The thought police came for Kyle Kashuv first
Kyle Kashuv, the young conservative activist and Second Amendment advocate, announced that Harvard University rescinded his admissions acceptance after the media broadcast the content of some old posts in which Kashuv used a "bad word." Kashuv's word descended from the Latin root for "black," and he thus stands accused of the Ultimate Sin against the State Religion: "racism." How might Kashuv or any free-thinking Americans defend themselves from these modern inquisitors?
Kashuv's explanatory letter requested by the Harvard Admissions Committee reminded me of the style of document that the Chinese or North Koreans demanded from inmates in their re-education camps, bearing all the marks of self-criticism and disavowal of one's younger self. Who ever said "it can't happen here in the United States of America"?
Coloring in the context surrounding his remarks, Kashuv admits in his letter that the only reason his circle of friends used the forbidden term was for its "shock value." This notion of shock value is an overlooked aspect that speaks to how the Left has re-engineered American culture over the past several decades. Back in the 1960s, the Left was on the outside looking in — leftists were the anti-Establishment students demonstrating in the streets in defense of freedom of speech. Campus radicals often engaged in transgressive behavior aimed at disrupting the sensibilities of the bourgeoisie.
Fast-forward to the 1980s, and the Left finds itself in the position of the Establishment, whether leftists like to admit it or not. Naturally rebellious youths are consequently forced to adopt conservatism in order to jolt the Establishment. Consider the character of Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox on the '80s sitcom Family Ties. Keaton was a youth who wore a suit and tie and bragged of being a Republican, all for the purpose of making a statement that was out of sync with what his "cool" peers were doing.
And what should we expect youths to do today when they rebel? The Left spent years ensuring that everything under the sun is permissible and tolerated, except for one thing: "intolerance." So "intolerance" is the only logical place remaining for anti-Establishment youths to take refuge.
Alex P. Keaton never had to deal with the phenomenon of "political correctness" and "social justice warriors" that arose during the 1990s and into the new millennium. What was once confined to university campuses metastasized into the wider institutions of society, personalizing everything political and politicizing everything personal. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano admonished us: "if you see something, say something." At the everyday interpersonal level, "woke" individuals began confronting anyone who seemed to "say the wrong thing."
Prior to this Stasi-infused culture, it was easy enough to simply avoid using terms that might detract from appearing to be an educated, professional person. As time went on, however, the list of forbidden activities grew, making the bar harder to clear. At first, you weren't supposed to tell certain jokes. Then you couldn't laugh at those jokes. Now it's reached the point where if you don't file a report on a wayward joke-teller to some official body, then you are deemed "just as guilty." And in this system, you are always guilty until proven innocent. Remembering that the Left is a secularized version of a heretical Protestant sect: the works you perform do not matter — you could be the nicest person to everyone you meet, but all they care about is what they suspect is "in your heart."
The thought police we labor under fancy themselves time-travelers. They unearth comments that were made years prior and expect an "apology" for the content of the remarks in the present. Why didn't anyone who was offended at the time request an apology, though? If no one knew of the remarks until now, it seems a little late to be offended. And said remarks were uttered in a different time, place, and context, so it seems a bit contrived to feign offense.
Retroactively imposing our current standards on the past is always a precarious undertaking. Kashuv's letter to Harvard is interesting on this point as well — he points out that he is not the same man now as he was then. I can believe this, since if you look at a series of pictures of a person taken between the ages of 0 and 25, a tremendous transformation takes place. The human body doesn't stop growing until the age of 25, and it is reasonable to assume that the mind undergoes a similar process. Human identity is a bit more contingent than we'd like to admit — we tell ourselves and others a narrative about how we got from Point A to B and C in our lives, but this continuity is a façade. We are, in reality, a series of different people.
The Left pretends to be open to theories about how identity is "constructed," but when someone violates one of their taboos, they become the most rigid of essentialists. Leftists are known for their faith in the rehabilitation of criminals, even murderers, but a "thought criminal" can never change, no matter what hoops they offer to jump through. There is no "statute of limitations." The Left will neither forgive nor forget Kyle Kashuv until the day he renounces the conservative ideology.
To restore some proportionality and perspective, it is clear that Kyle Kashuv did nothing wrong. He didn't shoot anyone. He didn't steal anything or cause any damage to property. He used some words and ran afoul of a social convention — a construct that has a lot of energy behind it because it affords the Left a certain degree of power — they get to play "gatekeeper" at institutions such as Harvard, for example.
What is to be done, lest we all become Kyle Kashuv? The Left has proven impervious to calls for reason or mercy. They must therefore be made to stop. People used to wonder, after the fall of the Soviet Union, why it was that when the KGB came and knocked on a person's door in the middle of the night that the neighbors didn't intervene to save the person. After all, the citizens vastly outnumbered the KGB. Why didn't the populace, everywhere, simply decide that they'd have enough of the KGB and chase them out whenever they appeared?
We are those same citizens, and it is time to declare that we've had enough of this thought policing. This is not a suggestion of any sort of physical violence — it is tactically wise to let the Left throw the first punch. Rather, we can change the conversation surrounding these sorts of free speech issues. We must ensure that the busybodies and tattlers are viewed with more disdain than the person who broke some Leftist taboo. This nation is in the grip of a "moral panic" akin to the Salem Witch Trials. The only way out is to simply stop aiding and abetting the Thought Police. Harvard can start by admitting Kyle Kashuv per the original plan.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.