Sunday, January 22, 2023

Guest Post by James F. McGrath, "The Freedom to Be Offended and to Offend..."

FROM The Freedom to Be Offended and to Offend: At the Intersection of Academic Freedom, Art History, Respect, and Religion

"A lot of people have written already about the recent case in which Hamline University decided not to continue to employ an adjunct art history professor, Erika López Prater, after a student took offense at her showing (with due warning in advance) of a Medieval Muslim work of art depicting the prophet Muhammad. Prater is now suing Hamline. Below is my effort to articulate my stance on the matter.

"Inclusivity and respect on the one hand, and freedom of expression/academic freedom on the other, are positive values. Sometimes the pursuit of one of our important values is in tension with another. Then we have to choose which to prioritize. If more institutions would indicate up front what they put first when these values conflict, there would be less shock and less public outcry when they apply their clearly-stated prioritization, even from those who might disagree with their stance.

"Ultimately, for me there are two key concerns. One is that history includes things that some people find offensive. Whether one is dealing with individuals who want to believe that the historical Jesus thought of himself as fully God as per the later creeds, or individuals who want to believe that their nation never committed any atrocities, history presents inconvenient data. To hide that information is to put one’s teaching in the service of an ideologies that educators should not be required to subscribe to or promote.

"Of course, that’s not strictly analogous with the case of Islam and the depiction of Muhammad, since there is nothing in conservative Christianity that constitutes a prohibition of
hearing or seeing something you disagree with. In some streams of Islam, however, there is a prohibition against depicting the Prophet, and some would say that depiction of any living thing is prohibited. I think there’s more to be gained by making analogies with Judaism. Most Jews won’t pronounce the divine name, but they don’t expect others to share that scruple. If you are serving food that isn’t kosher you alert Jews and they abstain or you come to some arrangement for an alternative.

"The particular Muslim student who objected to the art being shown was equivalent to saying “you shouldn’t have served pork even though you announced the menu in advance and offered an alternative, because my religion prohibits me from consuming pork.”

"The student was demanding that no one see the image because of her scruples, in essence, wasn’t she? In a pluralist society you should not be obligated to make an image of Muhammad if you find that objectionable, but neither should you be able to prohibit others from seeing such images if they choose. There isn’t a perfect balance that will make everyone happy, but there is a tried and true approach in the United States that, however imperfect, seems to work better than alternatives........


"What are your thoughts about this? Please feel free to share them!"
--James F. McGrath

Read the rest of this excellent blog article on Professor McGrath's blog:

My comment: Bizarre! What has happened to freedom of speech in the U.S., especially for teachers and professors?! IF a student takes an Art History course, she ought to expect to see some paintings that don't agree with her own life stance. What right does she have to have a professor fired because he showed a painting against her particular view of Islam!?

It's good that I no longer teach! I wouldn't survive in this intolerant, anti-free-speech current time.
This professor is only one of many who have been fired in the last several years because students were "offended" by their professor's instruction.

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Reflections--stopped at an intersection and, again, dealing with horrific lifestances


Starbacked night, coffee-drunk sky,
rows of cars meet
at the red orb,

a lone skateboarder foot
waiting for the flash to sage green,
his board-wheeler a bill of adding
getting a toehold

from the faceless

hidden in their auto glass

when all dreams night
into marred perception


not dumbing, not plumbed down,
not damn-waiving for godot,
no abstract snare

but rather Transcendent inspired;

no theolgoical smart aleck bolt,
no horrific T.U.L.I.P.S.
of poisonous
calvin's sort

no foreordained inscrutables
no despairing dilemmmas
no fated eternal fire

instead that everlasting jolt
of the good, true, and just

--Dan Wilcox

First pub. in poetry magazine,
Clockwise Cat

Thursday, January 5, 2023

'It is the Daftest of Times...

January 2023: "It is the daftest of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of irrationalism, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of beliefism, it is the epoch of incredulity,
it is the season of moral decay,

it is the season of darkness, it is the spring of delusion, it is the winter of despair,

most drown in disinformation before us, most swallow huge lies all around us, we are all going direct to disorder,we are all going to hades on earth...

--in short, the present period of the 21st century is so far like the previous centuries of 'humanUnkind' that all of its noisiest extremists insist on its being promoted..."

Charles Lykins, A Tale of 2 Hyped Nations--America and Russia

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Review of the complex, powerful History of Modern Iran by Abbas Amanat

IRAN: A MODERN HISTORY by Historian Abbas Amanat

A few months back, I had only a superficial modern media-based understanding of Iran.

Based on misinformation from the past, I had thought Iran/Persia had had a great history before modern times. One very different from the current fanatical Islamic dictatorship.

Iran's worst troubles seemed to have come about because of the revolution against the Shah and the U.S. in 1979 and the previous overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran by the U.S. CIA in 1953 which had put the current Shah in power.

But in this deep, biographically detailed, suspenseful, reflective history by the brilliant scholar Abbas Amanat, I quickly learned that these modern events were but a horrific continuation of hundreds of years of immoral and unjust actions by religious and secular Iranian leaders.

And that often Iran has suffered repeated invasions, manipulations, destructions, and slaughters by other nations.

The U.S. overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 was only the latest in hundreds of years of destructive actions by other nations against Iran. By far the worst invasions of foreign powers were the attacks covering several hundred years by the British Empire and Czarist Russia.

Also, tragically, like so many nations in history, Iran's dictatorial leaders often lived in arrogant, self-centered opulence, extravagant glut, and were guilty of vicious actions oppressing the poor illiterate masses, leveling oppressive taxes on farmers, etc.

While outwardly the aristocratic leaders claimed to adhere to Shia Islam, strongly supporting the fanatical mullahs in their persecution and executing of Iranians, the leaders actually lived degenerate, evil lives contrary to what any civilized human would do.

Even dictators who accomplished much that was good for average Iranians were sociopathic in their behaviors. For example after the Great War, Reza Shah came to power (1925-1941), restricted the oppression of Islamic mullahs, modernized the crimial code and economics of the nation.

But he was very paranoid like Stalin of the Soviet Union, cruel, and draconian in his actions to make Iran a modern secular society. One might call him a secular mullah.

HOWEVER, despite these hundreds of years of civil wars, oppressions, persecutions, small movments for justice, compassion, and human rights sometimes managed to arise. One of the most exciting, inspiring movements was the democratic one before the Great War!

IF only modern Iranians could overcome the present oppressive theocracy of the mullahs and begin again plans for a democratic, human-rights based society.

IF you have any interest in the Middle East and its complex history, don't miss this tour de force.

Best history I have read since The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World--1788-1800 by the historian Jay Winik.

from Amazon blurb: "Political history is the driving narrative force, given impetus by Amanat's decades of research and study. He layers the book with discussions of literature, music, and the arts; ideology and religion; economy and society; and cultural identity and heritage."
©2017 Yale University (P)2018 Tantor

In the Light of Goodness, Truth, and Justice,

Dan Wilcox