Now and Then
America’s collegians are not sitting very tall in the saddle these days. To steal from Michael Barone's book title, “Hard America, Soft America,” this bunch is as soft as the Pillsbury Doughboy and has nothing in common with those "Doughboys" of military lore.
The current crop of campus “snowflakes" is calling attention to themselves and their universities by demanding "safe zones” and “trigger warnings” and decrying the "micro-aggressions" of offending speech. This uber level of self-absorption is beyond parody. They are in danger of a collective collapse into the fetal-position. College mental health clinics are getting swamped. Is there an explanation? Perhaps one need look no further than the self-esteem movement.
Well, there is a solution that’s cost-effective and cathartic.
Impose the following requirement on every regent, college administrator, professor, and student applicant:
You must read “Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley. The book centers on the WWII battle for Iwo Jima by the United States Marine Corps. These young men were of the same age-cohort as today’s college students.
They came from typical slices of post-depression America; some urban, some rural; Christian and Jew; white, brown, red, and black; the Marines of Montford Point; old-blood and new-immigrant — the majority "poor" but hopeful. Many lacked indoor plumbing and electrical power; ethno-racial disparities were still evident across the land. Nevertheless, they believed in the promise of America. Most importantly, they accepted, without equivocation, their responsibility to another Marine — even at the risk of death.
One Marine described Iwo Jima as “a fuc— slaughter.” Those were his last words. Seconds later, his decapitated head landed with a thud on his buddy. Iwo Jima was an orgy of rifle fire, grenades, mortars, and artillery. The air was full of rounds, grenade fragments and shrapnel. The combatants fought hand-to-hand with K-Bars, bayonets and entrenching tools. The black sand was covered with arms, legs, and intestines unattached to any torso.
There were no “safe zones.”
There were no “trigger warnings.” Every trigger-pull sent a deadly missile of death in search of a young Marine or his corpsman.
“Micro-aggression”? Iwo Jima exemplified “macro-aggression” writ large. The “lucky” survivors had to live with all of those indelible psychic imprints for the rest of their lives. So, academics and students, get reading “Flags of Our Fathers.” It’ll broaden your perspective, improve your mental health, and it'll make you better people and better citizens. You may not realize it, but you’re living on Easy Street, or, as the Marines would declare, “You’re crappin’ in tall clover.” It’s time to count your blessings.