Stress takes a toll at Brown

Natan Sharansky is one of the great men of our time. Charged with fabricated crimes as a citizen of the Soviet Union, he suffered for nine years in the gulag until his eventual release and emigration to Israel. He tells the story in his moving memoir Fear No Evil. He has turned his experience to good use in thinking through issues of human rights, as in The Case for Democracy (with Ron Dermer) and, most recently, Defending Identity.

When Sharanksy visited Brown University late last month to speak with Michael Douglas, the campus’s social justice warriors turned out to protest his appearance (a protest preceded by a campaign of defamation against Sharansky). The Times of Israel reported on what Sharansky and Douglas had to say at Brown in “On tour, Douglas and Sharansky urge a ‘more inclusive’ Jewry.”

The Brown Daily Herald reports that Brown’s social justice warriors are stressing out keeping up the claptrap. This is hard work. They are experiencing a form of combat fatigue. Nobody knows the trouble they’ve seen:

“There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on,” said David, an undergraduate whose name has been changed to preserve anonymity. Throughout the year, he has worked to confront issues of racism and diversity on campus.

His role as a student activist has taken a toll on his mental, physical and emotional health. “My grades dropped dramatically. My health completely changed. I lost weight. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills right now. (Counseling and Psychological Services) counselors called me. I had deans calling me to make sure I was okay,” he said.

Headline: “Schoolwork, advocacy place strain on student activists.” Now that’s funny all by itself, but consider this. Speaking from the heart based on his personal experience, Sharanksy might have been able to give them constructive advice on coping with stress if only they hadn’t been on the outside looking in.

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