Letter to the Editor: Professor’s writings are ‘divisive’


Is columnist Roger Barbee turning over a new leaf? Absent from his Sept. 10 contribution are the gentle tellings of daily human rituals, of Mother Nature’s earthly and celestial thrills, of the carryings-on of family members and pets.

Instead, Barbee introduces Virginia Tech professor Steven Salaita, whose writings deliver anti-patriotic, anti-Christian, anti-Israeli, anti-U.S. military, and anti-capitalist blow-outs. Salaita’s America is “racialized” and class-ridden, underpinned by shallow values that go to the core: “Driving, shopping, dining and watching movies (are) the hallmarks of American freedom.” America’s “terrible economy,” he writes, is sustained by dictators, secrecy, torture and spying. Can a Muslim ever truly be an American? Salaita: “…the answer at present is no.”

Of considerable style and power, Salaita’s work is shot though with skin color, religion, Palestinian ethnicity and far left ideology. Resentment, I bet, blinds Salaita to the fact that his books and articles, like this rambling letter, see daylight only thanks to the political and economic culture, the patriotism and the American military prowess that he denigrates. I also bet he is fairly untroubled by the fact that many Muslim countries shut down both Christian ramblings and their authors.

My real problem, however, lies with Barbee’s faint-hearted treatment of Salaita. On one hand, he fairly commends Salaita’s work as “full of thought.” He recommends that we search it out for ourselves online, and chastises Salaita’s angry critics for their threatening and “divisive” personal attacks. He finds in Salaita “nothing…disturbing.” On the other hand, Barbee writes that he still has to “consider” Salaita’s points.

Yet, Barbee fails to see that Salaita is also “divisive,” that Salaita’s writing differs from that of his crude critics only by its polished style, not in kind or intensity. More regrettably, the most important question — opened by Barbee’s introducing this professor to his gentle readers — is evaded: how does Barbee himself judge Salaita? How long, for example, does it take him to “consider” whether the donation of 18 cents to a “Support Our Troops” jar is justified?

Richard W. Hoover, Front Royal