The Sane vs. the Insane

Via Ann Althouse, check out this confrontation between a young woman who is a BLM activist and an older African-American man. They are standing in front of, and arguing about, the Emancipation Statue that freedmen paid for and where Frederick Douglass spoke. You don’t have to understand the words the young woman is screaming to know that you are witnessing a dialogue between a normal person and one with serious mental or emotional problems:

I confess to being nonplussed as to why America is allowing itself to be bullied by people who are at best ignorant and hateful, and in many cases not in full possession of their faculties. I agree with Steve that Yale University will quite likely change its name. Why? Elihu Yale was a slave trader. So what? No one has seriously believed–certainly not in the last 200 years–that some guy named Elihu Yale had any meaningful connection with the university. Same with John Harvard. Who was he? What were his political opinions? Who cares?

Dartmouth College is an amusing example of the irrelevance of college names. Eleazar Wheelock named the college after the Earl of Dartmouth, hoping that would lead Dartmouth to contribute to the institution. The Earl refused. There you have it. What were the Earl’s politics? Did he have some attenuated connection to slavery? Who knows? Who cares?

The case of Woodrow Wilson is different. Wilson, as Princeton’s President and the driving force behind Princeton’s global renown, not to mention later being President of the United States, did have a vitally important connection to the modern university. But we have known that Wilson was a racist for a long time. What is the source of the university’s current panic?

This is as close as the President of Princeton’s letter comes to an explanation:

When Derek Chauvin knelt for nearly nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck while bystanders recorded his cruelty, he might have assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct, as it had done in response to past complaints against him.

This is remarkably stupid. Derek Chauvin may have been callous, and he certainly was negligent, but there is no reason to think that he intended for Floyd to die. Killing Floyd on purpose would have been a suicidal act. The incident, intended or not, has destroyed Chauvin’s life and almost certainly doomed him to a term in prison. Those consequences were entirely foreseeable.

If Chauvin had killed Floyd on purpose, he certainly would not have “assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct.” Rather, considering precedents here in Minnesota, his thoughts would have gone to Jeronimo Yanez, who shot Philando Castile four years ago during a traffic stop because he believed (likely correctly) that Castile was reaching for his gun. Yanez was prosecuted for manslaughter, acquitted by a jury, and fired from his job. His life was devastated.

Or, more recently, Chauvin would have thought of Mohammed Noor, who shot Justine Damond for no apparent reason while–amazingly–responding to Damond’s own 911 call. Noor was treated with kid gloves–we can only speculate as to why–and eight months went by before he was finally charged. In the end, though, he was prosecuted for homicide, convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter, and sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison, where he resides today.

So for Princeton’s President, on behalf of its Board of Trustees, to speculate that Chauvin “might have assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct” in killing George Floyd reflects extreme ignorance. As for prior complaints against Chauvin, neither the President nor the Trustees have any idea what the merits of those complaints were, or how they were handled. Their comments are purely gratuitous, based on ignorance.

Princeton’s case as it relates to Wilson is, as I said, unusual. But it is disheartening that in the war between the sane and the insane, America’s educational institutions can’t find the wit or the courage to stand with the sane.

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