It’s not easy being a Republican on a college campus these days. Speak up and the PC police start firing off labels like desperate drunks throw haymakers. These days, the “ists” — sexist, racist, fascist — are the weapons of choice. If those don’t stick, the militants can always roll out those reliable old “phobes” — homophobe, xenophobe, and Islamaphobe — to shut down debate.
Alas, campus feudalism has always been a red flag for insecurity. That was born out last week with the publication of a relatively harmless op-ed in the Harvard Crimson: “In Support of the Immigration Ban.” Reading like an abridged thesis from a public policy journal, the editorial dared to support the supposed indefensible: Donald Trump’s January 27th Executive Order that, among other items, temporarily banned refugees from seven Middle Eastern nations.
“WHY ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF BROWN PEOPLE?”
While the act was ultimately slapped down twice in Federal court, it was an expression of a popularly elected official’s policy. The column, however, reflected little of Trump’s bravado or bruising style. Authored by Alexander Cullen, a third year engineering major from Leverett House, the piece was cautious and logical, acknowledging the tough tradeoffs while laying out the legal precedent to argue his case.
Critics reciprocated with bomb throwing. In a February 22nd Facebook tag, Andy Mayo, a Harvard senior majoring in physics and astrophysics, acknowledged that Cullen was “entitled to his opinion, and good for him expressing it.” Then, Mayo takes a darkly passive aggressive turn. “He just also happens to be wildly wrong and biased too,” he writes. “It’s not because his opinion is conservative, but because it’s xenophobic and islamophobic,” a response that yielded 15 thumbs up.
David Coletti, another Harvard senior who is majoring in history and literature, took Mayo’s sentiments a step further on a Facebook tag to Cullen to crow about his moral superiority. “LOL this has nothing to do with conservatism vs. liberalism. I know plenty of conservatives at Harvard who are smart enough to realize that the rhetoric in Alex’s article is racist, xenophobic, and entitled. Alex, I have a question for you: why are you so afraid of brown people?”
THE IRONY: THE AUTHOR COMES FROM HISPANIC HERITAGE
Harvard’s Satire V, a campus comedy organization, even jumped into the act with a satirical “First Draft” of Cullen’s column, painting him as just another privileged white guy. Here’s a sample:
“The crux of our (my) identity is freedom (for me) (see also slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and oppression)—freedom of religion (for white Christians), speech (especially hate speech), expression (dance, music, morally oblivious and intellectually sloppy think pieces), and ambition (???); freedom that hinges on us blindly trusting the government not to fuck it up for us.”
The “First Draft” was signed “Kevin K. Kullen,” as in KKK. There lies the rub: Cullen hails from Hispanic heritage. “Basically, they were accusing me of being a blatant racist. It was the general thread of their whole mockery,” Cullen tells Poets&Quants. “There’s nothing racist in my opinion or in my article.”
SHOULD MUSLIMS BE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONDEMNING TERRORISM EVERY SINGLE TIME?
Admittedly, Cullen had several peers read through his piece to point out areas that might spark conflict. For critics, the big flash point was a paragraph in which Cullen refuted the compatibility of ideals espoused by radical Islamists with the principles of American democracy. In Cullen’s view, the acts of some have, unfortunately, hindered the prospects for many more who seek refuge from the chaos and social stratification found in many Middle Eastern nations:
“I cannot accept those who behead and crucify Christians, call for a second Holocaust, abuse women horrifically, or treat with great violence those who do not adopt the same beliefs. The bystanders who fail to condemn these practices commit no lesser sin, and neither the actors nor the silent spectators will edify the liberalism that defines our nation—to deny this conclusion signifies either ignorance of atrocity or arrogance in refusing to recognize it. Frustratingly, many of these people seek entry among the innocent, and in these times, due caution is necessary to protect our solid ground of liberty from anyone who fundamentally opposes it.”