Mr. Charrington’s Camry

 It has now been four days since Vita Clamantis presented its “Cemetery of the Innocents” display on the Gold Coast lawn. It would appear that despite the intra-campus truculence it has wrought, some on the Left just can’t let old wounds heal.

Writing in yesterday’s edition of The Dartmouth, staff columnist Andrea Jaresova revisited Wednesday’s exhibition, rebuking the pro-life group for its “emotional” and “manipulative” exposition. In an article of little intellectual consequence and much political pandering, she ridicules the event for its “offensive” symbolism and its incendiary presentation, concluding that Vita should “think again about how [it] issues [its] messages so that [it] do[esn’t] alienate those who would be willing to listen.” While I would agree that some elements of the display (particularly the use of American flags as markers of aborted fetuses) were slightly less than tactful, I fear that the author’s bias-driven criticisms miss the point entirely; in an article devoted to the group’s failure to promote campus dialogue (a claim defeated on its face by her own article’s existence), not once does she recognize that the lack of discourse was as much the result of a subversive, pro-choice reaction as anything else.

Try as any organization might, the fact remains that dialogue must be a two-way street. No matter how persuasive or constructive you may be, progress will elude you unless there are those willing to listen. In her eagerness to place blame solely on the shoulders of Vita Clamantis, Ms. Jaresova failed to recognize this fundamental fact. Though some elements of the display may have been a bit more provocative than necessary, flaming Vita for not promoting discourse is akin to seeing the hole in the barn door without seeing the barn door itself. As exemplified in their criminally disproportionate response, opposing groups had no interest in talking-out their differences of opinion. Rather than mounting a respectful counter-protest or approaching group members, opponents posted antagonistic signs, hurled slur-laden jeers, and wantonly destroyed property to show their disapproval. In the face of such a reaction, it becomes hard to blame Vita’s choice of American flags or its use of the term “cemetery” as the sole impediments to constructive dialogue. After all, you cannot have a meaningful chat with the grill of a speeding Toyota Camry. 

Thus, the truly Orwellian nature of campus debate becomes known. Protest, so frequently the tool of left-leaning groups, is all well-and-good, until someone says something with which you don’t agree. At which point, opposition groups are free to  slander the demonstration, antagonize its supporters, and drive automobiles through its display while blaming the victims for the lack of constructive discourse. Mr. Charrington himself couldn’t think of a better scheme. 

 

— Nicholas P. Desatnick