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Core Principles - May 2018

posted May 8, 2018, 1:30 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review

        By William Christ '18

        Since its foundation in 1843, the College of the Holy Cross has dedicated itself to educating young men and women in the Jesuit tradition. The core of the Jesuits’ humanistic mission has been to educate people in a variety of subjects, theories, and points of view. Through this community of open expression and free intellectual debate, students and people learn not only about opposing views, but also how to question and strengthen their own deeply held beliefs. 

        Without this free exchange of ideas, the liberal arts mission becomes corrupted, as students self-censor their speech or become reluctant to express their opinions. While this particular trend has not manifested itself strongly on this campus, across the country a growing movement makes it permissible for people to condemn opinions that fail to align with their own.

        With the current political environment encouraging activism against the Trump administration, opposite views get drowned out by the overwhelming presence of protesters. Acts of resistance immediately arise after the latest uproar at a Trump administration policy, tweet, or cultural issue.  This trend has bolstered anti-Trump activists. Seeing these acts of defiance and protests constantly in the news enables liberals who believe that they are a part of a movement that has overwhelming national popularity. Moreover, the protest and activism culture only serves to censor or quiet the voices of those supportive of the administration’s policies, because they feel as if they are vastly outnumbered. More importantly, the presence of progressive-led protests and the absence of conservative marches provide some conservatives with the belief that their views are extreme and not socially acceptable. The liberal activists and protesters who rightfully champion free debate and discussion have led to the subconscious censorship of conservative speech. However, more vocal ways of condemning opposing views have resulted from the production of subliminal messages during protests and marches.

        Recently, the American left ridiculed Kanye West for being insufficiently anti-Trump. Facing backlash from the militant thought police of the left, Kanye tweeted that he respects the President because he has energy and can identify with that. Kanye also summed up the view of the liberal censorship with his tweet that said “you don't have to agree with Trump, but the mob can’t make me not love him…I don't agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” He also articulated differences of opinion with President Obama over what his policies did for the city of Chicago and tweeted his support for the African-American critic of Black Lives Matter Candace Owens. Within minutes of offering his opinions, Kanye faced tweets and adverse reactions that questioned his mental health with the goal of undermining and delegitimizing his words.

If the leftist mob dislikes something, they will use any tactic, whether it is false accusations of racism, assertions of sexism, or allegations of unstable mental health, until it is gone. Like Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, or any non-white supporter of the Trump administration, Kanye is not considered a proper representative of the minorities’ opinions. Additionally, the critics who condemned Kanye’s Twitter dialogue with Present Trump for saying that presidents should not engage in policies debates with celebrities fail to mention President Obama’s relationships with the highest class.  Defenses of free thought, like Kanye’s, are crucial to the survival of the American republic. Without them, Americans will begin making political decisions without thinking critically about the issues.

The vilification of people for deigning to think for themselves contradicts the founding of America. The Founding Fathers created a republic through vigorous debate. That debate has continued throughout American history until the present. Institutionally, the offices of the presidency, the Electoral College, and the Senate were constructed in order to calm passing crazes and prevent popularity from subverting the nation. Now, in America’s current culture, people restrict their opinions or emulate the “popular class” in order to gain approval from others in society. This form of restriction of free discussion is equally dangerous because people lose their sense of individualism and begin the march towards a collective identity. Standing against the winds of popularity and social approval is necessary because difficult decisions, ideas, and policies are required to calm a crisis. While it is difficult to maintain one’s opinions in the face of overwhelming social pressures, it is necessary for effective and authentic discussions.

        While Holy Cross maintains free intellectual debates, the world outside of Mt. St. James may not. Threats to one’s identity and beliefs will be ever-present as society will try to manipulate or eliminate them. Pressures to interfere with one’s beliefs emerge from partisan politics, trends in popular culture, and from all religions. However, the College of the Holy Cross has provided the same principles that, for the past 175 years, have succeeded in educating students with a strong sense of civic duty, personal identity, and Catholic principles. These principles—a thirst for knowledge, respect for passionate and free debate, and the strong sense of Catholic identity instilled by the College into every crusader—are essential for the survival and growth of the American republic. Armed with these tools every crusader will, when faced with obstacles to free discussion, conquer in the sign of the cross.