.

Consider the protests happening on today’s college campuses. Students are less inclined to believe in the absolute right of free speech especially if the words seem “hurtful.” To them, abstract beliefs are less important than a momentary emotional feeling. Beliefs are neither wrong nor right, they just exist – a mental step beyond multiculturalism toward cultural nihilism.

Here are some examples of how far gone we are. Most of us cannot imagine an America where warning labels are put on the works of Shakespeare to prevent college students from being offended by a play’s content. We laugh at the notion that “Trump 2016” chalked on a sidewalk would mentally traumatize students. We don’t believe it when students are deeply offended if their college food service prepares ethnic meals that aren’t properly ethnic in their ingredients or preparation. (A food service taco by any other name would taste as bad . . . )

Add to the list student protests against Halloween costumes they don’t like, demands that university seals containing symbols that offend them be changed, protests against old diversity murals (the parietal cave drawings of their liberal ancestors) in college coffee houses that they feel stereotype ethnic groups, and calls for college newspaper opinion pieces that are hurtful to be retracted. These are the recent absurdities carried out by students at Oberlin, Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Ithaca, Wesleyan, and Emory. (Check out “The Big Uneasy” by Nathan Heller published in the 23 May 2016 issue of The New Yorker magazine.)

How about this statement from a recent student protest letter to the Oberlin administration – “You include Black and other students of color in the institution and mark them with the words ‘equity, inclusion and diversity, when in fact this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.” Imagine that – Oberlin College, bastion of liberal thought – accused of white supremacy by its students.

“Ableism and cissexist heteropatriarchy?” These are the barely understandable code words of an anti-permanence revolution of the campuses of our elite colleges. The same revolution that normalized the idea of same-sex marriage, disassociated gender from biology, and ultimately will subordinate our First Amendment rights of free speech and free practice of religion to a tyranny of the transient notion.

Old school liberals naively dismiss fears that our First Amendment rights are threatened. They believe that attaining marriage rights for same-sex couples or bathroom rights for transgendered people are just the next victory as their push for equality marches onward. They don’t quite see yet that these victories are coincidental and that their ideology and that of their right-wing foils will become irrelevant as political and cultural transientism overwhelms them. A transientism that only values living in the moment and demands emancipation from the past and the permanent.

Consider the recent petition distributed by English majors at Yale. They demanded that the faculty “decolonize” the undergraduate course entitled “Major English Poets” of all white male poets. These include William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, William Wordsworth, and T. S. Eliot. The students believe that the very existence of these poets offend students of color. They are not demanding diversity – that non-white, non-male poets be added to the course. They want the course sanitized of white males regardless of the caliber of their works.

Ridiculous, you might say. Isn’t William Shakespeare considered the greatest of all English writers? Not to these Yale students who, like their fellow transients at other colleges, believe that Shakespeare’s Hamlet cannot be held in higher esteem than the doodles of a three year old. Hamlet and doodles are expressions of each person’s experience at that moment of their lives and have no relevance to anyone else. Where’s the renowned Bardolator, Harold Bloom, when you need him?

Transients reject the term “greatest” or any word that suggests ranking, permanence or equality. Their rejection of equality should sound the loudest alarm to their liberal professors. Transients believe that each person is so unique that no one person can understand the “life experience” of another and casual attempts to find equality in a shared experience are deemed “insensitive” – a term soon to exceed “racist” as the ultimate social insult.

The petition circulated by the Yale students reminds me of a quote from Ray Bradbury, the white Eurocentric male who wrote Fahrenheit 451. He said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Or just have freshman undergraduates read “graphic novels” about feeling alienated during your teenage years instead of books that link their education to our Western literary tradition.

Now, Dear Reader, if you made it this far then you may think that I’ve gone completely over the top with my conclusions. You may think me to be an alarmist and I very well may be. But that doesn’t make me wrong.

You must remember that I came of age during the 1980’s. Along with Mr. Bright and those other Gen X conservatives in the General Assembly, we witnessed the triumph of conservative thought. We watched Reagan call out the Soviets at high noon armed with the rightness of our Western values. We saw the Berlin Wall collapse. We witnessed the courage of a conservative president disarm the very real threat of several thousand thermo-nuclear weapons aimed at our country.

Reagan understood where we were on the timeline of Western Civilization. We were nearing the end then and we are nearing the end rather quickly now propelled by a new generation of leaders who have been taught to question the cultural birthright of liberty that is rightfully ours.

So, who do you want in the General Assembly in these uncertain days? Mr. Bright, a courageous, though somewhat irritating, defender of conservatism? Or do you want a servant of the expedient who will never cause a problem?

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Tommy Stringer