My employer, the University of New Hampshire, has announced the agenda for its 2009 celebration of Martin Luther King Day, to which they are devoting two full weeks, from January 22 until February 5.
You might guess that, starting a couple days after the inauguration of President Obama, UNH might present a largely celebratory, unifying event, and some mention might be made of the progress made since King's day, exemplified by the election of a president who (as he once put it) "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."
Boy, would you be wrong.
Now, some things remain unchanged: the University will once again sponsor a "Spiritual Celebration" at the local community church, something it would never do for an actual religious holiday. As usual, everything is dripping with sanctimony and tendentious rhetoric about "social, political, and economic justice." And while the events are billed as being in support of "University's goal to cultivate an inclusive learning community of mutual respect and a shared spirit of inquiry," just as in previous years, the sole voices invited to participate are those from the left wing. (More on that in a bit.)
This year's theme is "One in 100: Dismantling a Prison Nation". It springs from the claim that the US has "more than one in every 100 adults confined behind bars." As you can guess from the wording, there's no indication that there just might be some room for sane discussion on the issue. It's the newest cause, there's only one side, and dissent will not be on the agenda. For example, the "Educational Panel" is billed this way:
A_____ D____, while advocating for a shift from punitive to restorative justice in the way our criminal system addresses crime, asks the question, Are Prisons Obsolete? Through productive conversations with a prison warden, a social worker, legal professionals, and academic scholars, audience members will have a chance to examine the social, economic and political implications of answering YES.Fortunately, for the sake of the "learning community", the answer has been worked out ahead of time. It's "YES."
But I've left out the best part. By which I mean: the worst part.
A_____ D____ above is Angela Davis, described on the page as an "UC Berkeley professor and internationally known civil rights activist".
One obvious botch: Davis was at UC Santa Cruz (from which she recently retired) not Berkeley. And the remainder of the description is notable for what it doesn't say. Among the high points, culled from Wikipedia and David Horowitz's Discover the Networks page:
Angela Davis was a doctrinaire big-C Communist for many years, winning the Lenin Prize from East Germany in 1979. She ran with perennial CPUSA candidate Gus Hall for Vice President on the party's ticket in 1980 and 1984. She remained with the Party until 1991 (Horowitz says she was expelled, Wikipedia says she "broke" from the Party); the issue was the USSR coup of "hard liners" against Gorbachev, which the CPUSA supported, and Davis opposed.
But another claim to fame was her appearance on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List in 1970, only the third woman to achieve this honor. She earned her spot having bought the guns used in a hostage-taking at the Marin County courthouse, including the shotgun used to blow a judge's head off. She remained at large for a couple months, but was apprehended in New York. A year and a half later she was acquitted of murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges.
As noted, since then Davis has gravitated to the usual employer of last resort for violence-associated leftists lacking more traditional job skills: in the Bill Ayers/Bernardine Dohrn tradition, higher education welcomed her with open arms. At UCSC since 1991, she brought down a six-figure salary as a professor in the—I swear I am not making this up—"History of Consciousness" Department. (Horowitz claims that historian Page Smith established this program "to demonstrate that the Ph.D. is fraud.") And of course, she continues to rack up $10K-$20K per speaking engagement. (I don't know how much she's getting from UNH.)
Since her Communist days, Davis claims now to favor "democratic socialism". However, she "points to Cuba as an example of a country which successfully addresses social and economic problems." So she probably has a slightly different conception of democracy than what we're used to.
Even more than usual, UNH has chosen hard-left polarization and divisiveness for MLK Day 2009. Davis's personal association with violence and with an ideology that provided death, repression, and privation for those unfortunate enough to come under its control make her an especially lousy choice.
I am disgusted.
The people who made this decision should be ashamed.