Your Liberty is Our Interest

The Notre Dame Walkout Highlights the Need to Restore Civility


By Theresa Camoriano

As an alum of Notre Dame, I am particularly embarrassed about the walk-out when Vice President Pence was speaking at the Notre Dame graduation.  I was raised and taught to treat people with respect, whether or not I agreed with them or liked them.  Unfortunately, the Notre Dame students who walked out appear to have missed that important lesson.

The Notre Dame administration set the stage for this rude behavior when it violated its own tradition by failing to invite the newly-elected President of the United States to be its commencement speaker.  By failing to invite President Trump, the administration was in effect saying that Trump was a contemptible person, not worthy of speaking at its graduation.  This is not surprising, since Leftism has become the dominant religion at Notre Dame.

One of the tactics of Leftism, since the days of Lenin, is to label some people as “enemies of the people” or otherwise contemptible, and therefore not deserving of basic human courtesy and respect.  It is not surprising that some students took the administration’s cue, considered Trump to be contemptible, and therefore planned in advance to walk out when his Vice President spoke.  They wanted to convey the message that they considered Trump, Pence, and all the people who voted for them to be contemptible.

For a long time in this country, we have been able to rely on basic human decency and civility to prevent the most despicable aspects of Leftism, but that protection is slipping away very quickly.  Many people no longer have a sense of responsibility to maintain basic civility.  They take for granted that they will continue to be treated well by others, even as they treat others very disrespectfully.  They are making a big mistake.

I recently read an article that had been cited approvingly by a fellow Notre Dame alum, in which the leftist author wrote a critical open letter to Franklin Graham, addressing him as “Frank”.  I was sad to see this, because it oozed disrespect.  Whether the author agreed with Franklin Graham or not, he at least should have had enough respect to address the man by his name.  No doubt the author, and my fellow Notre Dame alum, thought this disrespect was perfectly acceptable, since they already had discounted Franklin Graham as a person, believing him to be racist, homophobic, and the whole list of lies that are regularly trotted out about conservatives.  They already had decided that Franklin Graham was contemptible and therefore did not deserve to be treated with basic human decency.

That attitude is completely wrong.  Every human being deserves to be treated with basic human courtesy, decency and respect, whether or not we agree with them or like them.  Yes, we may disagree, and we should hold people to standards and hold them accountable for their actions, but we should be respectful when doing so.

If we lose the concept that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and deserves to be treated with respect (the standard for all Christians and Jews, which should be taught and reinforced at a Catholic school like Notre Dame), we are headed down a wrong path that leads to a very bad place.  We have seen it many times before in human history, and we should not want to go there.

In the United States, for a long, sad period of our nation’s history, blacks were considered by many people to be less than human, which “justified” treating them as chattel.  Hitler lied about and dehumanized Jews, which resulted in the murder of six million innocent people in the holocaust.  Stalin declared the Kulaks in the Ukraine to be “enemies of the people” which “justified” the forced starvation and death of seven million people.

Sadly, this dehumanization tactic is alive and well among today’s Left.  Today’s leftists claim that anyone who does not want to change the definition of marriage is a hater, who does not deserve to be treated with respect or decency.  They say the same about anyone who does not want the government to control health care or education.  According to the left, anyone who disagrees with them on any political issue is racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or a hater – again, not deserving to be treated with basic human decency.  Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” followed the same theme.

We already have seen the Left force people out of their jobs, force some businesses to shut down and others into bankruptcy, just for holding the “wrong” political views.

The election of Donald Trump may be viewed as an uprising of good, decent people who were tired of being slandered and treated as less than human just because they had traditional, Judeo-Christian values and believed in the Constitution and American traditions.  That is why the people who voted for Trump are willing to give him a lot of leeway.  He may be rough around the edges, and he may make a lot of mistakes, but at least he does not try to undermine their humanity.

Yes, that is a pretty low bar.  Unfortunately, that is where 70 years of creeping leftism have taken us.

If we want to be a peaceful, productive, civilized country, we need to reverse this slide away from basic civility.  That means sitting quietly and respectfully at a graduation or other event and allowing the speaker to speak unimpeded.  (If we don’t want to hear the speaker, we need not go to the event.) It means respecting private property — not breaking windows, overturning cars, and setting buildings on fire.  It means not shouting people down or shoving and pushing them.  It means cutting way back on the snarkiness and arrogance and recognizing that people who do not have college degrees or money or particular political views may be good, decent people and may have a great deal of wisdom.  It means thinking not only of our rights but also of our responsibilities to others.

Those Notre Dame students were allowed by the university to walk out and show their disrespect for the Vice President of the United States, but exercising that right exposed them as being rude and childish.  That behavior should meet with disapproval from our society.  (I was glad to learn that those students were a small minority and were roundly booed by the audience at the graduation.)

No, the world did not come crumbling down just because some Notre Dame students were rude and disrespectful.  But if we want to live in a peaceful, prosperous, civilized society, we need to restore and promote a culture of civility and respect.


(Theresa Camoriano is a patent attorney in Louisville, Kentucky.  She earned degrees in engineering and Russian at Notre Dame, graduating in 1976 and 1977.)

May 22nd, 2017 at 5:16 pm

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