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An Impossible Essay Question

Our college days were long ago in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and pitching woo over a box lunch on the quad, but we still try to keep abreast of the contemporary campus scene. These days the talk seems mostly about sex, as it was even back in our day, but it’s lately been a strange conversation.
After decades of giddily deconstructing the sexually repressed patriarchy and its archaic Judeo-Christians superstitions that notoriously kept women barefoot and pregnant through the ’50s or so, academia has now decided that neither does it care for the ongoing fraternity orgy that has resulted. Unsurprisingly enough the more demure co-eds haven’t found the promised self-fulfillment of sexual freedom, and instead feel put upon by the highly sexualized new social standards, and the modern feminist academia has declared it a “Culture of Rape.” Rape is defined here more broadly than law, lexicography, and the general English-speaking public have long understood the term, to the point that it encompasses almost any sexual activity that a woman later regrets, and with prodding from the Department of Justice schools are working to stamp it out. Bringing back that sexually repressed patriarchy is of course out of the question, so the official response has to been to do away with due process and presume the guilt of any student accused of violating the nebulous new rules of sexual propriety. At Ohio State University, proving one’s innocence not only entails proving the other party’s consent but also proving they had reached agreement on why they are having sex.
Our further advice to any libidinous Buckeyes is to get the agreement in writing, not because it’s likely to keep anyone off the sex offender register but because the documents would make for such fascinating reading. Over the past many millennia the question of why we have sex has been pondered by the world’s most brilliant scientists, philosophers, poets, and advice columnists, none of whom have come up with an adequate explanation for why anyone should become involved with such messy nonsense, and it would be quite a hoot to see those kids who sit shirtless in sub-freezing football stadiums with their fraternity letters painted on their fashionably-toned tummies take a stab at the question. Psychiatrists and stand-up comedians would find a gold mine of material in comparing the stated reasons of the men and to those of the women, making the unforgivably heteronormative assumption that a man and woman are involved, and our guess is that little sexual activity would occur even on a college campus if both parties were honestly forthcoming about their motives. Even the biggest and hunkiest man on campus is likely to strike out with even the most promiscuous and plain girl after affixing his signature to a document stating that he agrees to the ensuing sexual encounter because the party of the second of the part has large breasts and he’s been on a dry spell lately. Even the comeliest campus queen would be rebuffed even by the most nerdy engineering student if she ever confessed whatever dark and twisted character flaw it is that would cause anyone, at any age, to contemplate having sex with something so hideous as a college boy.
Some couples might state the same reasons of true love and all that, but given the current offerings in popular music and motion pictures we can’t imagine where today’s college students would get such ideas. Youngsters used to get such lofty notions from their literature classes, where Shakespeare was comparing his love to a summer’s day and finding her more lovely temperate, or on the black-and-white late shows that used to be the only thing on television, where Bogie was sagely telling the highly desirable Ingrid Bergman that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, but those lessons have been lost. All that dead white male stuff is read only to expose its crimes against race, class, and gender, and anyone watching the late show rather than the latest indy films on the internet will find that the oldies are now from the ’70s when the sexual revolution still seemed a heroic cause. The college students being presumed guilty of violating the new and as yet unenunciated rules have been shaped more by popular entertainments and academic pronouncements and a political party’s promises of free contraceptions that constitutes what is, if not precisely a “culture of rape,”  a culture that encourages the behavior that the schools and the Justice Department hope to stamp out by iron-fisted governmental power rather than that nasty old social stigma that used to discourage inevitably horny college boys from pressing equally horny and inept young women into activities they later regret. Social stigma is so judgmental, after all, and although it once proved more effective than the government’s harsher measures it doesn’t pay any bureaucratic salaries.
We’ll keep an eye out for further developments, as we find it one of the more hilarious academic follies of recent years. Trying to impose some sort of sexual restraint on these college kids is going to be challenging, especially without any of that archaic Judeo-Christian superstition or any other commonsensical social rationale redolent of that still-hated patriarchy, and we’ll be interested to see how the dwindling number of male students on our college campuses react to being presumed guilty of sexual assault. Perhaps it should be a condition of enrolling in a school that the student and university sign a statement that explains their reasons for entering such an agreement. The student probably won’t mention a desire to learn the best of his civilization’s knowledge, or to prepare for a lucrative career in the soon-to-be-booming economy, and might even admit that he’s hoping to get some action for taking on a job and a wife. The school will admit that they’re interested in the tuition money that goes up every time the federal student loan program authorizes an increase in debt loads, or they’ll also admit a desire to indoctrinate another middle white class into anti-Americanism. At that point, nobody will be getting any action.

— Bud Norman

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Pomp, Circumstance, and Tyranny

The last time we were asked to address a commencement ceremony was way back in ’77, when our high school graduating class bestowed the honor. All we can remember of the speech are the jokes, the most obvious of which went over well enough, but we’re quite sure that even at such a tender age we weren’t so very stupid as to tell people not to fear tyranny.
That was the advice President Barack Obama offered to the graduates of Ohio State University on Sunday. After warming up the crowd with a few jokes of his own, mostly about football and other topics of local interest, Obama eased into his theme of citizenship. Much of it was typical commencement address fare, full of highfalutin and inoffensively vague statements about participating and persevering and so forth, and much of it was a typical Obama stump speech, extolling the many wonders of big government and such rhetorical flourishes as the Founders leaving us “the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone.” What caught our attention, however, was the typical swipe at the president’s critics.
“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works,” Obama said. “They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
The president did not name these critics, although his audience was surely curious to know. Despite a steady diet of talk radio, conservative news outlets, and the company of fellow right-wingers, we can’t think of anyone who argues that democracy should be replaced and rule entrusted to some enlightened elite. We used to hear such talk often from our liberal friends, but that was back when a Republican was in the White House and we suspect those are not the people Obama was talking about.
There are plenty of people who argue that the government is becoming increasingly separated from the people, that it is sometimes sinister and at the root of many problems, and they make a strong case for gumming up the works, but we have never heard them say that the people can’t be trusted. We believe that certain individual rights should be constitutionally protected from the proper will, so perhaps the president meant us, but the Founders also gave us that tool and we expect that even Obama will be eager to use it when the topics of homosexual rights and abortion come back around.
If tyranny isn’t lurking around the corner, it is only because this country has traditionally been on guard against it. Immutable human nature compels those in power in to seek more power, and only the resistance of a stubbornly independent people can’t prevent them from doing so. Obama has not proved an exception to this rule of history, and it is hoped that even a stadium full of college-educated twenty-somethings will be wary.

— Bud Norman