Over the weekend, we heard from a college-educated, professional woman, who resides in a new McMansion in an upscale suburban community, and drives a very expensive energy-efficient automobile. From all outward signs perfectly sane. The argument she put forward is this: That Kim Jong-il is "only trying to protect his country" and that Donald Trump is "a far greater threat to the world's peace."
This is Trump Derangement Syndrome at its worse. We run into egregious examples of it all the time. For instance, there's a group of social warriors called Action Together Sussex County. This group has been doing a lot of virtue-signaling lately, with calls for "peace & love" and the like. They recently did an "education rally" with two NJEA-backed legislative candidates in which a lot of holier-than-thou language was employed.
Unfortunately... they have a past. And it's a not-too-distant past.
Take April 9, 2017... the Action Together Sussex County Facebook page. Get a load of this "peace & love" routine:
"Got a friend who hates Trump"? WTF!
"...Please email share this link with Democrats and progressives not on Facebook so that they can participate." Participate in what? Hating Trump, that's what.
How's that for spreading the hate?
On June 14, 2017, a United States Congressman was shot down while attending a baseball practice. Action Together Sussex County makes no mention of this act of violent hate on its Facebook page... ever! Why? Is it because the victim is a Republican and the perpetrator a "leftwing activist" (per Wikipedia)?
Where were the vigils, the rallies, the calls for "peace & love" then? Isn't the life of a Republican worth as much as that of a Democrat? Apparently not.
Also shot were a female Capitol Police officer, a Congressional aide, and one other bystander. They too did not earn a mention.
Then there is Action Together Sussex County's support of the Women's March and its silence when the media reported that the Women's March "honored" cop-killer Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur), a terrorist on the FBI's "most-wanted" list.
According to groups like the Women's March (which the NJEA supported, by the way) terrorists like Chesimard -- who murdered a New Jersey State Trooper in cold blood -- "inspire us to keep resisting." Oh do they?
The Women' March organization issued a statement "celebrating" Ms. Chesimard's birthday, praising her as a "revolutionary." Which brings us to the NJEA leadership's statement on the murder of a young protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
To begin with, the purple prose is somewhat embarrassing, particularly as it comes from people claiming to be educators. Remember, this is the organization that consistently uses restrained language when describing the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. While describing September 11th as a "tragic event" the NJEA uses the term "horror" to describe a young man driving his automobile into a crowd of protestors. That is an odd formulation given the relative scales of the two incidents.
We believe that what James Alex Fields did was willful murder and that he should pay for it with his life. On this point, we part company with the NJEA, who oppose the death penalty. They employ hard words. We prefer hard sentences. In this case, the murderer's life. Enough talk.
The NJEA has often been silent in the face of political acts of violence. When they do rouse themselves, it is more often about the ideas expressed than the violence that has become a part of our general political discourse. Often enough, the NJEA's reaction could be misconstrued as itself an incitement to violence. Take its statement on Charlottesville as an example, with its calls to "act boldly" for the cause of "social justice" and to change society. "Act boldly" means what? "Social justice" includes which issues and solutions?
Was James Hodgkinson -- a "leftwing activist," late of Belleville, Illinois -- acting boldly when he sought to shoot some Republican members of Congress in June?
The NJEA's statement is full of such unclear language, open to gross misinterpretation. Again, shocking for educators who should know how to write clearly. We suggest they pick up a copy of The Elements of Style, a classic by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
The statement by the NJEA's leadership never mentions the act of murder -- and instead conflates this act with a tragic aircraft accident that occurred. The NJEA never acknowledges that America is rapidly devolving into a place that no longer understands the idea of a "loyal opposition" -- a place where people can no longer peaceably hold contrary points of view. The NJEA statement does not call for an end to political violence. Instead, the NJEA focuses on the ideas expressed by "neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hatemongers" (Are the Women's March and Action Together included amongst those "hatemongers"?) and on the "symbols" displayed and by "rhetoric reminiscent of Nazi Germany" (As in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, perhaps?).
Is the NJEA statement a call to fight violence with violence... to "act boldly"? You must ask them.
We believe that this is the moment for the NJEA to place aside its inner Che Guevara and dust off and channel its inner Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. We should not fear ideas -- especially the stupid ideas expressed by racists and neo-Nazis. They are too easy to refute and make a mockery of. We should not need to stoop to their level -- to call for censorship or speech bans or other forms of authoritarianism -- to undo their foolish propositions.
Speech must be met squarely with speech. It does no good to force ideas underground. It is far better to lure out foolish ideas, into the sunlight, where they can be tested, argued, and disposed of. Those who do otherwise lack confidence -- or are simply propagandists and scam artists on the make who will use the same violence that they pose to condemn. There is no idea, no argument, that an intelligent, civilized people need fear.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he said, in a somewhat different context, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." Instead of stoking fear, the NJEA's leadership should be pushing the debate forward into the "bright sunlit uplands" of clarity.