Thursday, December 26, 2013

do not take me for the thing I was

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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