ELIZABETHTOWN, PA — Even in this progressive age, religious
uncertainties still abound as we approach Holy Season, which begins
with St. Martin’s
Day on January 16 and extends throughout Black History Month. This
was made dramatically clear last week at a college near where I live,
a place that has demoted the ancient Christian holiday that falls on
December 25 and the weeks leading up to it as “holiday season.”
Meanwhile the institution is making every effort to commemorate MLK’s
trials and martyrdom. Considering his stature, the customary one-day
celebration was deemed inadequate, so they are preparing for a weeklong
celebration of their twentieth-century savior. The sacred week will
be devoted to recounting America’s racist past, what remains
to be done to overcome that past, and most importantly, the question
of whether King’s pronouncements can help advance gay and transvestite
When asked to submit lecture proposals, only one faculty member bothered
to respond, but since this wiseacre had the temerity to question King’s
spiritual purity, he was immediately turned down. Still, there’s
no reason to suspect that other faculty members were equally irreverent.
One retired professor wrote to his colleagues that the proposed celebration
did not dwell sufficiently on Southern wickedness. He also said the
college was not doing enough to exalt King, given what this truly heroic
figure had done to raise us out of our bigotry.
The college community was peacefully and reverentially preparing for
January 16 until someone expressed an idea that befouled the worshipers
as if a garbage truck’s contents had been dumped on their heads.
This disruption is equivalent to the controversy over Christ’s
divinity that wracked the early Christian world. The person who set
it off belonged to the college’s venerable Center for Global
Citizenship and was helping to plan an international dinner to be served
for foreign students on the academic liturgical calendar’s holiest
day. In his childlike simplicity he suggested including a large fleshy-centered
fruit called “w————-----n.”
Rather thoughtlessly, the committee was planning a festive menu without
beseeching the approval of their religious superior — the black
female Director of Diversity. Had they acted through the designated
chain of authority, the ensuing controversy would not likely have arisen.
The lower clergy would have known it was acting in a way that ran contrary
to the teachings of the Church of Political Correctness, whose highest
campus official is the diversity-directing minority lady. Similar grave
oversights may have led to Christendom’s split in the sixteenth
century, if one may be allowed to compare the present moment of high
sensitivity to outdated religious superstitions.
The Director of Diversity issued a pronouncement emphatically prohibiting
her flock from serving w----————n on the Feast
of St. Martin. The prelate explained that w————----n
is a “symbol of oppression to all black people,” thus it
would be racist to serve at a college event. To their credit, those
associated with Global Citizenship immediately withdrew their menu
suggestion and have acted contritely ever since. But what sort of benighted
being wouldn’t recognize the gravity of this offense on their
own? They had ignored repeated warnings that a prohibition would be
coming. For months the Director had lamented the fact that the forbidden
fruit was being served on campus. But others chose to ignore these
cries of despair.
Still, it would be nice if the college’s highest ecclesiastical
official spoke conclusively about how far the prohibition extends.
This lady has been all too taciturn in engaging a question of deep
moral and ritual significance. A clergyman who is still vaguely associated
with the now-vanquished Christian religion has appealed to the Office
of Diversity for further clarification. Are we about to see a political
scandal erupt if the fruit were to appear again on campus? The college’s
future may involve a local Watermelongate.
Will students still be permitted to eat w————----n in the dining hall? What about their dorm rooms and while
snacking between classes? Perhaps there will be differing degrees of
prohibition, depending on whether or not one is pursuing the path to
PC perfection. Students might be allowed to munch on the fruit in private,
but for those seeking absolute sensitivity, it will be necessary to
practice total abstinence.
I have picked a middle path. Since I am hopelessly addicted to the
fruit of sin and buy it even during the winter when it has to be imported
from Chile, I could not give up eating it. But I can show verbal restraint
by not mentioning the word designating that green thing with the red
juicy pulp in the middle. That’s the least I can do to exhibit
solidarity with those true believers.
There are other repercussions to be feared. Fights may soon be breaking
out in the dining hall if the dreaded red stuff shows up in a fruit
salad and students are unclear about how to address such a grave situation.
Should they throw the pollutant into the garbage can, or are they supposed
to burn the red, pulpy matter lest they contaminate themselves with
a “racist” substance?
What does a fastidious practitioner of PC do if some of the contaminant
gets on his/her shoes while he/she’s walking near a supermarket?
Is he/she required to destroy the shoes lest they become polluted by
contact with racism? What should I do if I accidentally blurt out the
horrible word at a fruit counter? Is there some penance I’ll
have to peform, such as reciting the “I Have a Dream” speech
fourteen times or attending the College Diversity Committee’s
monthly meeting? Those of us who are not fully sensitized beg for instruction.
The Ornery Observer archives
Copyright © 2011,
by Paul Gottfried. Reprinted with permission. This column first appeared
at Taki's online magazine, TakiMag.com, on December 31, 2011.
Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger professor of Humanities
at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
See a complete
bio and other articles
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