Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Pushing Me Rightwards

Conservative English Major makes some interesting points in his recent blog about the ability of the academy to push moderates further to the right.

I'll provide a little history about myself. I was first able to vote in a presidential election in 1988. I voted for Dukakis. In 1992, I voted for Clinton.

By 1996, I had changed my tune somewhat, and voted for Dole. This was not so much a rightward turn as it was a vote against Clinton. There were simply too many questions about his character, questions of character that were, in my opinion, relevant to his position as POTUS. I was also put off by the poltically motivated reaction of those on the left to questions regarding Clinton's character, particularly among feminists who were forced to turn a blind eye to Clinton's own behavior, though they had come out so strongly against Clarence Thomas only a few years prior. I guess I was beginning to see the double-standard in action.

Being surrounded by the left--I was an adjunct in the Fall of 1996--I was given a front-row seat from which to watch the double-standard in action. This made me start to question pretty much everything that was going on in the humanities, and I began to see the huge disparity between what people preached and what they actually practiced. The department's resident Marxist, for example, lived in a palatial home in an extremely wealthy beach community. The resident feminist--of the Steinem variety--moved from one abusive relationship to another, and seemed to take out her frustration against the men in her life on the dead, 18th century men whom she studied. She also "empowered" herself by occasionally sleeping with students.

This was also about the time that I started noticing the myopia problem. The resident Marxist was a fine reader of texts, but all the readings were essentially the same. That was fine when we were talking about the depiction of the labor movement in William Dean Howells, but didn't always work well with other texts. There was also the little matter of the practice of Marxism in the real world, and the things that were being learned in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Surely, as an intellectual, he would adjust some of his beliefs given the new knowledge that was being obtained? No, he would not. And was it proper of him to teach only one way of looking at literature in introductory courses? Wasn't the beauty of the new paradigm in literary studies supposed to be the multiplicity of meanings that could be found in a text. The imposition of a single reading onto all texts was not what this whole project was supposed to be about.

I had also learned a great deal of theory by this point, and while I had not yet completely abandoned theoretical approaches to literature--the paper I used to get into the Ph.D. program, for example, remains theoretically grounded--I was beginning to see how the penchant of theory for deconstructing the socially constructed fabric of the world around it allowed it to be hoisted on its own petard. Nothing, it seemed to me, was more socially constructed than theory itself. It was a way of looking at the world that had no real basis in common sense--at least the variety that is practiced outside of the academy--but one which the community had agreed to accept as reality. It was also about this time that the Sokal hoax took place, and I could not understand why the basic response to it was to simply ignore it. Serious doubt had been cast upon theory--how could this be ignored? The hoax had been successfully perpetrated.

But, I stray from the rightward push. Sort of. It was this ability to ignore any and all information that didn't fit with theory that started pushing me, not rightward exactly, but away from the left. I began to see the left as more insidious than the right, because right-wing wackos are easily spotted and generally identified as such by the mainstream media. Left-wing wackos are far more clever at hiding the extent of their extremism, and too often get a free pass from the media, because they are seen as being progressive.

Then came the 2000 election. The blinding hatred for Bush I was witness to on campus was enough to make me very cautious about the left. Like the Conservative English Major, I do not agree with all of Mr. Bush's policies; I would actually rather have seen McCain get the Republican nomination. I also do not like Al Gore. Like Clinton, he's just too much of a political animal. I just don't trust him, because I don't think you can really know who he is or what he is about. Today's endorsement of Dean, for example, is problematic, and smacks of political calculation.

At any rate, it was the behavior of my colleagues in the crisis following the election that finally pushed me over the edge. It should be obvious to any observer that both Gore and Bush played the system as best they could in order to claim victory in the election. I personally felt that Gore's methods were a little more underhanded than Bush's, but part of that is my own perception of Gore as having felt like he was entitled to the presidency. Regardless, both men pulled out all the stops in trying to win, as might well be expected.

In academia, however, Bush was an evil bastard who was trying to steal the election from Gore. There was no other way to read it, and nothing that Gore did was questionable in any way. This sort of blindly partisan thinking, and the continued references--even up to today--to a stolen election, Governor (not President) Bush, the Selectident, etc. made it impossible for me to maintain continued respect for the majority of my colleagues as critical thinkers, able to see through the rhetoric of partisanship to a more objective account of the situation.

So, from being a left-leaning moderate, I moved to being a right-leaning moderate. The blind hatred of the left pushed me away.

I am not a right-wing wacko, despite the accusations of others. For example, I support the right of a woman to choose, but I believe that the choice must be made while the fetus is still a conglomeration of cells. (I make exceptions, of course, if the physical health of the mother is endangered). I don't think that a compromise position on abortion should be so hard to hammer out, and I would gladly add say $100-$150 to my yearly tax bill if it guaranteed every woman immediate access to a morning-after pill. I would also happily see someone who murdered a doctor who performed abortions sent to death row. (Yes, I am for capital punishment.)

I also think that the current distribution of wealth is uneven and unfair, though I think that the Green Party's idea of everyone making $30,000 is ridiculous. A brain surgeon should make more than a burger-flipper, but perhaps we could reduce the ratio a bit, so that the brain surgeon is still rewarded for both the importance of the work and the difficulties involved in becoming a brain surgeon, but also so that the burger flipper makes enough money to live on (by which I mean the burger flipper can afford the necessities of life, plus some extras).

Simply put, I abhor extremists. I paraphrase my favorite pop-culture icon: "You've always been one for logic. I'm one for rushing in where angels fear to tread. Reality . . . lies someone in between."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?