[Miami, Florida] The Leland Stanford Junior University, located in Palo Alto, California, is the world’s leading junior university, but it is not an American university. Its administration recently released a guide to eliminate “harmful language” from the university’s web sites, and offered replacement terms in their place. A leading term that we are urged to avoid is “American,” and instead we are asked to use the term “U.S. Citizen,” because according to Stanford “American” typically refers to “people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the United States is the most important country in the Americas.”
Growing up in Cuba until age nine, I often heard the local communists make that same complaint about the arrogance of Americans referring to themselves in a way that excludes all other residents of the Americas in the Western Hemisphere. Instead, however, Stanford may borrow from the Spanish language (if that is permitted under the rules against cultural appropriation) the term “United Statesian” (estadounidense) to describe someone from the United States. So that, instead of calling someone an American, Stanford should recommend that we call them not a U.S. citizen, but a United Statesian.
Being a U. S. citizen, or a United Statesian, is not the same thing as being an American: (1) A U. S. citizen is a legal status, set forth in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” (2) A United Statesian is a geographic description of someone from any United States. (3) But being an American is a cultural construct, an identification with, acceptance of and assimilation to the American Creed. You can’t be trans-sexual, but you can be trans-cultural. The name of this country is the United States of America, which are two separate things. The United States is the governmental, legal and political expression of America and its culture, society and civilization, representing the American Creed.
The principles and institutions of the American Creed are proclaimed in: (1) The Declaration of Independence, 1776. (2) Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776. (3) The Mayflower Compact, 1620. (4) The Constitution, 1787, as amended, especially the first 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, 1789. (5) The Federalist Papers, 1788. (6) The Northwest Odinance, 1787. (7) George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1797. (8) Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural, 1862-65. (9) The Start-Spangled Banner, 1814-1931. (10) The Pledge of Allegiance, 1892-1954. (11) President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, 1961 (warning of the military-industrial complex). (12) Martin Luther King’s address at the Lincoln Memorial, 1963 (I have a dream). (13) The Bible, of course, especially the King James Version.
In any event, yes, the United States of America is the most important country in the Americas - - North, South and Central - - much more so than all the other 41 countries combined. How many countries, in the Americas or elsewhere, have proclaimed the American Creed and worked to realize it? Why else are so many people from all over the world rushing to come to America? How many U.S. citizens or United Statesians are leaving to avoid conditions in America? There is no Berlin Wall around America keeping in the oppressed and the marginalized. People vote with their feet, and you can’t mail it in.
Georgia O’Keefe was a leading American abstract painter of the 20th century. She grew up in the Midwest, made her name in the New York art community, and later settled in New Mexico. Her works are exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, including “Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue” (1931). In response to the question of what is an American, she observed: “One cannot be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.” Presumably work at being American.
Stanford does none of these things. Instead, Stanford has reached back to implement the Stanford Inquisition, banning not only the term American, but also a dozen pages of other so-called offensive terms, thereby connecting with California’s Hispanic cultural heritage (but that is another case of cultural appropriation). The Stanford Inquisition is un-American, and Leonard Bernstein’s music for the song “Auto da Fe” in the operetta “Candide” does it better. In 1987 Jesse Jackson led around 500 protesters in Stanford chanting: “Western Civ has got to go.” America is a product of Western Civilization, so they must have meant then that America has got to go as well.
Indeed, Stanford has also become where fun goes to die (I thought that was the University of Chicago?). Its administration requires that students file an application to hold a party two weeks in advance, including a list of participants and sober monitors. As a result, the number of registered parties decreased by two-thirds over the last three years. Students unfurled a banner at a football game declaring that “Stanford Hates Fun,” after the Tree mascot was suspended for public drunkenness and rowdiness. The issue is being investigated by the Associate Vice Provost of Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning (you can’t make this up!). Its student body is molded by affirmative action into an unnatural shape.
Stanford does not like Americans and its administration does not like its students, but they like to enforce the Stanford Inquisition against free speech and fun. Oh brave new world, that has such universities in it!
The illustration accompanying this column was provided by Charles Lipson, Peter Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Political Science in the University of Chicago, and a surviving long-time resident of the South Side of Chicago.
Eduardo Vidal is a lawyer and political activist. His family brought him when he was nine years old from Cuba to the USA, but now the rule of law has been eroded in the USA as well, and we are turning into Cuba and the rest of Latin America.