Corrupt the Youth

A Call to Educators

This essay does not intend to add to the thousands of think-pieces on Donald Trump's profound unfitness of the Office of the Presidency on the basis of his politics, for it is clear that the subjectivity surrounding the definition of “unfitness” has rendered this line of argumentation useless for those not already convinced of its validity. For 60-odd million Americans, Trump's attitudes do not qualify as unfit, and I will leave it to others to rip the hair from their own scalps as they shout hollowly, but how do you not get it?! The disbelief that the other side of the political aisle could possibly believe whatever lunacies they hold true is based on the presumption that one's own core values—whether they inclusivity and fairness on the left, or security and stability on the right—be intuited just as readily in the hearts of their opponents, and it is this incredulity that has led to so many argumentative stalemates among the Public. All of our moral-political decisions stem from these core values, and to assume that everyone shares core values is to have stopped discussion before it has begun. Therefore, I will not argue with either the right or the left, because in the present case it does not matter—this administration has launched an attack on the truth itself, a concept without which "left" and "right," along with most everything else, is mostly meaningless.

To have a discussion at all depends entirely upon a consensus of facts, and the Present Administration has demonstrated itself to be wholly disinterested in this reality that the rest of us must live in. Thus, this essay is a direct call for an energized, principled intelligentsia to simply all say together, “No, this simply will not do.” We have grown so accustomed to a political gridlock of partisan bickering that a great many of us forget that, if we wanted to, we could organize an enormous and unified movement of educators, academics, researchers, scientists, and administrators across the nation who simply refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the present Administration's worldview, because it is not based upon any kind of agreed-upon reality. For regardless of whether our prized moral principle is freedom or security, neither is possible so long as the Chief Executive of these United States patently refuses to acknowledge the objective reality of the Country he's been elected to govern. More insidious still is that he appears to do so deliberately and with tactical precision.

And this is the point at which, as they say, the community of citizen educators needs to head these people off at the pass. It is apparent from his press conferences that he is actively trying to discredit the press; his first interview revealed himself to revel in an “angry world.” Taken in isolation, either would be troubling from the mouth of the President; taken together, and with Trump's sudden and intimate relationship with Steve Bannon, they can only point to one thing: the Present Administration is attempting a fascist takeover of the United States. But he can only succeed if we allow him to continue pushing his own delusional worldview without contention. Therefore we shall state openly to this short-tempered vulgarian that we see him plainly for what he is, and that no amount of bullying at the behest of a braggadocious billionaire is comparable to the unified strength of literally, hundreds of millions of people all over the world—itself a fact which is a mere component of a much larger reality, with which the President and All His Men increasingly find themselves in vicious contention.

This is not an exercise in blithe, passive patriotism. No, this is an exercise in intellectual patriotism, which is the kind I imagine the readers of this essay to find most practicable. You have strength in numbers, the mechanisms of law, and freedom of speech. The Present Administration's words and deeds constitute a direct assault on our profession, our livelihoods, and ourselves. It has demonstrated, beyond any reasonable doubt, that it holds the world of facts, evidence, reasoning, and consensus—which is to say, the real world—in utter contempt. In a word, it has attempted to replace reality with one of its own construction, and indeed, it has appointed a Secretary of Education entirely unqualified for the responsibilities of the Office, yet frighteningly capable of dismantling it. It must be understood that the Administration's attacks on Journalism will extend to a siege of educational institutions, and it will attempt to gaslight an entire generation of students. We, the educated and educators, are the line of defense against this. It is a solemn responsibility, but it is an obligation we understood when we decided that an educated life was one we wished to lead. And now, as our youth stand vulnerable to the glozing lies of a narcissistic psychopath and an aspiring dictator, they will come to us with their questions. And what will we tell them?

If the Present Administration always lies, it is up to some other body to always tell the truth. As journalists find themselves constantly mired in merely reporting its lies, it falls to us to take up the duty, and therefore what we must do is this: Always tell the truth. The truth is what the Administration fears the most, or else it would not so actively seek to destroy it so quickly. And this alarming expediency on their part prompts an equal response, and hopefully an overwhelming response, from those of us whose profession is in service of the Truth. But whereas these amateurish would-be autocrats have positively blitzed through their executive agenda these past few weeks, they have done so carelessly and in defiance of procedural practice, stirring chaos in the White House and deliberately obfuscating what, for lack of a better term, the hell is going on. As the Administration has demonstrated that it clearly an important part of its strategy to obscure the truth at every turn, it falls to us to assert the truth with exceeding vigor with every breath we have—for there are literally millions of us, and we cannot all, or even many, really be stopped, so long as we have First Amendment rights, and that many voices form a mighty wind that will sweep a few billionaires off their feet in time for 2018, and God willing, even sooner.

Teachers — Teach truth. It's far and away the most important thing we can do; and in times when we find the truth under assault from on high, we need to step up our game. Remind students of what it is we're seeing. Emphasize the contradictions between reality and the Administration's lies. Teach that they are lies. It is plain to my eyes that the Administration is attempting to gaslight the populace in the attempt to control what the very truth is; if it is not plain to yours, then you at least can admit that it has set nothing but dangerous examples in how we approach reality itself. It is an extraordinary instance, but as children develop into politically active young adults, that they are taught American civics in such a way that shows the Present Administration to be contradictory to the very idea of it. We know that he is opposed to it because he lies to us about it, and he lies constantly. Students of an age to be politically curious or to begin the study of civics must understand this—that the Present Administration is precisely what our Founders feared when they so meticulously crafted the Constitution in such a way that, should such a tyrant ever take the Office of the Presidency, he would be either A) unable to govern, or B) removed from office. But the caveat was this: the Founder's provided only the mechanisms for the peaceful removal of tyrannical politicians; the exercise of those mechanisms depends entirely upon the action of the people to exercise them. Teachers, this is our role in this fight; for the Administration needs to implement its own reality to succeed, and we must prevent this from happening until he no longer holds office. Normalize the idiocy and absurdity of the President, and do so fearlessly.

Administrators — For the love of God, please protect your people. Your faculty is your institution. Many of them tolerate modest pay and excessive work because they give a damn, and you need them. In these next few years, however, I implore you not to be irked by the rogue faculty voices forever unsatisfied, and remember that most of us are firmly united in just this one request: Please keep us safe. Beyond our physical safety, we need assurance of your legal protection as well. Rumors of “professor watchlists” and a the appointment of a laughably ill-advised Education Secretary highlight the very real dangers, physical and proprietary, that your faculty will face during these few years. Do not be surprised when the Administration targets us directly—unless, of course, you find yourselves in the crosshairs as well. I've been in your position—I understand how difficult a position it is to be in, dealing with incessant budget cuts, hostile legislatures, disgruntled faculty, and an ever-evaporating stream of money for which you'll be scorned no matter how you choose to apply it. I understand that you have to play ball to an extent. But I also understand—and you should too—that this man wants to see our institutions dismantled and ourselves overlooked. Anything he offers us or demands of us is only to set the stage for our removal. Consider this in every decision you make in the next few years, because our lives do depend on it.

And finally, students — Do what you do best, and stir up trouble. You may have come to believe that, because of your age or naiveté, that adults don't really take you seriously. This simply untrue. The truth is that the adults take you tremendously seriously when they have to. In many ways the University does have final say over your fate because the registrar controls your transcripts and degrees; but power cuts both ways, and if all of you were to take to the quad and demand, NO MORE BULLSHIT, and you did it every day, and the University couldn't function that day because of it, it would not be long before the administration took you seriously. And before anyone dismisses you as a bunch of wishy-washy no-good rabble rousers without a clear objective or any actionable demand, you say firmly and in one voice, No, we do have a DEMAND: That this institution adopt an openly anti-fascist curriculum in PROUD opposition to the Present Administration, and, at the very least, PROTECT its faculty and staff, to the very fullest extent possible under the law, for choosing to teach AMERICANISM in American colleges, schools, and universities, public and private. I know a lot of you reading this are college students, and many of you are on fire to make a difference but don't know how. I've spent my entire career in colleges and universities, in every capacity you can imagine, and I will tell you this: This is how. You have this power, for the administration depends upon you doing what you're supposed to do, day-to-day-to-day. But if you do not, and you do so in sufficient numbers, you will force the administration's hand, for a publicly dysfunctional university draws the ire of concerned parents paying tuition and fees in return for quality education, and this is not a beneficial arrangement for anyone involved.

The fight for our nation's very soul will ripple throughout all our lives, livelihoods, families, and communities. There will be enormous pressure to cave—but only at first. For pressure is exerted by the majority body, and as we continue to do our duty, and as he continues to do his worse, public opinion increasingly swings to our side. Moreover, we may take some delight in his remarkably thin skin and childishness of temper with some reassurance, for his has shown that he has no problem letting his volatility take precedence over functionality of government; we should cultivate this dysfunction, for he will soon lose his ability to govern the more we succeed, and Congress and its constituency will soon take notice. 2018 is not so far off; the more blame is directed at the Present Administration and its acquiescent Congress; the fewer will survive the impending elections, should he not find himself impeached in the meantime.

To oppose an autocrat has never been shameful in the United States; to acquiesce to one is to be forgotten. Millions and millions marched worldwide following the inauguration to show the Present Administration that this aggression will not stand. We know this—we intuit this—because we were taught American values as a way of living. This is what never knew we'd have to face in our lifetimes but what we heard about so often in history class: tyranny of government and the basic freedoms and liberties of the People called into question. They have been so instilled within us that we have never had to consider life without them, nor the risk of losing them, and that has made us less vigilant. Nevertheless; freedom, liberty, and equality, however erroneously practiced, have endured throughout; every now and again in our history, a generation is called upon to defend them once again. For we must recall that America is a process; nothing is granted, and the road we take is chosen by all of us, in however small a role we feel we play. And it is worth reminding us that the last line of our “Star Spangled Banner,” so often sung with passive inattentiveness yet declarative certitude, is in fact, a question, and one that seems to present itself again: “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O'er the land of the free and home of the brave?”

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Corrupt the Youth