Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why Don't They Have a Trigger Warning for That?

Journal, September 9, 2015

I've been going through college orientation for a couple of days now, and something just happened that makes me feel uneasy. They gave us a list of reading material to help us get up to speed, and it included an article by a writer named Marilynne Robinson, whom I had never heard of. I think it was supposed to make us feel as if someone was addressing the issue of fear in America, or maybe even fear on campus, but I found it unsettling. My parents are secular Jews who moved from Russia to the U.S.A. before I was born. Both work in biotechnology and are atheists. When I was growing up, before we moved to New York, my father privately made fun of the outspoken Christians in the town where we lived in South Carolina. He used to read us quotes from books by Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. We were taught that Christian fundamentalists are a pretty scary bunch of people who deny the validity of science.

According to the article, this is a Christian country, which is news to me. What happened to separation of church and state? The author also claims to be some kind of American patriot, which I know is pretty stupid without anyone explaining it to me. In an ideal world there would be no countries or religion, and college freshmen like me wouldn't have to worry about being brainwashed by Holy Rollers or anyone else. Another thing that gets me about the article is that Ms. Robinson seems to think that she can heal the country by making contemporary Americans more like the ignorant peasants who swarmed here from across the globe to escape persecution, among other reasons, and who boosted their morale by believing in fairy tales. The Calvinist fiction that she prefers isn't much better than any other if you ask me, though she thinks the Calvinists were less violent than modern Americans.

I attempted to discuss the article with some of my fellow freshmen, but they didn't have much to say. Maybe they're just trying to fit in and don't want to seem opinionated. This is disappointing to find at an exclusive college. Even though Ms. Robinson's article reads like a rant, I respect her right to say what she thinks. It is just disconcerting that a rather poorly-argued position could pass muster with students who are supposed to be intelligent. If no one ever speaks up, any environment can become ripe for thought control. In my family we used to debate different topics, and nothing got swept under the rug. I am beginning to think that my classmates may have been groomed for conformity.

Some other articles that I've read recently say that there may be a lot of things going on here on campus that might make me feel unsafe. Some guy might try to get me drunk and rape me - though I wouldn't let him. Someone might offend my sensibilities as a persecuted minority - though I don't care about Judaism. No, my real fear is that I'm going to have to spend my next four years pretending that fantasist evangelists like Marilynne Robinson are serious thinkers even as they spout nonsense that I outgrew when I was twelve. Why don't they have a trigger warning for that?

Ariadne Zinger

6 comments:

  1. Marilynne Robinson, huh? God help us (and in the spirit of helping myself, I refrained from clicking on the link).

    John

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    1. The essay resembles a church sermon and does not belong in a learned publication. This is further evidence that the NYRB is not to be taken seriously. Ironically, the New Yorker is currently running an article by Lawrence Krauss entitled "All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists."

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  2. Well, I won't be reading that one either, since, staunch unbeliever though I may be, I have little use for militants. Of any stripe.

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    1. I don't generally read the militant atheists because I don't need convincing. They are often perceived as ham-fisted. Robinson, on the other hand, seems completely out of touch with reality. What is the likelihood that Americans will suddenly recast their belief systems and emerge as thoughtful Christian pacifists?

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  3. This article by the young lady basically says what you have been saying for the long, last while. If anything I take solace there are some young ppl bright enough to recognize and willing to say the emperor has no clothes or whatever an apt metaphor may be.

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    1. The reason she sounds like me is that she IS me. Occasionally I find it convenient to express myself using a fictional voice. There probably are people like her on campuses, but I never hear about them - so I made her up! Whenever I use the "Fiction" label that means it's really fiction and I made it up.

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