The nauseating tale of how Washington College in Maryland killed a fully rehearsed and audience-ready student production of the widely acclaimed (and inoffensive) Larry Shue comedy “The Foreigner” on the most flimsy of political correctness pretexts, and then saw the institution’s president absurdly deny that the censorious act was censorship, has begun attracting comment here from the college’s larger community.
Speaking for a group of about 200-300 (changes daily) alum, we’ve been at odds with the Board of Visitors and Governors due to the cost of the high turnover of administration for years. The lack of transparency in the fiscal and administrative management is deplorable. Calling on the alumni to support half-hearted and complacent efforts to maneuver a private liberal arts college, the 10th oldest college in the country, through this past 10 years makes us grow weary. This censorship is only the latest, most egregious act thus far by the current administration.
“Elephant? What elephant?” The thing is, Jimmy was playing a CLOWN when he uttered that line, not a college president.
“Our intent in cancelling the production was to prevent further harm to members of our community who already feel marginalized. However, the decision to cancel the play has been interpreted by some as a form of censorship on the part of the College. Censorship is anathema to the core values of Washington College, and this was never our intent.”
—-Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College in Maryland,in his letter to the campusregarding the decision to cancel a student production of Larry Shue’s 1980 farce “The Foreigner.”
Got that? “Censorship? What censorship? Oh, you mean that thing when we stopped a play from being performed? You call that censorship?”
Yes, the president of an institution of higher learning is really and truly saying in print that administrators cancelled the production of a play, as in “prevented it from being seen,” because of concerns over the content of said play, and the need to protect some students from seeing it, hearing it, or knowing it was being seen and heard by others, yet did not intend this to constitute censorship, which it was by definition.
I’ll publish the whole weaselly, embarrassing letter at the end of the post, because otherwise you might not believe it.
I have seen “The Foreigner.” It’s not a classic by any means, but there is nothing controversial about it, and nothing that would legitimately “trigger” anyone with the sense God gave a trout. Deciding that “The Foreigner” needs to be censored makes as much sense as blocking a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
The comedy opened Off-Broadway in 1984 and won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. Since then it has been a staple of regional theaters, community theaters, colleges and high schools. A very short version of the plot: Two Englishmen visiting a fishing lodge in rural Georgia foil the plot of an evil local Klansman to take over the lodge and use it as a KKK headquarters. The hero, Charlie Baker, pulls this off in part by pretending to be a non-English speaker and talking gibberish, as well as pretend language like ” Klaatu barada nikto” from the classic film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Because people think he can’t understand them, they openly discuss their various plots and schemes in his presence.
Not “Foolish” To Remove Confederate Statues From Public Squares — It’s What We Do To Be Decent Human Beings And Fellow Americans To Black Americans
That “so foolish” remark is how the President put it — and, as usual — as John McWhorter pointed out on CNN, it comes from an impulse appropriate to a 12-year-old boy.
There’s the argument some are dragging out that Jefferson owned slaves (so shouldn’t we yank his statues and pictures, too?). I’m disgusted by that; however, it’s a side note to what he was to this country — to all he gave to this country. So, no, I’m not for going around the country and doing searching background checks on all the subjects of monuments and pulling them down.
Having monuments to confederate leaders in public squares, however, is like naming a school “Hitler Junior High.”
It’s a horrible slap in the face to black citizens and it makes me sadder than any of the stuff that we’ve seen in the news lately.
Yes, disgustingly, people are actually fighting to have monuments up that glorify people who believed blacks to be inferior and fought to the death to protect that view and the shameful capture and enslavement of other human beings that went with it….
What? What hysterical, historically ignorant social justice warrior has a cocked gun at Amy’s head, making her type crap like this? Let’s see:
1. It is foolish…short sighted, destructive, presentist, hysterical, knee-jerk—to remove “Confederate statues” by which Suddenly Stupid Amy really means “Individuals who at some point in their career performed bravely or ingeniously in the Confederate army, or on the side the Confederacy.” Are monuments to President John Tyler, who served in the Confederate cabinet, Confederate monuments? Tyler is the one who decided that the Vice President should become President, not just acting-President, when a President dies in office. I’ve visited his home in Virginia; we honor him on President’s Day.
If Tyler hadn’t made his stand for the continuity of government, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the masterful liberal Democrat who moved heaven and earth to pass the Civil Rights Act, would almost surely never have been President at all. Every American should raise their eyes heavenward in thanks to Tyler’s statues and monuments, especially African Americans. Were his honors raised to emphasize Jim Crow? Hardly. Jefferson Davis was a distinguished statesman based on his public service before the civil war, just as Pete Rose was a record-setting baseball player before he got himself thrown out of baseball for gambling. Pete’s statue is justified for his on-field achievements, just as Davis’s honors can be justified by his that had nothing to do with the Confederacy.
2.The President’s words are typical of a twelve-year old. Those criticizing him for properly standing up for his nation’s historical record, complex human beings and major figures in our history who are not just good or bad but an amalgam of influences, upbringing, the times and regions in which they lived and the circumstances under which they made crucial choices, and for seeing immediately the perils of forced cultural amnesia may be more articulate—it isn’t hard—but have failed a test of citizenship that he has passed with flying colors.
3. The fact that Thomas Jefferson was not only a slaveholder but one who repeatedly raped a slave who did not have the power to say “no” while he was extolling her “inalienable rights” is no “side issue.” How breezily Alkon, a fierce feminist, abandons her values so she can oppose Donald Trump!
Alkon is taking the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in her teeth. “We must pull down the statues and memorials of supporters of slavery because they are insults to African Americans, but Jefferson isn’t really a supporter of slavery.” No, he was also a moral coward, a liar, a thief, and perhaps the biggest hypocrite in American history. Forced to choose, I’ll take Robert E. Lee over Jefferson for character every time. However, Tom wrote our mission statement as a nation, defined our values in his words (though not his conduct), and managed to pull off the Louisiana Purchase.
Those achievements are worth every honor we have given him. The thesis behind the statue assault, however, is that only the bad stuff recognized in hindsight matters. Amy’s rebuttal to those who rightly recognize the unethical nature of that assertion consists of shouting “That’s ridiculous!” She doesn’t have a legitimate rebuttal. There isn’t one. Continue reading →
As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.
Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”
And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.
I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.
Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:
Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:
I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.
These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading →