A lesson in class

April 22, 2018

When former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away this past Tuesday she left Rosalyn Carter as the last surviving member of a generation of First Ladies that bridged the gap between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

Born in the mid1920’s their childhood was an America caught in the grips of the Great Depression and their teenage years spent under the cloud of World War II.

While their backgrounds are different, Barbara growing up in suburban Rye, New York as the daughter of the man who would become the CEO of the McCall Corporation, Rosalynn in Plains, Georgia, the first child of a farmer and auto mechanic, both were born into a male dominated world.

As was the societal norm of their time, both married rather than pursue professional careers. But as history shows they were anything but silent and the contributions they made to this nation, Barbara with here dedication to literacy, Rosalynn an advocate for mental health, will live on for generations.

Both, the epitomes of the grace and class that represents the very best of the best that America has to offer.

Sadly, the death of Barbara has revealed the worst that dwells among us. And I hope and pray that upon the news one day of the passing of Mrs. Carter the political right of this nation refuses to sink to the level of today’s political left.

The day before Mrs. Bush’s passing, a person I refuse to elevate by printing her name, tweeted a GIF of a skeleton dancing on a grave with the caption “me visiting barbara bush’s gravef when she dies” and followed it up the next day with a “ding dong the witch is dead”.

Not to be outdone, tenured professor at Fresno State University in California, Randa Jarrar proudly stated “ Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F**k outta here with your nice words” and “All the hate I’m getting ALMOST made me forget how happy I am that George W Bush is really sad right now”

Jarrar even went so far as to brag that she is a tenured professor making $100,000 a year and would “never be fired” and “If you’d like to know what it’s like to be an Arab American Muslim American woman with some clout online expressing an opinion, look at the racists going crazy in my mentions right now.”

Fresno State president Joseph Castro played the part of today’s all to typical spineless academic administrator perfectly. On Wednesday he told the Fresno Bee Jarrar went “beyond free speech. This was disrespectful.” and that “A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish,” he said. “We are all held accountable for our actions.”.

Yet on the very next day followed that up with a statement that included: “academic freedom is at the core of our University, something we promote and practice every day in our teaching, research and public service. I am a fervent supporter of academic freedom and its underlying principles, as defined by the First Amendment. This is the essence of our democracy.

“I recognize that in the exercise of free speech rights, individuals may present personal opinions in a provocative manner, and I also value the First Amendment rights of individuals, even when others may find the speech unpleasant and inappropriate.”

If there was ever a case for the elimination of the archaic concept of tenure, Jarrar and Castro are it. Her for her blatant hate, him for his cowardice in confronting it.

The full set of tweets that Jarrar spewed Tuesday was even worse than the snippets included in this column. To throw the protective cloak of “academic freedom” over them is a disgrace to every thinking person on this planet.

Year after year brings us story upon story of an academia more devoted to blind adherence to political doctrine than to anything even remotely resembling higher learning. If you’re of the left of the aisle it’s, “welcome to our fold”, while if you dare to be conservative it’s the “need not apply” sign.

What will happen to Professor Jarrar? Probably nothing. And for the record, I’m not one of those shouting for her firing. What I would like to see is something that seems to have all but disappeared from our public discourse: A heartfelt apology.

On the front page of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy website is a “Barbara’s Pearls of Wisdom” quote from the former First Lady:
“The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.“

Whatever professor Jarrar obtains in her professional career, she will never have the one thing Mrs. Bush had: class.

Publisher Note:  A version of this column first appeared in the April 22, 2018 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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