Here is an incomplete list of moralists who are upset that students are protesting against certain college speakers, notably including Condoleeza Rice:
“Dear Class of 2014, Thanks for Not Disinviting Me,” by Stephen Carter, at Blooomberg;
“The Commencement Bigots,” by Timothy Egan, in The New York Times;
and “Commencement Speakers Are Dropping Like Flies,” by Andrew Sullivan.
I don’t necessarily endorse all the student protests against all the speakers–for one thing I don’t know enough–, but Rice is a no-brainer. She participated in deceiving America with her nonsense about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and, according to the most recent study, the Iraq War caused 500,000 deaths.
There’s no real accountability for American elites, so at the moment those who think American war criminals should be brought to justice are forced to cheer for tiny symbolic victories that let the criminals know that whatever the powerful may think, ordinary decent people who know their records do not wish to socialize with them or honor them or treat them as gurus with interesting words of wisdom to impart on graduation day. There should be no public embrace of such people. It is the least we can do to honor those who died because of their actions.
But how do our moralists react? With shock and horror at students unwilling to listen to those who “disagree” with them. They should know better than to trivialize the issue this way; Stephen Carter even goes on to say that Obama is guilty of killing civilians in the drone campaign and he also points out that the Clintons were complicit in the runup to the Iraq invasion. But the lack of accountability for the powerful in American life doesn’t seem to bother him. What bothers him is the symbolic rejection of elite authority. He couches it in terms of students listening to those with whom they disagree, but this is nonsense.
Anyone even faintly familiar with the Iraq War knows what the pro-war arguments were. No, this is about authority and knowing your place. Condoleeza Rice has wisdom to dispense–the students should graciously accept what she has to teach. It is only by listening politely to the likes of Condoleeza Rice that they demonstrate their worthiness to take their place among those who matter.