Undermining Our Faith
By Ed Kaitz
“What is it then that drives some intellectuals in free countries to hate their native land and wish for its annihilation?”
– Eric Hoffer
I left the campus library at the University of Colorado, Boulder some time after noon. Outside in the library courtyard, I heard something strange and unsettling drifting down from the student union complex just up the hill. It was the raucous roaring of a crowd — similar to the Saturday football games — but with an eerie flavor of something dark and unhinged.
I turned toward the noise and began walking.
I was running late on this particular day. A much-heralded campus exhibit exposing American “racism” overseas during World War II had caught my attention near the library entrance. The exhibit included personal letters from Marines and other combat infantrymen who had used words like “Jap” in their correspondences home. Their letters were openly displayed on a maze-like configuration of walls that trapped the curious onlooker in a sea of “racism.”
Little red flags had been neatly pinned by the event organizers to the offending words in the letters — just in case, I presume, a rushed spectator had no time to read the letters’ entire contents.
The dozens of little red markers had a strange effect on me, however. Instead of thinking “racism” as the progressive literati had intended, I thought of a haunting and terrifying passage in E.B. Sledge’s timeless Pacific War memoir With the Old Breed. Sledge and his fellow Marines were returning to their gun pit late one afternoon during a lull in the brutal fighting on the island of Peleliu in 1944. The men — at this time used to seeing dead and covered Marines lined up on stretchers awaiting removal — passed a low and hastily constructed defilade that contained three new stretchers:
As we moved passed the defilade, my buddy groaned, “Jesus!” I took a quick glance into the depression and recoiled in revulsion and pity at what I saw … [T]hese Marines had been mutilated hideously by the enemy. One man had been decapitated. His head lay on his chest; his hands had been severed from his wrists and also lay on his chest near his chin. In disbelief I stared at the face as I realized that the Japanese had cut off the dead Marine’s penis and stuffed it into his mouth. The corpse next to him had been treated similarly. The third had been butchered, chopped up like a carcass torn by some predatory animal. My emotions solidified into rage and a hatred for the Japanese beyond anything I ever had experienced.
What seems remarkable, however, is that despite these and other battlefield horrors, Sledge managed to preserve an innate sense of decency and humanity during his harrowing ordeals on Peleliu and on Okinawa. On the contrary, it seemed to me rather inhumane for the library exhibit organizers not to grant to these young Marines a certain amount of sympathy for their mostly temporary hatreds. I could conclude then only that the exhibit had been organized for a different purpose: to add yet another insult to those remaining students at the university who still loved their country.
Outside the library, as I walked toward the student union plaza, I passed a beautiful, ivy-covered building on the left. I remember walking down one of its hallways as a young graduate student and standing face-to-face with a giant portrait of Mao Tse-Tung posted in a student lounge. Having lived, worked, and attended college in the Bay Area, I thought about my many Chinese friends and their references to “Dear Leader” as “the great butcher.” When I expressed my revulsion for Mao’s murderous regime to a young, white graduate student sitting in the lounge, he replied, “C’mon, man, he did it for the people.”
The screaming and yelling intensified as I began climbing the stairs to the large, concrete veranda that served as the campus apex for student rallies and other events. When I was halfway up the stairs, a skinny, young black student named Art rushed down past me. Art managed to say “Hey, Mr. Kaitz” before he and his bulging backpack bounced down the path toward the library.
Art sort of fell into my office one day several weeks earlier — his face covered in tears. Some of the other black students had been accusing him of “acting white” and of being a “sellout” for both his enormous backpack and for his paranoia about his grades. I explained to Art at the time that much of his identity would be fashioned by what he worked for and achieved. I told him that working hard for something would develop other good qualities that would serve him well in life. I also told him that the irony of his ordeal was that so many of the early civil rights leaders had sacrificed so much in order to give young black students like him access to the world’s culture in our universities.
But I knew that Art’s accusers were not entirely at fault. I had worked for a couple of years in a writing program for minority students who had been accepted provisionally into the university, as Art had been. Our job as instructors was to help these mostly unprepared students learn how to write the kind of research papers that would improve their performance in their regular classes. The problem, however, was that the faculty consisted mostly of Bill Ayers-type America-haters who had sharpened their destructive spurs during the 1960s.
In other words, instead of teaching the kids how to write properly, the faculty poured most of their passion into unloading their personal grievances and hatreds on the mostly innocent and unsuspecting minority students. Students were encouraged to write just about anything that included a loathing for America, the white “establishment,” American “imperialism,” corporations, and capitalism. They were led to believe that since the university and the country contained a majority “white” population, the country and the university were both institutionally “racist.”
I encouraged the students to write on topics that interested them — like music, history, or sports, for example — but when the classes invariably drifted into politics, I passed out essays by Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele to balance out the discussion. None of the students had even thought it possible that values like self-reliance and entrepreneurship could be defended by black men. Many of the students in the program did, however, drop out of school.
As I reached the top of the stairs, I was met with a blast of red faces and vitriol coming from hundreds of students surrounding a tree in the center of the open square. Something at the center, near the tree, was provoking the crowd’s rage. Using moves I acquired as an all-conference linebacker in high school, I managed to navigate my way through the profanity, flying saliva, and wildly swinging arms that lurched repeatedly at the accused.
As the tense bodies in the center parted before me, I noticed a man in his mid-twenties, handsome and well-built, in jeans and a t-shirt, reading a book out loud. Students were pressed up against him on all sides, with several students screaming directly into his ears inches away.
But the young man, calmly and unfazed, continued reading aloud. I looked down at the book. It was the Bible.
Eric Hoffer observed some years ago that “nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America, and the savage denigration is undoubtedly undermining the faith of the country’s potential defenders.” Says Hoffer:
In a Western democracy the adversary intellectual is not only against his country and against the middle class into which he was born, but he sides with the colored races against the white, with animals against man, and with the wilderness against the sown. Predictably, an adversary intellectual who is a Jew sides with the Arabs against Israel.
Hoffer wondered whether this kind of loathing for “one’s own” is the product of self-hatred. “Hardly so,” he said. Instead, he reasoned that it is a product of an insane kind of vanity:
One who hates what most people love probably savors his uniqueness. He believes that secession from his country, class, race and species bespeaks righteousness and partakes of the heroic. But above all he has an almost insane vanity. … He lusts instead for an apocalyptic denouement that will topple the power structure and give him his chance.
Hoffer makes the fascinating case that FDR’s statist policies were able to work to some degree because the recipients of state aid “saw themselves as victims of the Depression, and felt that once things got back on the rails they would not only be able to help themselves but might eventually be in a position to help others.”
In contrast, during the 1960s and beyond, “there is evidence that too many of the people who were carrying out the civil rights and poverty programs did not wish America well.”
Those in charge, in other words, “were less interested in healing and conciliating the weak than in aggravating their illness and sharpening their grievances.”
By “discomfiting and denigrating, and by rubbing the noses of the majority in dirt,” the present day adversary intellectual, according to Hoffer, “undermines the faith” of democracy’s defenders and prepares the way for a new and terrible kind of regime.”
…That is, only if the faith is completely undermined. Americans of all colors who gather to defend their beautiful Constitution should not be deterred by the faux charges of “racism” or “vitriol” from the Left.
Like the brave young man I saw years ago, Americans need to stand fast. We have something precious to defend.