The Mob and the American Flag

The Mob and the American Flag

Protesting perceived unfairness has played an important part in American history ever since its fight to overthrow their absentee masters in London. It is easy to say this country had been founded on Protest, even some that became violent. From the Boston Tea Party to the Abolitionist Movement, Americans have always wanted to change some apparent injustice when legal remedies seemed to grind exceedingly slowly.

Though every generation since the 1960s has had something to dispute, the Protest has almost become a rite of passage for millions of young people, whom the late Rush Limbaugh used to say had minds of mush. One of the first such demonstrations was Mario Savio’s Free Speech Protest at Cal-Berkley in 1964. While at Holy Cross I had a lady friend at Annhurst, a Catholic woman’s college in Connecticut. Her class initiated the Great Donut Price Increase Protest in their cafeteria in 1965.

That same year the Cross had a truly-peaceful gathering to protest something they called Retroactive Flunking. One of my fellow seniors had received a grade of C for a philosophy course. And this was in the second year of grade inflation that had permeated college campuses across the country due to the Vietnam War. John Hoban was his name and he protested his low grade to the Jesuit professor who was using a text book, published in 1936. The Irish priest, reputed as the last bastion of Irish-Catholic conservativism, went ahead and changed Hoban’s grade…to an F.

My class was outraged by this apparent injustice and got permission to hold a protest right in front of the Administration Building, caddy-corner to the library. I stood on the library steps, strictly out of curiosity. My guess was that there were about 250 people there, mostly students. I distinctly remember a couple brawny football players, monitoring the demonstration in academic robes. I do not think there were any cameras or elements of news coverage. I especially remember one distinct picket sign, hoisted by one of the very few beat generation members of my class. Jay Helfrick had a rock band. His sign proclaimed: Screaming Jay and his ‘Horrendous Grundunes’ are against retroactive flunking.

After these superficial issues, protesting took on a much more serious position in American culture. The Vietnam War, which by 1968 had grown extremely unpopular, generated several years of fierce and sometimes violent protests that made the streets in many major American cities resemble quasi battle zones.

Since then protesting had become a way of life for many, especially our college students. Another element interjected itself into these college protests. Many protestors had no real affiliation to the schools where they demonstrated. These outliers were often curious, bored or looking for some real purpose in their lives. Some had very strong ideologies, which often conflicted with basic American liberties. Others had more sinister motives.

As protesting intensified over the decades, many such groups made the Protest their chief major means of communication and fund-raising. The Women’s Movement, Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ organizations have almost become a daily staple in our culture. 

I must confess to having been a joiner over the last four decades of my life. In 1986, while in line at a parish social, after Mass one Sunday, I had an epiphany. The fellow behind me in the donut line had a small but interesting lapel pin. It was a pair of tiny feet. I asked him what they were. His answer changed my life forever. These tiny fetal feet, perfectly formed, symbolized God’s creative mastery in human reproduction. I was hooked. Over the ensuing decades I went to conventions, attended lectures and fund-raisers, gave talks and wrote letters to the local paper’s editor. 

I also protested at the abortuary on Forest Park Blvd. Every anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the Archdiocese of St. Louis had a Mass and March to the slaughter house. It was all fairly monitored by the local police. We also had our moderators carefully overseeing our peaceful prayerful march. Of all such demonstrations, I seriously doubt that anyone was more orderly than our prolife advocates. My late wife and I joined an estimated 250,000 of our closest friends in the nation’s Capital to protest the 35th anniversary of the aforementioned court decision in 2008.

All this is a preamble to the demonstrations that are rocking the stability of higher education today in this country and even around the world. The catalyst to the rise of these disturbances was the massacre of 1200, mostly Jewish people on October 7th of last year. This is not to mention the scores of hostages who are still prisoners in Gaza. The attackers were members of the Hamas, a radical group dedicated to the extermination of all the Jews in the world, especially the nation of Israel.

These protests have suddenly broken out all over academia, especially among the Ivies, like a series of unmitigated wildfires. Serious demonstrations stretched the map from New York City and Georgia’s prestigious Emory University and the highly popular University of Georgia onto the University of Texas in Austin  and to UCLA in California. 

Mobs of students, some faculty and apparently several outsiders have made the classroom and quadrangles the center of many of these demonstrations. Their numbers and seemingly lack of knowing or understanding what they were fighting for characterize them as a mob without a brain. However their similarities to a singular cause, imply some sort of a radical puppet master who is pulling their strings. Members of a Wall Street Journal panel on Fox News agreed that the FBI knows who these outsider groups are. 

Several Jewish students and faculty members have been regularly denied their God-given right to pursue their academic goals. It was an affront to everything these schools purport to stand for. Pro-Israel groups also joined the fray, though they were often shouted down by chants of Death to Israel, From the River to the Sea and Death to America. It was as if some foreign enemy had suddenly appeared on the shores of our major colleges and universities and called for our destruction. As Peggy Noonan opined in the WSJ early in these disruptions, our universities have gone from being centers of excellence to institutions pushing political agendas.

Student arrogance and petulance colored the demonstrations with demands that the universities divest from investing in Israeli companies, to the ridiculously solipsistic demands for morning after pills. What’s next, TVs where they can watch cartoons?

In many states, courageous governors, mayors and university leaders have called for police to remove the student villages of similarly-looking tents from their respective schools. When the Palestinian flag was raised at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, several fraternity students at the university, returned Old Glory to its proper place. LA police distinguished themselves by forcefully tearing down barriers and removing the student habitats that made education virtually impossible. Many students were arrested and most threatened with suspensions and even expulsions, not to mention possible jail time.

According to one source, their organized protests started the day after Hamas’ bloody attack. Since then activists at anti-Israeli rallies have continued to justify and celebrate their slaughter of the Jews. The ideology behind this is the Neo-Marxist concept that the Israelis have colonized the Palestinians, most of whom continue to rely on Hamas as their leaders. Many of these colleges have now become breeding grounds for antisemitism and anti-Americanism.

Not all schools have joined in this world-wide protest against Israel. In actuality the campuses embroiled in these demonstrations and grabbing all the headlines are a small minority of schools. I have not heard or read about one Catholic school of higher education that has joined the foray and this includes even the 27 Jesuit colleges and universities.

These untimely demonstrations have serious political ramifications. Over 80% of the American people favor the Israeli fight for survival. For the first time in recent history, there is a bi-partisan agreement on something. Consequently the student demonstrations against Israel have split the Democratic party. Unfortunately, President Biden has been following the marching orders of the Democratic left, led by Bernie Saunders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who show a deep animosity toward Israel.

According to WSJ columnist, Kimberly Strassel, evidence is amounting that campuses have been targeted by professional mob agitators who sense White House weaknesses and are already gearing up to descend on the Democrats National Convention in August. This raises a specter for those of us who witnessed the chaos and violence that surrounded a previous Democratic National Convention in 1968. In all likelihood it cost the party and Hubert Humphrey the presidency. Biden could be the second presidential candidate to fall to the violence of the mob in Chicago. 

Strassel also wrote that these demonstrations are a great problem for President Biden who has an unfailing ability to make a bad situation worse (and who) is doing it again with campus upheavals, potentially elevating the issue into an intraparty war and a re-election threat. Biden waited several weeks before he ever addressed the issue. And when he did, he fumbled the ball by creating a false sense of moral equivalency between the growing anti-Israel sentiment and the canard of Islamophobia. He was later forced to walk back his first statements. 

As Strassel says, his tiptoeing is costing him the support of millions of Americans who are already disgusted by the wokeism of higher education, soaring tuition bills, and Mr. Biden’s student loan gifts. Now they see many of their family members being cheated out of an education, just as the shutdown of the country had done four years ago. This just might have created too many difficulties for the president to overcome.

Former President Trump’s newly acquired political instincts caused him to wisely back off this issue and support the majority. In all likelihood President Biden will own the upcoming chaos that will make this a rocking summer. Hopefully Chicago will not suffer another Great Fire, like the one in 1871, but insure a Republican victory in November. Then just maybe, the country can return to a real order, the normalcy of the past and a traditional hope for the future. 

Like all progressives throughout the world, Biden and the Democratic Party call for a cease fire. Some call for a Palestinian state. These are truly irrational ideas, given Hamas’ track record. No one demands that the Palestinians reject Hamas and its plans for Jewish genocide. As Lance Morrow opines in his essay for the WSJ, The Grim Arithmetic of a Just War, Hamas plays by Hamas Rules. The demonstrators do not tell us how Israel should respond when assaulted… if Israel had any decency it would cease to exist. No one with a moral sense, likes the slaughter of Hamas’ human shields but as Morrow concludes, a just war, no less than an unjust one, may involve tragic arithmetic

I am starting to believe that these demonstrations will not kill our patriotic spirit and  enthusiastic love of our country. During the first weekend in May, my second family and I drove to Lexington, for the graduation of a granddaughter from the University of Kentucky Graduate School. The ceremony was without incident and emanated an aura of love of country and its traditions. The military veterans were festooned with special honor sashes. 

But what touched me most was the rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, performed by Anazha Santiago. It touched me in such a way that I started visualizing the images, poet Francis Scott Key must have seen during the fight for Fort McHenry during the battle for Baltimore in the War of 1812. In my mind, I could see the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air (that) Gave proof that our flag was still there with such a realism that I felt I had been there with Key. I started thinking with students like those I witnessed that morning, our country will continue to survive all of this turmoil.

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Written by
William Borst