Christopher Hedges’ recent talk at Colgate was a call for intolerance toward those he cannot defeat intellectually, turning instead to demonizing them as fascists and Nazis. The talk was the equivalent of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum because he lacks the language to express himself. But our purpose as a college is not to make statements about the people we should tolerate and those we should not. To be clear, I am not an Evangelical Christian. Nor do I disagree with some of Hedges’ points about the political influence of the religious right. But his central argument that we should cease tolerating people with whom we disagree, and feel no need to address them with dignity and counterargument, is appalling. On a college campus of all places this should be made clear.
In fairness, I only heard Hedges’ talk and have not read his book, which I hope is more measured than his public comments. But if the political aspirations of the religious right are to be countered, then people of faith must be addressed as who they are — well-meaning citizens who have legitimate political goals. We must state openly that their faith is a protected part of our heritage, just as our freedom from religious imposition is also a protected right. Especially on a university campus, we must engage honestly in civil discourse and make arguments rather than hyperbolic attacks.to meet intolerance from some members of our society, with intolerance from the university lecturers is as counterproductive as it is illegitimate.