Monday, July 13, 2015

Petty Tyrants

You may recall the frightening - and sickening - abuse of power exercised by Wisconsin prosecutor John Chisolm against supporters of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. We discussed it here. You are also doubtless familiar with the frightening - and sickening - abuse of power exercised by the IRS' Lois Lerner against conservative advocacy groups. Both were attempts to use state power to silence and punish political opponents, attempts which are toxic to a free people but applauded by the progressive left.

Anyway, it turns out that there's a fascinating coincidence connecting these two outrages. Mr. Chisolm's "enabler," a fellow by the name of Kevin Kennedy who heads up something called the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), and Ms Lerner, would you believe it, are long-time BFFs. Hot Air has the story of this remarkable happenstance here.

The left's aversion to freedom of opinion and conscience and the conviction that the way to prevail in a democracy is to squelch opposing voices, impose your views by force, and punish whomever has the temerity to disagree reminded me of the story of a friend who was a Resident Assistant (RA) during his undergrad days at the hyper-progressive University of Wisconsin. Here's his account of what happened:
I was an RA (or as they call it at UW-Madison, "House Fellow") from 2000-2002. I was also a member of the UW-Madison College Republicans and part of the Knights of Columbus. At first I was quite excited when I found out that I got the House Fellow position. The post paid for my university housing, provided a food stipend, and also provided a nice paycheck for an out-of-state undergrad.

One of our principal responsibilities as House Fellows, according to our training (or as I called it the second time around - indoctrination) and official handbook, was to "promote an inclusive community" among the students living in the residence halls. I witnessed the ugly reality of that phrase throughout much of my junior year in 2001.

It turns out an "inclusive community" is exclusively one that supports and promotes a homosexual lifestyle. One afternoon after class I checked my House Fellow mail. Upon walking into the office, I immediately noticed what appeared to be a campaign button in my mailbox. There were actually two buttons - one with a rainbow on it, the other black with a pink triangle on it - both promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) activities and lifestyle.

I was informed by an accompanying letter that I was supposed to display these buttons prominently, either on my person, on my hall door, or on my backpack. I noticed that my immediate supervisor (or "Residence Life Coordinator") was in her office, so I asked her simply "do we have to wear these, are we required to wear these?" She responded no, but that we would have to talk about why at a later time. In her plain view, I put the buttons back in the bag that had at least 25 others in it and walked out of the office.

To make a long story short, that decision quickly made the rest of my year a personal living hell. I eventually filed a discrimination complaint against a female co-worker (who happened to live directly above me in our dorm), citing her private and public displays of making me feel uncomfortable due to my race (Caucasian), gender (male), sexual orientation (heterosexual), religion (Roman Catholic), as well as political affiliation (conservative Republican).

Turns out that she was in the office with my supervisor when I asked about the buttons, and she took offense to my (in)action. Residence hall leaders surprisingly took my complaint seriously enough to hold a series of small, closed door meetings. The meetings got quite uncomfortable, as my co-worker submitted testimony that I later found out she gained by listening through the floor vents of her room. She found instances of my disciplining my own residents to be "disturbing displays of domineering, masculine power."

One incident occurred about 3:30am on a Thursday morning, a couple of my male residents were screaming drunk down the hall after returning from a night on the town. In response I just opened my door and stood there in my boxer shorts and muscle t-shirt. I said nothing, only stood there. They looked at my face and my bed hair, immediately apologized, and went to their room. We spoke the next morning on the incident when I returned from lecture, and they apologized again. I commented in my testimony that I thought it was a sign of "powerful mutual respect" that I had built with my residences. It seems all my co-worker caught was the "powerful" part and took it from there.

That whole year I prayed a lot, and thank God I got through it. There were moments, though, when I actually called home to Pennsylvania fearful that I would lose my job. I kept my mouth shut about the situation around my non-House Fellow friends because most of them lived in the dorms. I could not tell my girlfriend anything, because she, too, lived in the same dorms that I did. My House Fellows, friends I worked with, confided in me that I was right, but they did not feel comfortable sticking their necks out like they thought I was.

The co-worker was politely asked to leave at the end of the year. I got transferred to another building with increased responsibilities, meaning instead of 50 residents the following year I had over 100 and the second largest student/House Fellow ratio on campus. By luck my immediate supervisor was moving to another residence hall location on campus.

I found over the deliberations, however, I had "gained a name" for myself among the residence hall leadership. One administrator in particular later made it his mission to provoke me into a fire-able offense. After letting a trouble-making resident of mine off the hook for "only smoking marijuana," he admonished me for disciplining my residents according to "my conservative beliefs." He informed me that I "should have been doing better things like busting people for drinking" rather than "imposing my values" on my resident.

After informing him that marijuana possession is not just against housing regulations but also federal law, I asked him to explain to me what he meant by "conservative beliefs." Turns out that as an openly-gay activist, he considered conservatives hateful homophobes. I immediately informed him that my own beliefs did not reflect that characteristic, citing John Paul II "condemn the sin, not the sinner." I then went on for the next five minutes outlining my personal worldview, supporting it with the words of such notables as Ronald Reagan, C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, even G.K. Chesterton (although I doubted he ever heard of him).

I noticed that he increasingly blanched throughout, then turned very red in anger. He told me that the meeting was over. I ended the meeting by telling him that I guess I was not what he defined as his average "token conservative."
When I first read my friend's story it occurred to me that if conservatives choose to attend a school like the University of Wisconsin they better either keep their mouth shut or have a parent who's a lawyer. I thought at the time that it was deeply distressing that the very institutions which are supposed to be temples of free speech and independent thinking are actually training grounds for censorship and petty tyranny. I wondered what kind of nation our children will inherit if people like some of those with whom my friend had to deal were ever to ascend in large numbers to positions of political leadership?

Lo and behold, fourteen years later many of them have. You can read about some of the more odious examples at the links.