Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Western Civ in the Crosshairs — and a Glimmer of Hope
Students at Indiana University-Bloomington recently went into panic mode at the sight of a Dominican friar, who they mistook for a Ku Klux Klan member. Funny? Yes, but also sad. It is a further sign of the state of our universities, and what is and isn’t being taught.
For starters, let’s get this on the blackboard: For a really long time, there have been religious guys in robes, flatly unmistakable in their appearance. This year, 2016 A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for “In the Year of Our Lord”), just happens to mark the 800th anniversary of the Dominicans. The Dominicans, named for their founder, Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish priest and contemporary of another giant of the faith, Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, long pre-date the KKK. These “orders” preceded Luther’s Reformation by three centuries, and themselves were a vital reform in rekindling and sustaining the faith against some significant heresy.
(A related funny-but-sad story on the Franciscans: A Franciscan friar told me about an encounter he had on the New York subway. A young woman looked at him in his garb and smiled and said: “Okay, I get it — you’re a Jedi Knight, right?”)
The Dominicans far pre-date the American university. Not unrelated, our universities once taught what we commonly call “Western Civ,” or “Western Civilization,” where students learned the elemental facts of their Western world, and where contemporary campus oddities like religious figures were not alien to their mind’s eye. But such is not the zeitgeist of the modern university, where today’s typical student is enmeshed with a thoroughly secular worldview where a trinity of race, gender, and sexual orientation account for what is held sacred. They are carefully trained to be ever-vigilant for the slightest whiff of racism, sexism, and “homophobia” or (the latest rage) “transphobia.” Their “education” is such that an ancient religious order is utterly unrecognizable.
That brings me back to what happened at Indiana University-Bloomington.
The mysterious robed intruder shuffled his way on to campus in the dark of night. “U students be careful,” Tweeted one vigilant student, “there’s someone walking around in kkk gear with a whip.”
The “kkk gear” was the friar’s robe. The “whip” was presumably either his belt or his rosary, the latter an 800-year practice likewise started by Dominic.
Residential hall advisor Ethan Gill zapped an email to his peers, warning them of the ominous “threat” marching across the quad:
There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. . . . Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight.
Later in the evening, a relieved Gill retracted his warning, but not before recounting the sense of horror unleashed by the unsuspecting friar:
Then my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn’t believe there was a klans member with a whip. . . . (he explained) And I see this picture. It’s a priest. With a rosary.
In short, it’s no surprise that today’s college students would be dumbstruck at the image of a religious figure in a robe. Such is completely symptomatic of the life and learning of the cultural asylum we call the modern American university, where — in the name of secular liberalism, multiculturalism, diversity, and “tolerance” — a relentless battle has been waged upon Western civilization for decades. In fact, consider this irony: fittingly, mere days after this incident in Bloomington, students at Stanford University resoundingly rejected — by a margin of six to one — an effort to add a required course on Western Civ to the curriculum. The campus secularists can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a dangerous Western Civ requirement will not cut into enrollment for courses like “Narrating Queer Drama“ at Stanford’s department of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
And here’s the height of the irony: If students at Stanford, and at Indiana University-Bloomington and elsewhere, would dare explore Western civilization, they might discover that their entire educational tradition owes quite a debt to these arcane men with robes and beads. The reality is that it was the monks, starting with the Benedictines (founded in the fifth century), who preserved crucial ancient texts and were the educators who established the model and laid the foundation for the universities. We arguably would not have the modern university without monks, certainly not how and when we did. The founder of the Benedictines was Benedict of Nursia (480-547 A.D.). He arrived in the world only a century after the birth of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) and the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), which, among other things, affirmed the literal belief in the Trinity (no small thing).
Picking up with the Dominicans and their influence: Dominic died in 1221, only to be followed by Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) and the Scholastics. Aquinas himself was a Dominican. Also seizing the torch at the time were the likes of Bonaventure (1221-74) and the great writer Dante (1265-1321). They all not only fought the heresies of their day, from Gnosticism to Albigensianism, but they were the teachers of their day, holding forth in historic universities from Oxford to Paris.
Secularists need not approve of these things, but they ought not be embarrassingly (and even deliberately) ignorant of them.
Needless to say, college students will not learn any of this in their courses on “Transgender Studies“ or “Gay Autobiography.” The progressive professors running these courses are championing the thoughts of Harry Hay (the Marxist gay-rights pioneer) rather than Francesco Bernardone. And I assure you that to the legion of contemporary American progressives, “progress” is indeed a vigilant sophomore more attuned to suspecting a klansman than recognizing a friar.
In the ashes of the Judeo-Christian values and timeless absolutes they have set ablaze, our modern progressives in the academy have instead fashioned a molten calf of politically and culturally correct nostrums. They peddle false faiths full of contradiction and selective application, such as their “tolerance” and “diversity” heresies — carefully applied only to things they want to tolerate. It is tolerance and diversity for me but not for thee. They denounce the “bigots” who oppose transgender bathrooms while they resist the Christian teachings that have beautifully transformed and redeemed the lives of billions. And thus, when these late-adolescent products of contemporary academia look at a Dominican brother with confused fear, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is a direct extension of their “higher” education. This is what they and their parents have paid for at great financial and moral cost.
May I point to what has been a light in the darkness? Here at my college, Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, we not only respect Western civilization but teach it. It is the root of our five-course Humanities curriculum, which every student is required to fulfill—covering art, music, literature, history, and sacred ideas and texts — and one of the courses is even unashamedly titled, “Western Civilization.”
We are striving to maintain Western Civ, not kill it. How counter-culture is that these days? It is indeed. As our college president, Paul J. McNulty, observes, “We are the counter-culture at Grove City College.”
Yes, we are. In the 1960s, the campus “counter-culture” had decidedly different overtones than it does now, fifty years later. To be counter-culture in the twenty-first century means to fight to retain the best of the timeless Western Judeo-Christian values that got us here. And it certainly means knowing the difference between a priest and a klansman.
The Communist Party Feels the Bern — U.S. Communists Couldn’t Be Happier About the Democratic Party’s Direction
As it has for months now, The People’s World again this past week carried a headline hailing Bernie Sanders’ “revolution.” As the successor to the Soviet-funded and directed The Daily Worker, and as the ongoing house organ of Communist Party USA, The People’s World is pleased with the long march of “progress” in the Democratic Party. The far-left lurch of today’s Democratic Party is lovingly in line with what the comrades have long desired. These inheritors of the Soviet experiment see Bernie Sanders as an exciting culmination of what they have been fighting for. And they view Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of the Democratic Party as having made a candidate like Bernie possible.
If you think this is hyperbole on my part, you should educate yourself by reading what today’s Communists are writing. As the latest exhibit, consider the instructive words of John Bachtell, Communist Party USA chair, in the latest valentine to Bernie in The People’s World:
The campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders is making a unique contribution to defeating the Republican right and has the potential to galvanize long-term transformative change. The campaign is also a movement. Millions are fed up with the same old establishment politics tied to Wall Street and the one percent. It’s reminiscent of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. . . . Seeds of change are being sown and foundations are being laid for deeper-going changes in the future. . . .
The campaign is expanding the collective political imagination and injecting radical ideas into the body politic. It has legitimized democratic socialism in the national conversation. Sanders is also influencing Hillary Clinton to adopt more progressive positions on a wide range of issues.
Note the Obama-speak in Bachtell’s rhetoric, from the invoking of “transformative change” and “seeds of change” to pointing to the very model of Barack’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. And observe the excitement about Bernie having “legitimized democratic socialism in the national conversation” and influencing Hillary to adopt “more progressive positions.”
The head of Communist Party USA continued:
But Sanders understands if he is elected his radical economic and social agenda including breaking up the big banks, universal health care, tuition-free university, massive jobs creation, expanding Social Security, and repealing Citizen’s United will go nowhere given the vise grip the GOP and extreme right has on Congress.
The only way to realize a radical agenda is through a “political revolution. . . .” Sanders sees his campaign as part of a much bigger movement that must be built.
A political revolution rests on building a broad coalition. A political revolution will be fueled by ongoing shifts in public attitudes. Majorities of Americans now favor taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, abortion rights, marriage equality, criminal justice reform, and action to curb the climate crisis. New social movements are influencing millions at the grassroots including the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, The Dreamers, reproductive rights, marriage equality, and climate justice activists.
A political revolution is based on the idea that majorities make change. It is not enough for majorities to believe in an idea, they must actively fight for it. Movements are acting both within and outside the Democratic Party and comprise many of the key forces in the anti-right alliance.
This pitch for Bernie in The People’s World by the head of Communist Party USA employs the rally cry “political revolution” a dozen times in under a thousand words, plus repeated use of the words “radical” and “progressive.” Make no mistake: the comrades are jazzed for Bernie Sanders. They want, as another The People’s World writer likewise puts it, nothing short of a “Bernie Sanders political revolution.”
Bachtell looks with hope at how Bernie’s struggle could transform the political landscape and further remake the party of Kennedy and Truman:
A political revolution can transform politics if labor, its allies, and the broad left put their stamp on the multi-class alliance, shape its politics and frame the issues debated for the elections. The Sanders campaign is helping do this. . . . It will be transformative if the anti-right coalition is united and mobilized. Polls show that 86 percent of Clinton supporters will support Sanders in the general election if he is the nominee, and 79 percent of Sanders’ supporters will support Clinton if she wins. Sanders will need Clinton’s supporters in order to win.
Note, remarkably, the vast support for Sanders that exists not only among his own comrades but among Hillary Clinton backers. This is support, of course, for a man who has long been an avowed, unapologetic socialist, who was fully sympathetic to the Communist universe.
Also revealing is how today’s Communists have hopped aboard the bandwagon of the new left’s cultural agenda, including on sexual-gender issues. I’ve been pointing this out for some time (see my book on the left’s takedown of family and marriage). The emergent Bernie-Democrat-socialist-Communist-progressive-liberal coalition, advises Bachtell,
. . . must fight uncompromisingly against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant attacks and all efforts to divide.
Workers of the world, unite — against “transphobia”! Who would have foreseen that one? Karl Marx, call your office.
Some Democrats reading this will lash out at me, as the messenger. But I urge them to again carefully read the words I’m quoting. They come directly from the head of the Communist Party USA, a man who is the successor to Gus Hall, to Earl Browder, to William Z. Foster, writing in the house organ of CPUSA, The People’s World, successor to The Daily Worker. I ask Democrats: Does it not concern you that your number two for the presidential nomination so fires up these literal Communists? Does that not bother you?
Unfortunately, I fear that many of today’s Democrats couldn’t care less, especially the Bernie millennials educated into pro-socialist imbecility by our public schools and universities. As one reader of The American Spectator put it after reading my previous post on Bernie
I informed my son, now over forty, that Bernie was a Communist. He replied, “So what!”
Indeed, the Sanders campaign could mass-produce bumper stickers boldly touting “Bolsheviks for Bernie” sandwiched between grinning faces of Marx and Lenin and our contemporary products of the American university would shrug and cheer.
Returning to the appraisal of Communist Party USA, John Bachtell finished with this:
A political revolution will help establish the foundations for a real people’s party, whether it results in a breakaway from or a takeover of the Democratic Party. Regardless of whether Sanders wins or not, the politics of the nation will never be the same and the fight for a political revolution will continue.
There we are, ladies and gentlemen. The new political revolution that “will continue” must come either with a breakaway from the Democratic Party or with a “takeover of the Democratic Party.” Once upon a time in America, it seemed it could have only come with a breakaway. But now, in the Obama-Bernie America, a takeover of the Democrats has greater promise than ever. Just ask the literally millions of modern Democrats pulling the lever for a 74-year-old socialist as their next president. And just ask Bernie Sanders’ advocates in the Communist Party USA. They, too, feel the Bern.
Having a “Trump Talk” with Your Kids
I was watching a Republican presidential debate as my eight-year-old, John, sat next to me. Donald Trump, the front-runner, looked left and ripped Ted Cruz as a “liar” before seamlessly pivoting right and skewering Marco Rubio as a “sweating choke artist.” “Lying Ted!” Trump barked. “Choking Marco!” he shouted.
My eight-year-old son laughed at the buffoonish spectacle, as if we’d just tuned into the Cartoon Network. “No, John,” I told him. “That’s not funny. We shouldn’t treat people that way.”
“Is that man going to be our president?” John asked. “I don’t know,” I replied.
I decided to turn off the TV while John was in the room with Donald Trump. Who knows what might come next?
In addition to Trump mocking Rubio and denouncing Cruz, he labeled George W. Bush a “liar” and Jeb Bush a “joke.” As for Mitt Romney: dumb, stupid, “loser.” Megyn Kelly: a “bimbo” with “blood coming out of her eyes.” He doesn’t like her. And if Donald Trump doesn’t like you, he lets you know.
The American Founders extolled the virtue of prudence to our leaders and citizenry. They underscored the cardinal and theological virtues. Trump eschews virtue, embracing vice instead, and his supporters reward him by the millions.
And thus, Trump excoriates his detractors: liars, losers, morons.
“Look at that face!” yapped Trump of Carly Fiorina, a successful businesswoman. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?”
Again, push the children away from the TV.
Yet another occasion: I check the latest headlines. The cable news station shows a Trump rally. Protesters speak up. This wasn’t the organized protest in Chicago, which Trump blamed on professional left-wing agitators; no, this is a typical political event. But Donald Trump is no typical candidate. Not one for criticism, Trump instructs his supporters how to respond to the dissenters: “Knock the crap out of them!” Don’t worry, the millionaire ensures: “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise.”
The cable news station shows repeated examples of such Trump bombast. Then follow clips of Trump supporters roughing up protesters in what could be a superb DNC ad against Trump in November.
One Trump supporter, 78-year-old John McGraw, sucker-punched 26-year-old Rakeem Jones, with no regrets. “You bet I liked it,” McGraw growled to the press. “Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.” (Note how McGraw used Trump’s exact words: “knock the hell.”) Asked if Jones had it coming, McGraw affirmed, “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Again, I turn off the TV before the kids see. Even more unsettling, the man behaving this way could be my kids’ next president, and from my own political party — the party of Lincoln and Reagan.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg with Donald Trump. I was talking to my friend Mark, a Hollywood evangelical. He has five daughters. I asked how he intends to explain Trump to his girls. Trump is not only repeatedly divorced, but left his wives for mistresses and brags about his sexual conquests (including with married women). The casino mogul has strip clubs under his belt. We thought Bill Clinton was bad. At least Bill had the political discreetness to deny his escapades. (How’s that for a new standard?) Trump boasts.
Mark told me that he has had the “Trump talk” with his daughters. He has told them that, sadly, all morality could be out the window this election. Among the Republicans, there still are solid family men in Ted Cruz and John Kasich (as was “Choking Marco”). Unfortunately, with Trump, the moral character that Republicans have demanded in their leaders has become an utter non-issue to angry advocates. This year, Democrats will be able to tell Republicans that all their past talk of family values and criticisms of Bill Clinton was a bunch of rotten hypocrisy.
The presidency is preeminently a position of moral leadership. “Morality,” said our first president, George Washington, is an “indispensable support” to political prosperity. That has not changed. What is changing is the huge number of Americans who suddenly don’t care about moral behavior in their leader, or excuse or justify it.
And so, my advice to parents, especially on the Republican side: If Donald Trump gets the nomination, be prepared to sit down with your kids to have a frank “Trump talk.” Teach them not to be like that man. And always be ready to quickly change the TV channel. *