A Professor’s Left Illusions
The revelations of a former "progressive."
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/10/Danusha_Goska.jpg)Recently I was contacted by Dr. Danusha Goska – a writer and professor in New Jersey, the author of the novel Save Send Delete, and a former leftist. “I am a teacher,” she introduced herself to me. “I see what my former comrades on the left have done to young minds.” She shared with me her excellent American Thinker articles “Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist,” “Coming Out as Pro-Israel on Facebook,” and “Islam, Postmodernism, and Political Correctness,” which prompted me to ask if she would be willing to share some of her political revelations and thoughts with FrontPage Mag.
Mark Tapson: Professor Goska, you wrote that you decided to leave the left when you decided that, instead of hating, you “wanted to spend time with people building, cultivating, and establishing, something that they loved.” Can you elaborate on that?
Danusha Goska: When I was a grad student, I was stricken with a crippling illness, a vestibular disorder, for which there is little proven treatment. I spent whole days functionally paralyzed and unable to stop vomiting.
My social world then was utterly left-wing: former Peace Corps volunteers, university students and professors, artists and writers. A subset of my left-wing friends repeatedly hammered into me how much they hated America on my behalf. “Oh, I hate America because we don’t have socialized medicine. Oh, I hate America because there’s so much capitalist pollution and that’s probably why you are sick.”
I can’t tell you how freakishly weird these interactions were. I used to want to shout at people: “Why do you think that telling me how much you hate America is helping me? It’s not helping me. Please do something positive. I have an illness that makes me vomit and paralyzes me and I can’t go to the grocery store. I could use some seltzer water. Am I asking too much?”
And they could not do that small thing – bring a friend who can’t stop puking some seltzer water. But they could rage against the Catholic Church for – what – not selling Vatican artwork and funding my surgery.
I am still friends with some of these folks. They are still banging the same drum: how imperialistic America is. How hypocritical Christianity is. How life-destroying capitalism is. They never talk about doing anything positive for anyone because I don’t think they ever do. Their entire political and ethical stance consists of loudly denigrating capitalism, Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Islamic gender apartheid, systematic abortion of female fetuses in China, India’s caste system that reduces over a hundred million human beings to the status of pariah dogs: none of these ever receive a peep of criticism.
It is my unscientific impression that devout Christians and Jews, including secular Jews, are the people most likely to be consciously and regularly doing something concrete, however small, to make the world a better place. I stumbled across a Facebook meme about a 99-year-old Iowa seamstress who creates one dress every day for children in Africa. I immediately thought, “She’s got to be a Christian.” I googled the story and discovered that she sews for a Christian charity.
“If not me, who? If not now, when?” are words that many of my Jewish acquaintances live by, whether they know Rabbi Hillel or not. This includes secular Jews, who, in my own unscientific, subjective experience, are disproportionately represented among those who do concrete things, however small, to make the world a better place.
MT: You mentioned to me that, as a teacher, you see what your former comrades on the left have done to young minds. What have they done?
DG: Two years ago, one of my students said, “I wish we had been taught to feel proud of something. To feel part of something. To love our country and to feel that we were part of some big thing, like they did back during World War Two. I guess that kind of patriotism, of being part of something, is just not popular anymore.”
Mind: I did not steer the conversation this way at all. This yearning was voiced, spontaneously, by my student. And there’s more: this student is a Muslim. This young, Muslim-American student was hungering to be encouraged to esteem her own country, and American teachers denied her that.
Students are taught about America’s failures. That’s a good thing. I’m glad I teach my students about Jim Crow. Context is everything. Two months after graduating from college, my first job was teaching in a remote village in Africa. I discovered that Arabs have an ongoing slave trade in Africa. This one fact rocked my world. I had been led to believe that the Atlantic Slave Trade was the alpha and omega of slavery, and that if only we could wrest control from these inherently oppressive white males we’d be one step closer to Utopia.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.” There is a hole in young people that can be filled only by transcendent ideals. Those ideals should be formed in response to neutral facts, not ideological indoctrination. Vulnerable young minds should be cherished, not exploited as recruits.
I am a teacher, not a minister or counselor. I don’t try to sell students on any one point of view. I do try to introduce them to the tools and methods of inquiry: peer review scholarship, the formation of research questions, the testing of hypotheses, investigating alternative points of view.
There are too many professors who don’t do that. There are too many professors who use the power they have – the power of grades, yes, but also the power of funding, humiliation, intimidation, flattery and inclusion into the in-crowd – to pressure students to adopt a given point of view as the route to success. That point of view is all too often a nihilistic, scorched earth cynicism that, as mentioned above, tears down but builds nothing to replace the targets of its destruction, and that encourages academic elites to assume an unearned status as above the common man.
MT: You’ve written that we must overcome the stultifying effects of political correctness, and that “free speech is the best friend Muslims have.” What do you mean by that?
DG: First, thank you for asking me this. This matter is very urgent and close to my heart. I grew up, and currently live, in Passaic County, New Jersey, which is said to have the second largest Muslim population in the U.S. I grew up with Arabs and with Muslims. I have had Muslim friends, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, and students. I love many Muslims. I feel for them the kind of love you feel for any close friend. When I was a girl, one day a Muslim friend turned to me and said, “When the time for jihad comes, if you don’t accept Islam, I will have to kill you.”
The simple truth is that Islam is different from the other world belief systems: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. None of these includes anything like the call to jihad. Islam does. No, most Muslims are not active jihadis, but a critical mass are, and we cannot predict which Muslim will become an active jihadi. We need free speech about jihad in order to solve the dilemma we all face: peaceful integration of existing Muslim populations into American life, a rational foreign policy, and our own security. We need this free speech from professionals for whom speech is their sharpest tool: journalists, political, military and religious leaders, academics, and creative artists.
Right now we are not hearing free speech. Rather, we hear dogma fashioned to forfend free speech. This dogma is so predictable we could all chant its creed in unison: “Islam means peace. Not all Muslims are terrorists. The Bible contains shocking verses. Christians do bad things.” We recently heard Ben Affleck and Nick Kristof mouthing these Orwellian bromides on the October 3 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. In the absence of the free flow of ideas, the average Joe, who is not as stupid or as docile as the Ben Afflecks and Nick Kristofs of the world think he is, is becoming fearful and concluding that our culture is not addressing jihad. Many average Joes are deciding that they are free agents, and must go it alone. You can see it in internet discussions. People – nice people, average people – are talking about what kind of ammunition they are stockpiling.
What is better for Muslims in the U.S.? A frank conversation about our best response to jihad, or our cultural leaders mouthing bromides that demonize free inquiry, while millions of average people plan to be vigilantes? Can we please have the conversation we need to have about, say radical mosques and how petro-dependency steers public policy before we start shooting innocent people? If Americans felt that they could openly express their fears about jihad and receive honest and informed replies, if they felt that their leaders had their best interests at heart and were addressing radical mosques, petro-dependency and the threat of free agent jihadis, I don’t think as many people would be talking about stockpiling ammo.
I think of one Muslim man I know. He is a mechanic. He interacts with Americans all day long. He is liked and respected by his customers. He’s an older guy who has lived in this country most of his life. He sacrificed much to leave his Muslim-majority homeland and come here to enjoy the fruits of democracy. I think the chances of his ever hurting anyone are near zero. He has expressed to me his hatred and rejection of terrorism. I think this man would be totally open to America having a frank conversation about addressing extremism in our country. But we are afraid to have that conversation. I think my Muslim friend believes more in American ideals like free speech than someone like Ben Affleck. I think the Ben Afflecks of the world fail my Muslim friends.
MT: Tell us about your novel Save, Send, Delete, a debate between a Catholic and an atheist. What’s the philosophical thrust of that debate, and why was it important enough to you to write a book about it?
DG: Save Send Delete is a true story. Several years back I was wrestling with the big, hard questions: Is there a God? Why is there suffering? I saw an atheist on TV and I sent him an email. To my great surprise, he wrote back. We corresponded for a year, debating the existence of God, and we fell in love.
Save Send Delete isn’t a left-wing book or a right-wing book. It’s about confronting God and love and trying to dig down as deeply as possible for worthy, livable truth. But even if I were not a believing Christian, I would shudder at the message of “capital A” Atheists. Recently Salon made waves by publishing Jeffrey Tayler’s criticism of Islam. Here’s the thing – Jeffrey Tayler is a proselytizer who exploits discomfort with Islam to peddle capital A Atheist tracts. “If you don’t like suicide bombings you should agree with me that all religion is evil,” is his main idea. Religion, he says, is like pestilence-spreading rats in the sewer. We must eradicate it. This has long been the thinking of mass murderers from the French Terror to the Khmer Rouge.
Capital A Atheists use their “Flying Spaghetti Monster” concept to sell total relativism. All religions are the same; Mother Teresa is just as bad as Osama bin Laden. We may as well believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster as in anything else. This extreme relativism is deadly. Our inability to differentiate between cultures is comparable to being unable to differentiate between nourishment and poison.
Save Send Delete makes the case not only for faith, but for civilization, in the face of the absolute relativism, the scorched earth, of the capital A Atheist Flying Spaghetti Monster mentality. In it I write about being a teacher who communicates to her students that Western Civilization, for all its flaws, is worth it.
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