I applaud my colleague Donald P. Moynihan’s critiques of the legislative interventions with university courses that have emerged in recent times. A critical aspect of academic freedom is the freedom of faculty and departments to choose what and how to teach. But he is wrong to play down the suffocating effects of identity politics activists and the forces of so-called political correctness.
Recently, activists disrupted—without sanction—a conservative speaker in a public forum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and they have demanded that the administration disallow conservative speakers from appearing on campus.
Dissenting students tell me that they “shut up” in class out of fear of being targeted for harboring inappropriate views. And the evident lack of intellectual diversity fuels legislative disrespect in the first place. The University of Wisconsin is not alone in experiencing these and related problems.
Freedom of thought needs protection from threats left and right.
The rhetoric of rights still performs today the noble, time-honored function of protecting individual life and liberty, a function now perhaps even more necessary than the originators of such rhetoric could have imagined, given the tyrannical possibilities of the modem bureaucratic and technologically competent state. But with the claim of a "right to die," as with so many of the novel rights being asserted in recent years, we face an extension of this rhetoric into areas where it no longer relates to that protective function, and beyond the limited area of life in which rights claims are clearly appropriate and indeed crucial. As a result, we face a number of serious and potentially dangerous distortions in our thought and in our practice. We distort our understanding of rights and weaken their respectability in their proper sphere by allowing them to be invented—without ground in nature or in reason—in response to moral questions that lie outside the limited domain of rights. We distort our understanding of moral deliberation and the moral life by reducing all complicated questions of right and good to questions of individual rights. We subvert the primacy and necessity of prudence by pretending that the assertion of rights will produce the best—and most moral—results. In trying to batter our way through the human condition with the bludgeon of personal rights, we allow ourselves to be deceived about the most fundamental matters: about death and dying, about our unavoidable finitude, and about the sustaining interdependencies of our lives.
Let us, by all means, continue to deliberate about whether and when and why it might make sense for someone to give up on his life, or even actively to choose death. But let us call a halt to all this dangerous thoughtlessness about rights. Let us refuse to talk any longer about a "right to die."
(Leon R. Kass, "Is There a Right to Die?," The Hastings Center Report 23 [January-February 1993]: 34-43, at 43)
Re “The Fight for Health Care Has Begun” (column, Jan. 10): David Leonhardt is correct about the Republicans’ wish to crush the Affordable Care Act. But their likely strategy is one of neglect. They will shout “repeal, repeal” and cause such confusion that some insurance companies will drop out, premiums will rise and patients will be so uncertain about their options that they will not sign up.
The G.O.P. will then say “see, it’s a failure” and offer unworkable travesties like high-risk pools. The Republicans can then move on with their real agenda to privatize Medicare and provide starvation block grants to unravel Medicaid.
Santa Fe, N.M.
The writer is professor emeritus of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.
Note from KBJ: There is no need to "crush" ObamaCare, for it is imploding. It is one of the worst pieces of legislation in the history of this country, and the main reason Donald Trump was elected president. The Republican Party will give people affordable, high-quality health care, and people will have choices. The days of totalitarianism are over.
The editorial board of the Washington Postclaims that Martin Luther King Jr was a conservative. I don't know about that, but I'm fairly sure he wasn't a progressive. He believed in this country's liberal ideals. See here for his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
America's Team suffered a humiliating loss this evening. The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers, 34-31, on a last-second field goal. The football gods must not be happy with the result, because it's storming in North Texas. We're under tornado watch.
Pity the poor Times: it has been two months since Trump won the presidency and your paper is still mired in liberal self-pity.
I for one am sick and tired of your biased one-sided reporting and fake news stories, which appear daily on your front page. Have you forgotten that personal opinions and biases belong on the editorial page?
Since the election, I think The Times is as credible as the National Enquirer.
Bill White, Arleta
Note from KBJ: It took a while, but the American people finally wised up to the fact that the mainstream media are nothing more than propagandists for the Democrat Party.
Sorry, L. L. Bean: I can live with the politics of Linda Bean, a member of the Bean family, but not with Donald Trump’s egregious abuse of his position to endorse your business. Whenever Mr. Trump uses his giant megaphone to support a private company, he guarantees that I’ll never buy from that company again. Maybe that’s one way ordinary citizens can try to school this unprincipled president-elect on presidential behavior and ethics.
KRISTINA K. GROOVER
Note from KBJ: I hope Donald Trump uses his giant megaphone to support the private company that supplies Kristina K. Groover with alcohol. Whatever will she do?