Cross-posted at "The Daily Narrative" (http:http://www.hlgoodall.com)
I am these days frequently shocked and saddened by the lack of support for teachers, for public schools, and for colleges and college professors shown by the right wing of the Republican party, the Tea Party, and its coterie of governors bent on killing public education as we have known it. Readers of my blog posts know that about me.
But today I am unusually distressed and here's why: This week saw the withdrawal of Dr. Timothy Chandler from a Provost's job he had just won at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The cause? A reference to Karl Marx in a published paper he wrote back in 1998. It seems that a local newspaper discharged investigative reporters to the library to dig up what they could find about Dr. Chandler and published a red-hot, red-baiting, no-holes-barred and mostly ridiculous account that claimed that anyone who quoted Marx was a Commie, and did we want that kind of person heading a local university?
I add only that Dr. Chandler is a well-regarded scholar in the field of Sport Science. You know, that field full of leftists bent on indoctrinating youth?
Now I ask you, my friends, if we shouldn't read this particular attack as a sign of our ongoing struggle against the forces of darkness? I ask you also, those of you who teach and publish to consider how well (or poorly) you might fare if the same tactics were applied to your resume or cv? How would it look to anyone on the right that you maybe quoted a liberal? Or a feminist? Or that you support Planned Parenthood or National Public Radio?
From Peter King's McCarthyesque hearings on Muslims to Dr. Chandler's name-calling propaganda launched by the local press, those of us who value an open society and the marketplace of ideas, the freedom to question authority, and the freedom to express our ideas, our values, and our beliefs without fear that who we read or quote from or pray to will be held against us, should be outraged. This is not an idle case of a newspaper gone wild, or a lone Congressman exposing his prejudice.
Political actions such as this one must be viewed as part of a concerted and ongoing effort by conservatives to defund and to disenfranchise the public from education and to partially justify such actions by claiming there is a vast conspiracy of leftists bent on indoctrinating the young. One tactic in this campaign is to discredit the views of liberals or, as in the case of Dr. Chandler, even those who quote Marx.
For the record, I have met and dined with Tim Chandler. He was born in Great Britain and is both a gentleman and a scholar. In our discussions on a wide variety of topics I was never once approached to join a Communist cell, or to participate in a anti-government protest, or to swear my allegiance to any radical cause.
And so what if I had? In America, we guarantee the right of political dissent and freedom of association. We guarantee the right of free speech. Or at least we used to.
* * *
Let me tell you a story. I know this other guy, also a teacher/scholar, who for thirty-plus years has presented to the world the very picture of an even-tempered, both-sides-always-considered, point of view. His students often remark that they can't tell where he stands on issues, even though he teaches courses that are inherently political--The History of War Narratives, for example, which begins with the Iliad and moves to present day wars and uprisings--and he writes scholarly articles and books on these subjects that are regularly published and favorably reviewed.
I know something important about this man that most people don't, unless they get to know him well. Inside this man is a liberal. An old-style liberal. The kind of liberal who takes his philosophical lead from the Enlightenment and his political lead from the Progressives, and because of their contributions to the public good, to fairness and equity, and to equality of opportunity and access, he values the twin engines of reason and science. He is the kind of "muscular liberal" that Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. defined and that Jack Kennedy (mostly) embodied.
He is the kind of liberal who supports labor unions because he recognizes that while some of them may have faults, they are the best defense many working people have against corporate greed, the abuses of bad bosses, and broader issues of malfeasance. And faults can be fixed whereas the only real remedy for greed and malfeasance is legal action.
He is the kind of liberal who believes still in The American Dream as well as the American ability to be generous to those less fortunate and to do good in the world. For this reason he supports spending for education, for housing, and for food. He knows the world can be an unforgiving and dangerous place, so while he is fundamentally opposed to war, he recognizes that sometimes military intervention is necessary. But he also believes that it was not necessary in Iraq, is not necessary or even helpful in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is unlikely to be useful in Libya, or Yemen, or elsewhere in that troubled region.
He is the kind of liberal who pays taxes not to support the lifestyles of the rich and famous or to subsidize the corporate, but instead to promote the public good. So, for example, he thinks public parks and NPR are good things not because they are places he visits or even stations he listens to, but because he recognizes that without them life for millions of Americans would be less rich and less well informed.
The kind of liberal who believes that regulation is in the public interest and that big government can be a very good thing, particularly when it employs people to do the work that daily gets done by teachers, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, and all those bureaucrats and clerks who make sure that roughly 60 million of us get our social security checks and Medicaid checks on time.