On my tortuous route to Catholicism, I stopped for a while among the Anglicans. I remember a song the Episcopalians often sang: “Once to Every Man and Nation.” As I watched the rising anti-Semitism on American college campuses, the lyrics of this song came back to me.
Once to every man and nation
comes the moment to decide,
in the strife of truth with falsehood,
for the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
James Russell Lowell wrote these words in 1845 as a protest against the impending Mexican War, but they ring true today as the United States faces a vicious wave of anti-Semitism.
Lowell was a Harvard graduate, and he would surely be astonished if he saw the ugly rise of anti-Jewish sentiment at Harvard University today. Indeed, racism at one of our nation's most prestigious institutions is shocking. Commenting on this phenomenon, Bill Maher observed that “Harvard makes students stupid.” Maher is undoubtedly correct.
All across the country, college students are publicly endorsing hatred toward the nation of Israel and Jews. So far, there has been minimal violence, but the rhetoric exhibited at anti-Israel demonstrations is every bit as vitriolic as the Nazi rhetoric of the 1930s.
Our nation’s college leaders have remained mostly passive about the wave of racism sweeping their campuses or have mumbled nothing but pious platitudes. They have not done what they ought to have done, which is to expel racist students and fire antisemitic professors.
Today's college leaders have a moral obligation to take a public stand against the vile racism that is spewing forth on their campuses. This may be the only opportunity they have over the entire span of their entire careers to show some courage.
Lowell’s words remind us that the opportunity for an individual to stand up to evil may come but once in a lifetime. If college presidents don’t act vigorously and quickly to thwart antisemitism on their campuses, they will show themselves to be nothing but moral cowards.
|"Harvard makes students stupid."|