I get a lot of hate mail, most of which is amusing. Seldom is it enlightening. An email I received from a fellow named Stewart provides a rare example of hate mail that is both amusing and enlightening.
Stewart wrote because he was upset with me for my opposition to a new “GBLT Center” at NC State. Actually, it is a new GLBT Center, which causes me to refer to its beneficiaries as “Gilberts.” But if Stewart wants to call it a “GBLT Center” that’s fine. I’ll just refer to them as “Giblets” so I won’t be accused of discriminating against dyslexic homosexuals.
In his email, Stewart the fearless giblet defender said that I was a “bad person” and a “bigot” for not supporting the new Giblet Center at NC State. So I sent him a query (but not a queery) asking him why he thought he was morally superior. His response was classic: “Because I don’t look down on other people.”
In other words, Stewart is morally superior to me because he does not think he is better than me. Somewhere, Rene Descartes is rolling over in his grave. The old maxim, “I think, therefore I am” had a good run for awhile. But a new maxim “I don’t think I am, therefore I am” seems to be taking over in America.
If you think Stewart’s reasoning is a rarity among college students, and even college graduates, you are wrong. It is commonplace. An incident involving one of my recent guest speakers provides a typical example.
The speaker, who we will call Larry, was talking about bias in academic textbooks. Somehow, we got on the topic of Custer’s last stand. During this portion of the lecture, Larry apparently referred to the Indians as “Indians” rather than “Native Americans.” I didn’t notice this at the time.
But, two weeks later, we talked about the guest speaker, who was received very favorably by most students. During our discussion a sociology student raised her hand to comment on the presentation. Her comment was not on a substantive point. It was on a point of political correctness. Specifically, she objected to Larry the Speaker Guy’s reference to “Native Americans” as “Indians.” It did not help that Larry is a Caucasian in his early sixties.
After listening to the student’s objection, I asked whether she is at least part “Native American.” She admitted she is not. I then informed her that I am (a very small part) “Native American.” Yet I am not offended by the term “Indian.” The next question was obvious: “How could you possibly be more offended than I am, given that you are zero percent ‘Native American.’”