I told her, laughing, that they're welcome any time. And they are.
But today I received an email informing me that one of the professional organizations I belong to as a sociologist has recently signed a statement being circulated by the American Sociological Association. The statement was written in support of Frances Fox Piven, a well known Ph.D., social scientist, author and professor whose work related to poverty and inequality has been some of the most highly regarded in the world for decades now. No one -- and let me underscore this statement -- no one who is committed to rigorous research in the interest of understanding how our society works (rather than just accepting whatever those in power want believed) doubts the truthfulness of her writings.
But Glen Beck (the racist media mogul whose idea of rigorous research is apparently whatever hairbrained analysis he can suck out of his thumb and sell to those who drink his kool-aid) has decided Piven is "one of the most dangerous people in the world". Beck is so malicious toward this "dangerous" 78-year-old woman, he has whipped up a froth of panic sufficient to bring out the crazies he knows perfectly well he can direct to attack her.
The ASA statement reads in part:
"Over the past several months, Professor Piven has received a flood of hate mail and menacing internet postings, including death threats. The Center for Constitutional Rights has identified many of the violent posts by commentators in Mr. Beck’s website, including the following: 'I am all for violence and change Frances: Where do your loved ones live?' The rhetoric has become sufficiently overheated that the potential for physical violence is real."
And why has this happened? Because (according to the New York Times) Glen Beck told his listeners that, in 1966, Piven "created a plan to intentionally collapse our economic system." I'd bet a month's pay that the folks who think Glen Beck is a "smart cookie" don't read non-fiction reports on academic research, even and maybe especially when it's about their own country -- something I'm sure he counts on. But I've read Piven's work and never saw anything approaching Beck's accusation.
So I'm confused.
Who is this Glen Beck character that so many people in the United States get their marching orders from? And who are these lemmings who will jump off whichever cliff he points them toward? Do my student's parents listen to Beck, swallowing hook, line and sinker anything he pukes over the airwaves? And do they genuinely want their daughter to go to college, but not to learn anything?
The very first day of each new course I teach I make it a point to say that I am unconcerned with whether or not my students agree with what I say. It doesn't bother me if they don't feel warm and fuzzy. And I'm not in the business of creating robots. I'm in the business of creating thinkers.
I realize this makes me "dangerous," from Glen Beck's perspective, if I don't miss my guess by much. I suspect strongly that Beck worries about people who think. And for good reason. He's built a $32 million per year kingdom on the backs of folks who don't question those who have the power to define. And just now, that group includes him. Which ought to give the rest of us pause. I mean, what possible type of Power Structure would want Glen Beck for a front man? How in the world has he been allowed to become so widely received while demonstrating every characteristic of a rampant megalomaniac? And what kind of society would foist such a man into the limelight daily, giving him free reign to wreck havoc using troops that would scare witless any ordinary citizen?
Do I have to fear my student's parents? And if so, why? Have we lost our communal minds? Is there no one left to speak a quiet word of caution? Are we to escalate this torture machine until it spins out of control and jumps the track, taking us all with it?
I'm sure my student's parents believe whatever it is they believe. And they have taught her to believe it as well, since she claims to have been "a Republican and a Catholic all her life," long before, it would seem, she could possibly have come to any conclusions of her own. I assume also that my student's parents cannot imagine that they could be wrong. I mean, what kind of parents would teach their child things they know are wrong or things they're so afraid might be wrong that they absolutely freak out in the face of her examining them?
But I don't teach my opinions. I teach facts.
For example, the United States government is in hock to Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan to the tune of about half of the U.S. treasury. It's not my opinion. It's a matter of public record, for goodness' sake. But who in their right mind would put a society anybody expected to survive in such a predicament? Who would mortgage the future of all the citizens of a country for generations to come and then give the money to Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BlackWater Worldwide to kill people who hadn't attacked them? And what possible good conclusion could come from such a scenario?
The question is: if my student's parents don't know this and don't want to know this, why is that? And even if they don't know it or want to know it, why is it that they don't want their daughter to know it? And even if they don't want their daughter to know it, what if she wants to know it anyway? What if she wants to participate in policy decision-making as a knowledgeable citizen of her country? Is that something they would forbid? And if so, how far would they be willing to push that?
What if my student's parents think Glen Beck is right, that people like Frances Fox Piven -- and me -- are "dangerous"? And what if their daughter learned that Beck et al are wrong? Would they listen to Beck telling them she had become "dangerous," too? Would they be unaffected if some crazy loner type shot her in the face while she -- as an elected official or a professor or any other position she had achieved -- was going about the business of being useful to her fellow citizens?
Or is that why they're so afraid of her learning something they didn't teach her and may not know? Are they afraid of the Glen Becks of the world and trying to fly under the radar to keep themselves -- and their loved ones -- safe? Don't they know there's no safety for anyone once the dogs of war have been unleashed? And make no mistake about it, Glen Beck is the Godfather holding the leashes of the dogs of war that threaten the American citizenry. He has been charged with the responsibility to help destroy -- one way or the other -- what's left of this country's potential as a stable functioning entity. And the trillion dollar deficit question is: is he -- or somebody just like him -- going to be allowed to do it?