An Open Letter to Professor Aaron Hanlon
Alex Suss | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Professor Hanlon,
I read your article, “Advice for My Conservative Students” (The New York Times, February 16, 2017) with interest and anticipation caused by my belief that taking advice from people who know more and have greater life experiences is a wise course of action. I will start with full disclosure; I must admit that I do consider myself “conservative.” First, to follow Socrates, I know how little I really know to assert my philosophical or political credo with a substantial level of certainty. Second, because the other option, “progressive” was not intellectually attractive to me. Walter Lippmann, described it best, “The collectivists […] have the zest for progress, the sympathy for the poor, the burning sense of wrong, the impulse for great deeds […]. But their science founded on a profound misunderstanding […] and their actions, therefore, are deeply destructive and reactionary.” His words resonate with me deeply. In the ancient and ongoing struggle between Emotions and Reason, I am firmly on the side of Cogito.
To start I must acknowledge that, at Bucknell, where I have taken classes lead by professors from both sides of the political or cultural spectrum, I have not experienced anything but fairness and support as you mentioned in the closing lines of your article.
My second comment concerns your passage, “What I am getting at is that I was never a victim.” I agree with you, I don’t feel that I am a victim. There are much bigger and greater issues at stake where the “victimology industry,” the brainchild of the “progressives,” causes immeasurable damage. Victimization is present in our culture in great many manifestations. It is a tool widely and skillfully used to divide and conquer. Regrettably its emotional power resonates with many. You assert, “You know the world doesn’t love a victim.” I would love to believe that, yet every day I read the papers, books or hear on television a monotone monologue about victims. Concepts like social justice, access to healthcare or education, and immigration are fully loaded with – yes, victims. We have past victims, present victims, victims in the making, and of course future victims. If that is not the case in Maine, I am transferring to Colby!
Furthermore, I agree with your observation that “conservative leaders and icons have largely abandoned traditional conservatism.” So did vast segments of our culture, and most importantly academia. The shift is seismic – you can get a degree in literature from some of the most prestigious universities and never read a word of Shakespeare. For every book written by a conservative there are ten published by authors with opposing views. For every academic with conservative views there are eight who do not. Sowell wrote about it better than most.
Lastly, I wish you would have written advice to a different audience, and I urge you do so. Advice to progressive students is needed more than ever. It is their desire to shut down ideas and words that are “hurtful.” It is their need for “trigger warnings” and “safe harbors” that is antithetical to the very definition of a university student and college should be. How do you discuss Sowell or Noonan if trigger warnings go off? Should conservative students insist on their own warnings when we read Marx, Sartre, or Foucault? Where does negating open dialogue and arresting and stifling free exchange of ideas lead? This is clear and present danger. Those who promote and produce climate of intellectual intolerance would benefit from your advice greatly.