As the news of last Friday's fit of pantywaist pique at Baylor spread throughout the blogosphere this weekend, I started reading the following often enough that it began to alarm me:
You see now why conservative academics keep their heads down? Blog anonymously? Bite their tongues? They're afraid they'll end up like Francis Beckwith.
I sympathize with this position. I agreed with the precept when "Michael Simpson" joined our stable. I understand. I have done the same. But now we must consider, soberly and carefully, whether we can continue like this.
The rebel slaves of Rome did not really stand up one by one and shout "I am Spartacus!" The Danish King Christian X did not really don a yellow star and declare "We are all Jews now." But these mythic vignettes hold our imagination and inspire us because they encapsulate something true. The slave army really did stand with Spartacus, to their deaths. The Danes really did defy the Germans and save almost all the Danish Jews from the camps.
Wouldn't it be something if fifty years from now, someone wrote to snopes.com, asking if it were really true that in 2006, hundreds of professors and researchers opened their office windows and bellowed down into the quad below, I am Francis Beckwith! We are all Francis Beckwith now! And kept shouting until the whited sepulchures of the ivory towers shook and fell, and the sunlight streamed in through the cracks.
All this is easy for me to say. I left the university twenty years ago. I risk no personal or professional loss; I'm offering to hold the coat while someone else has the fistfight. Do not construe this as criticism of anyone whose prudential decision is to keep quiet, for it's not. It's criticism of those who deny that conservative ideas are kept out of our institutions of the mind, in the face of evidence that just piles higher and higher.