I don't want to shock you, but I once worshiped at the altar of political power.
And not just any power. I was infatuated with the Whore of Babylon herself -- Washington, DC.
That is an odd confession for an aging libertarian to make. While my colleagues in the mid-60s were protesting in the streets, I was setting out my path to the United States Senate.
When I was a high school sophomore, the 1964 election made one big decision in my life -- I wanted to be a politician. And I knew the path. Being a traditionalist, I would get a law degree and head down that yellow brick road to Oz itself.
That gives you an idea of my sophistication level. I thought getting a law degree was simple. I would go to law school right out of high school. The military-industrial-academic complex had different ideas. I needed a baccalaureate degree first.
It was one of my first realizations that the adult world was illogical and unfair. So, I needed to pick an undergraduate school.
Skip forward to my senior year. The career dream had not diminished. And my sense of reality had not increased. I was close to graduating before I gave any thought to applying to a college.
On the very last day that I could apply, I decided I would attend a college in -- where else? -- Washington, DC. Thumbing through the catalogs, I decided on a school relatively near the Capitol -- Howard University.
I filled out my application and took it to our guidance counselor. I suspect I needed his signature -- or something.
He looked at the application. Up at me. Back at the application.
The next time he looked up, he had a very worried look on his face. "You do know what type of college Howard is, don't you?"
My response did not reassure him: "It's in Washington, DC." I am certain he saw Ralph Wiggum written all over my face.
"You do know it is a negro college?" Because that is the word polite white liberals used in the mid-60s.
"I know that," said I chirpily. "What difference does it make? It's in Washington, DC."
So, off went the application by certified mail. I had my acceptance letter within days. Undoubtedly, I benefited by some form of affirmative action -- even though I could not have cared less about the racial makeup of the student body.
For one reason or other, I never made it to Howard. Instead, I went to school in Oregon -- one of the whitest states in the union.
I occasionally think about what my experience at Howard would have been like. That is, I wondered until I read Thomas Sowell's account of what was going down at Howard in the late 1960s.
Howard had a very good academic record up until then. It was one of the -- I will use the vernacular of the time -- negro schools that produced professionals that populated a growing middle class in black communities.
And then came the turmoils of the mid- and late 1960s -- especially the race riots of 1968 -- when racial politics took some very odd turns at formerly good schools. Teachers and students became far more interested in using the school as a political platform than as a place to learn.
Of course, I was thirsting for a world of politics. But I learned that I was thirsting for far more when I went to school in Oregon. I discovered I was far more interested in learning than I was in wresting power from The Man. Along the way, I discovered why western civilization was as strong as it was -- both morally and politically. I also learned how to think critically to improve on those foundations.
According to Sowell, I would have learned all of that at Howard in the early 1960s, but not in the latter part of that decade. He would undoubtedly argue I made the correct decision.
But it would be interesting to see what the equivalent of Mexpatriate would have looked like had I taken that alternative path through Howard.
My bet is that I would have ended up as a bitter exile with Stokely Carmichael in Guinea -- having re-named myself Menacham Tshombe in a futile attempt to build an alliance between Israel and Sierra Leone. It would have been an interesting ride.
All things considered, the path I took was a good one. But, as a tautologist, I know the path I took was the only one I could have been taken. Roads may diverge in the woods, but we can always choose the path we have always taken.
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