At the time, I didn’t know it, but my first contact with the war on Western civilization came in the fall of 1979, some 43 years ago.
In my curriculum, one of the freshman courses required was Western Civ., a class that high school, colleges and universities today have either abandoned or completely inverted. Being one of those low level, highly populated courses that professors despised, mine was taught by a black graduate student, an immigrant from the Caribbean (I can’t remember where – might have been Jamaica). He was a radical for sure, with a Howard Zinn view of America. Little did I know it, but in 1979 the activism created by Derrick Bell and Kimberlé Crenshaw was just beginning to filter outside the havens of Harvard and UC Berkeley.
I had no idea what Critical Race Theory was, but it most certainly had made it down to Starkville, Mississippi in the form of a graduate student teaching a three-hour Western Civilization course at Mississippi State University.
Being a 19-year-old freshman (I worked a year before getting serious about college), I was not at all sensitive to the war that was beginning – but I do recall remarking to my girlfriend at the time (my wife of 41 years this August) about how much this guy really seemed to hate America. Even then it seemed odd that he had a teaching gig, was studying at a good university but all he wanted to talk about were the oppression and repression of Western culture and Western capitalism.
I don’t think I was or am alone. Most of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, when some distance had been put between the War to End All Wars and our prosperity, simply had no questions about the superiority of Western civilization – in the past century or so it had defeated slavery, beaten Germany twice to save the Western world, once under the Kaiser and then again under the atrocities of Nazism, had conquered space, rebuilt Europe, been to the moon, cured diseases, and had ushered in a period of world peace and prosperity of a scale unknown in history.
We did have a few missteps – I mean there were the Chevrolet Vega, the Ford Pinto and the AMC Pacer, so we aren’t entirely clean by any stretch of the imagination.
Maybe it was simple arrogance that Americans ignored the guerilla attacks on our culture. Maybe it was that we just thought Western civilization too strong to ever lose, our relative comfort and unconditional acceptance of the idea that Western civilization was the world’s ticket to even better things is what lured the global left to the attack it. That overconfidence meant the West had a massive flank left uncovered and unprotected.
Nobody was on that line because an attack there was never expected.
When the Nazi Blitzkrieg was faced with the Maginot Line, a set in stone (literally) impenetrable line of defense, instead of bashing their forces against it, they just went around it. 45 days after it began, Nazis were goose stepping down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and drinking champagne in French cafes.
Like the French, we assumed the long way around would prove to be too slow and reinforcements could be marshalled to stop any intrusion.
Well, not so much as it turns out.
The CRTer’s, anti-capitalist anarchists and communists haven’t quite conquered America yet, although they are nearing Paris (metaphorically), but their “going around” strategy is certainly working. Rather than attacking American institutions and the Constitution directly, they waged an insurgency, taking their lead directly from Antonio Gramsci’s “slow march through the institutions” thinking (although Gramsci never actually said those words, it was Alfred Willi Rudolf “Rudi” Dutschke, a radical West German sociologist and communist activist).
Over the years, teaching of Western Civ (when it was taught at all) was replaced with a pedagogy of hatred of the West, one that solely focused on the negatives, and when the demand exceeded the supply of negatives, extra negatives were invented.
For sure, debate with the left is virtually impossible and we are pushing back against a wall of resistance that has been building for decades, but we can flood the zone with counterarguments and objective, factual information. I still believe there is a significant percentage of people on the left who are persuadable, but they will never be swayed directly, they must find it for themselves.
Going around the left’s Maginot Line will work the same way it worked against us.d