Victor Davis Hanson

Don't get caught up in discussing global warming. If you must go there, employ the term "climate change" so that anything from a tornado to a blizzard can be blamed on man-caused carbon emissions. Instead of citing recent doctored research or the inconsistencies in Al Gore's advocacy, just mention that Sarah Palin denies climate change.

Do not, under any circumstances, associate global terrorism with Islam -- despite the countless terrorist operations that have been carried out worldwide by Muslims since Sept. 11, 2001. If Muslims must be mentioned, it should only be in the context that a tiny number, without support and often due to past oppression, commit such terrorism -- earning the furor of the Muslim community at large. Do not end up like Juan Williams of NPR, who was fired for his candid remarks. For insurance, talk ad nauseam about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing as proof that white male Christians blow things up just as frequently.

Do not weigh in on gay marriage. Millions of Neanderthals voted to oppose it; a few sophisticated judges ruled to overturn bans on it. If you talk positively about traditional marriage and the special and historical relationship between a man and a woman, that is code for homophobia.

Lay off the university. It hikes tuition costs higher than the rate of inflation. It exploits part-time teachers while clinging to archaic notions like tenure. It cannot guarantee that its graduates are competent in either basic reading or math -- or that they will even find a job these days. And it shuns true diversity of thought. Yet question its budgets, hiring practices, political tolerance or affirmative action, and one is dubbed anti-intellectual, racist, against the student loan industry, and cold-heartedly against letting someone be all that he can be.

We do not quite know how Americans will vote next week, in part because citizens fear to talk openly about their concerns and instead employ groupspeak. We suspect that in the privacy of the voting booth, they may prove angrier and more frustrated than we think.

But why not, when they know that candor and honesty can earn a presidential lecture, a job firing or a lawsuit?


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.