It's the time of year when long—suffering tuition—poor parents get primped up and drive countless miles to stew in summer's heat, sitting on excruciatingly uncomfortable folding wooden seats on damp fields, gnats biting at their ankles and ears. They do this for one reason: to see their offspring get their long—hoped—for diplomas.
(After which the detritus collected over four or more years gets piled into the car with the offspring and returned home.)
Increasingly this ceremonial rite of passage is seen as an opportunity for speakers to make use of an audience held captive by conventional good manners. From countless daises they self—indulgently spew hate—flecked political drivel. Either they falsely believe their views are universal or they correctly believe the audience will not give such rude behavior the response it deserves and are emboldened to speak often outrageous calumny.
Should a speaker not embedded in the liberal hash of academia make it through the gauntlet and be invited to speak, no matter how appropriate and apolitical his presentation may be he can be certain of a rude response by the 60's and 70's leftist crackpots on the faculty and by students, yearning to make this ceremonial occasion an opportunity to don, perhaps for the last time, their carefully crafted papier mache heads, wave offensive banners and invent rude displays designed to marginalize and demonize the honored guest.
How to deal with this is the thing I've been fussing about and have three suggestions:
(1) The one that most appeals to my curmudgeonly self is to offer trays of rotten tomatoes to parents of graduates entering the ceremonial arenas. Perhaps seeing the audience is well—armed, the customary offensive behavior will be tempered.
(2) Perhaps we could get Congress to pass a law requiring that all campus tours for prospective students and their parents include an obligatory viewing of the previous year's graduation ceremony, so a more appropriate view of what's in store than the old bell tower and founder's statue will help the consumer. Truth in Packaging for one of the most expensive purchases most of the visitors will ever make seems fair enough.
(3) Or, well in advance of next year's ceremonies, alumni, seniors, parents and friends of the universities might notify the institutions that they'd really like these events to be the warm, purely ceremonial transition from student to adult life for which they are intended, and when the pleas for donations roll around they want to see some sign in an admonition to faculty, invited guest speakers and students that their wishes have been heard and will be granted.
Failing all that, we should make ruthless fun of those who celebrate and justify such rude behavior.
And this year's winner in the category of spineless academicians who rationalize crass behavior is war hero Bob Kerrey of the New School, who said of the very rude behavior John McCain received at the school Kerrey heads:
I now speak in defense of the behavior of my students — the minority who protested and the majority who did not. On the surface, some of the tactics of the protest were rude, noisy, and disrespectful. Less obvious, however, was the self—restraint that prevented the protestors from behaving in a fashion that would have shut down the commencement or made it impossible for Senator McCain or me to continue. Though many in the audience — including Senator McCain and I — were offended by the heckling, at no time were we in danger of not being able to proceed.
More importantly —— and also lost in the charges and counter—charges —— is this fact: student protests are a necessary and essential part of democratic free expression. Did we not love the brave and disrespectful students at Tiananmen? Did we not applaud the determination of the student led movements that helped bring down the dictators that ruled Eastern Europe in 1991? Have we forgotten the critical difference students made in reversing an unlawful election in Ukraine or in driving the Syrians from Lebanon or who still seethe in discontent under the religious law of Iran's mullahs?
Likening these bad—mannered oafs to the students who risked their lives at Tiananmen has made Kerrey a laughing stock and should serve as a warning that Web readers are a more critical audience than he's apparently used to.
But the bad behavior of the student who used the occasion to attack the guest, John McCain, has inspired the witty Greg Gutfeld of the same website on which Kerrey wrote, the HuffPo, to pen what surely will prove to be a classic satire of such puerile narcissistic displays:
let's face it: I was pretty fearless. I mean, it takes a lot of courage to criticize a Republican conservative right in front of an audience of Democrats, academics, liberals, and radical vegans. I call that "speaking truth to power!" John McCain being the power. Me being the truth. As a woman, I feel my courage was at least as great as those who are murdering women and children and causing havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan and New Orleans.
For example, I actually said this: "Preemptive war is dangerous!" Who but me could say that kind of stuff among a group of people who rabidly agree with everything I say?
That takes real guts.
Do you think simply slipping this masterpiece in graduation programs throughout the country might accomplish what rotten tomatoes might not?
Clarice Feldman 5 25 06