Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2002 / 8 Teves, 5763

Lewis A. Fein

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Morality takes a vacation -- There is a deep silence across America's colleges and universities: the debris of departed students and subdued professors, of crumpled leaflets and wrinkled petitions; Harvard (or any other prestigious but morally blind institution) is on holiday. An intellectual ghost town remains, a place where colored chalk fills the pavement's skin -- a crooked lettering of relativism's slogan and terrorism's motto, "Destroy Amerika and Kill the Jews!"

It is this ignorant refrain - a reflexive catchall to decency's query, "What did you learn in school today?" - that demands morality's review. For the privileged student believes, because he has no reason to deny, tyranny's lie: that George W. Bush is a monster, but Saddam Hussein an exaggerated irrelevancy; that Ariel Sharon is an Israeli Hitler, but Yasser Arafat a benign peacemaker; that murderous terrorism is merely desperation's final plea ("Save us from the Crusaders and the Jews!").

The truth demands something different, a personal tour of intellectualism's own confusion. In this journey exists civilization's climax and humanity's nadir -- the stark realization that, regardless of the scientific achievements wrought by chemists or confirmed through physics, America's intellectual patrons lack the will - morality's nutrients - to temper fire with genuine justice. Instead, academe's architecture (its ivy walls and Gothic spires; its secular tapestries and pagan prophecies) is an important reminder of man's arrogance: the false belief that immortality is a birthright, provided university scientists map enough genes; and that G-d is dead, provided sufficiently powerful telescopes and brilliantly certified astronomers announce His departure.

And in searching for eternal life the university - from its administrators to its professors to its student recipients - makes this life - the life fraught with terror and cursed by evil - not worth society's attention. In looking for the universe's age the university ignores the oldest and most valuable source of wisdom: history. For history teaches the most obvious (yet frequently forgotten) lesson, that evil exists; and no force can appease it.

Evil exists because humanity is weak. Evil exists precisely because - though man enjoys sight, thought and action - courage is not a natural instinct. Courage is the minority's gift -- the ability to stand between targeted rifles and fleeing peoples, and say, "You may take my life, but you cannot imprison my soul. Burn my words and deny my existence, but try - for you will always fail - to erase freedom's memory."

But courage is not the university's lifeblood, the reason Harvard flourishes or Yale prospers. In fact, courage is a direct threat to the university's very existence. Courage reminds the university president, safely sequestered in his paneled office or furnished palace, that the students clamoring for Israel's destruction or America's bombardment are cowards. These cowards walk stridently past the campus library, too busy for facts and too hostile toward knowledge. Their source of study is without record, but real nonetheless: these fools all hold the same degree with highest honors, the discipline known as "Believe It or Not!"

Today, America's colleges and universities regularly graduate a series of intellectual slaves and moral cowards. These students surrender before every ism - communism, socialism, anti-Semitism - except one: patriotism. For patriotism reminds these people that freedom has its price, one beyond the economist's calculations or the philosopher's formulations. This freedom is real; it is bravery's reward.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, Lewis A. Fein