What’s Left – Discourse, Indeed

I deeply respected Newt Gingrich. As a member of the Debate Society and a passionate academic, our guest’s words and presence were truly inspiring. He was firm in his opinions, appropriately comical, and convincingly insightful. Indeed, as the night moved on, the crowd’s applause grew louder with every joke and opinion. It would be specious to deny my own involvement in these jeers; I was as captivated as most. After the last ovation, I felt as if Mr. Populism had changed my outlook on the world.

Upon reflection of the night’s events, however, I realized that, beyond my initial captivation of the man’s John C. Adam’s-like rhetoric, I disagreed with the vast majority of his speech. The first was his ideology on freedom. What rich white American male wouldn’t jump to say that Western Civilization and freedom go hand-in-hand? I mean, look at us now for God’s sake (the Christian one) — America and Europe are the beacons of hope and rationality, while the civilizations of South America, the Middle East and Africa merely consist of Hugo Chavez, suicide bombers and Zimbabwe.

This is the exact attitude that gave America and its people the reputation of ignorance and arrogance with which it is viewed by many of the world’s communities. If our God-fearing patriots knew anything about the West’s relations with the rest of the world, how would they explain imperialism and slavery, or modern U.S. involvement in Nicaragua and the Iran-Iraq War?

What Newt Gingrich did on Thursday night, to the applause of the Colgate chapel, was commit hubris of the highest level, daring to believe that the United States’ Greco-Roman-Christian roots justified in any way “shutting off Iran’s gasoline.” Sure, Newt, when aggressiveness has failed in the past, why not try it again? Who knows? If we push Iran hard enough, maybe they will apologize for their actions, and the world shall applaud our resoluteness in the face of evil.

The second disconcerting issue was Gingrich’s continuous attacks on the current administration. Whatever your feelings about him may be, Timothy Geithner is not stupid. A six-year-old justifies his hatred by sticking his tongue out and calling you stupid. Moreover, I find it shocking that there are actually students who believe that the government could and would take 90 percent of their money. On election night, I witnessed two students sobbing over the results, in fear that government ninjas in black masks would come and rob them of their Mercedes in — gasp! — an effort to help the poor, hardworking family pay their extravagant medical bills.

Gingrich’s attacks merely revealed his unrealistic hypocrisy. Look at his example of AIG. He claimed that, if the government inserted within the bailout that bonuses were acceptable, AIG would naturally dole them out. Meanwhile, in the late 90’s, Gingrich was one of the leading advocates of deregulation. If the government espoused deregulation, what else would financial institutions do except take on greater risk? His policy now a failure, the unmoving Gingrich claims that we should let AIG fail. With its immense stake in the global market, the company’s downfall would have changed an “80-year event” into a disaster unseen in history.

The third issue I had with Newt was his blatant, disgusting stance on homosexuality. I, as I hope everyone else at Colgate did, immensely respected the student who dared to call out Newt on his scorn towards the gay community. His response, moreover, revealed his blind hatred: “Am I wrong when I merely side with the majority?” Put this quote into the mouth of a member of the Nazi Party or KKK, and it makes just as much sense there, too. Sometimes I wonder how he gets along with his step-sister Candace, one of the leading lesbian-rights activists in the United States. They probably don’t get brunch often.

Gingrich is the last thing our country needs with his shrewd rhetoric and play on “traditional” American values. He does not support active discussion, but merely acceptance of his clear-cut, “established” views on the world. When I look back on the night’s festivities, I now ask myself: So what if Newt Gingrich can speak well? Eloquence is simply no excuse for idiocy.