The Plight of the Elderly Conservative
There are no educational opportunities for older conservatives. We are wandering waifs on a sea of liberalism, with no island of conservative refuge to call our own.
I have had a lifetime of schooling. I loved it all, and I wanted to continue. As a retiree, I was excited to once again have the opportunity to take classes and join in discussions. Instead, I have concluded that we conservatives have been left adrift by postmodernist usurpation of historical truth. Here are some examples:
My last postmodernist class, "Great Decisions," was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. It was one of many offered by the Foreign Policy Association, which has given classes to thousands of students for many years. In the first chapter of the syllabus, one finds the following:
The Obama Administration has urged Israel to understand that in a changing geopolitical context a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict is imperative, but the hard-line Israeli Government has rejected the counsel.
In key regional conflicts, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. efforts to shield an unpopular party from condemnation will feed anti-American impulses that will jeopardize relations with democratizing governments.
I was astonished to find that they ignored Israeli efforts to "sit down at the table" with the Palestinians. They also blamed Israel (the unpopular party) for keeping the U.S. from helping these countries from democratizing. How is it possible to democratize a country whose people murder those different from themselves to cleanse the population? The deaths of Christians are ubiquitous in Lebanon, Nigeria, Indonesia, Gaza, and in Egypt, where the Coptic Christians have lived since the 1st century CE.
These past few years have brought self-inflicted wounds from other anti-conservative classes. For example, "American Exploration and Discovery" included a description of Aztec priests cutting out the hearts of victims and eating them (the priests were not allowed to cut or wash their hair or shave so that the blood would remain on the matted hair and skin). The priests would then throw the bodies down the pyramid steps for the common people to devour. The class was filled with those with a passion for "Rousseau's Noble Savage," one of whom said, "They only ate the limbs, not the torso." I suppose cannibalism is acceptable if you eat the right pieces.
That was daunting, but I thought I would try "Great Trials of the Twenties." Little did I know that I was due for another great awakening. I was told that the Sacco-Vanzetti case was clearly illustrative of the venom against foreigners among the population prevalent during the twenties. A famous play by Maxwell Anderson on the subject and protests by many groups kept the trial alive for years after it was over. During the class, there was no mention of the revelation by Upton Sinclair that the lawyer for the two knew that Sacco was guilty and that he was part of an anarchist plot to get money. This lawyer wanted to try Sacco and Vanzetti together in hope of getting them both off. Sinclair revealed this information in his posthumous papers.
When asked who anarchists were, the teacher answered that they were people who did not like government. I thought about our own President McKinley, who had been murdered by an anarchist, and so much of Europe in turmoil in fear of Anarchy.
Next, I tried a class called "The Victorians." I had read Gertrude Himmelfarb's great book on the subject, which made clear how much we owe "The Victorians" in the area of civil rights and compassion for the individual. But the teacher of this class dismissed the Victorians as buffoons worthy of derision. The great achievements of the Victorian Age died in a mess of ridicule.
One of the most disturbing classes I took was "The Thirties and the Rise of Fascism." First we were told that Germany had the right to go to war because of the burdens she had been forced to bear by the Versailles Treaty. I wondered why Austria and Turkey did not respond even more violently, since they had both lost empires. Germany's slaughter of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals was compared to the Soviets and Communists and found wanting in the comparative numbers. Mussolini was lauded as brilliant and a great leader who had brought Italy out of turmoil. He became a misunderstood hero.
Not only was this postmodern critique taught to seniors, but it also appeared alongside an exhibition sent to our town by the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The exhibition covered the horrible extermination of homosexuals by the Nazi regime. Accompanying the exhibit was a pamphlet which equated this German atrocity with the American Japanese internment. Any pseudo-reason to hate America. And this from the Holocaust Museum.
I took a class on Russian history which featured the reign of Peter the Great. Peter was extolled as a Westerner who brought wonderful changes to Russia. He built St. Petersburg, a magnificent city which embodied the architecture of Europe. Left unsaid was the fact that Peter ordered serfs from the landed estates of Russia to build the city and worked them to death. At least 250,000 of them died. St. Petersburg is known as the city built on bones. If those builders were expendable, so was Peter.
Another class on "Advance Directives" was taught by a stand-in for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who would help us leave the world more quickly if we only knew how to intervene.
Unfortunately, in all these classes, if one expressed an opinion different from the collective, one was ostracized as a Neanderthal racist. I have become a "sadder and wiser girl" in the cause of following conservative principles. I will continue to try to pursue knowledge where I can find it, but I will have to pick my classes more carefully. I won't attend classes that touch on current events and most history. This year, I have signed up for the operas; Lucia and Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; the artists; Sargent, Hopper, and the Wyeths; and others. Even then, I hope some progressive will not inflict on me a contrived version of the real story. We elders are always perched on the edge of precipitous indoctrination.
Sally Julian is a retired teacher-librarian living in Tucson, Az.