Dear Unlicensed Ethicist: I detest John Bolton, a warmonger who has tarnished American foreign policy. I cannot decide if I am more angry with the mustachioed fiend himself or Professor Feaver, who invited him to speak at Duke. Should he really be permitted to spread his lies and hate right here on campus?
Dear Devoted Reader: Take a deep breath. As long as you don’t sit in the front row of Page Auditorium, John Bolton will not be able to harm you. You won’t even be in the spittle spray zone, though safety goggles are an optional accessory.
Let’s tone down the Bolton hysteria and keep things in perspective. Duke is not awarding an honorary degree to John Bolton. Not endowing a scholarship in Bolton’s name—$5,000 to the most promising young warmonger. Not honoring him in any way. John Bolton will be interviewed before a capacity crowd in Page Auditorium, and presumably, he will have to answer tough questions. Sir, when you avoided serving in the military in Vietnam, did you consider yourself a chickenhawk? And why, in the aftermath of 9/11, did you advocate declaring war on Iraq instead of hunting down the real perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, who was high fiving al Qaeda terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan?
The Duke community has plenty to learn from John Bolton, a leading figure in politics who has a knack for getting the United States ensnared in unwinnable conflicts. Any Duke student who aspires to enter national politics will have to debate and overcome the likes of John Bolton. He is not some random white supremacist from the hinterland who never set foot in the White House. The mustache man worked for the last four Republican presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush made him the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations. Even though Bolton was a leading architect of the Iraq War, one of America’s biggest foreign policy blunders ever, Donald Trump appointed him as our National Security Advisor. You cannot make this s**t up.
There is no escaping John Bolton and his cronies, unless you want to live in Canada. Message to Duke students: get used to it. Duke is not your gatekeeper or your mother. Duke should not filter the outside world. Vincent Price can do lots of things for the student body, but he can’t build a wall high enough to protect you from John Bolton.
So if you disagree with John Bolton, show some intellectual resolve and confront him. Challenge his toxic message. Stare down the boogie man with the mustache instead of asking Duke to set up a perimeter fence. If you can’t deal with John Bolton in Page Auditorium, you won’t have the spine to confront him if he serves in the next Republican administration.
It’s time for John Bolton to step outside his bubble and into the spotlight of Page Auditorium. It may not be as pleasant as he thinks, given the controversy he generates. As they say, “Karma is like a Rubber Band. You only stretch it so far before it comes back and smacks you in the face.” Just ask President Trump. Who can forget the look on his face when he got booed at the World Series? Priceless.
So please, don’t ask Duke to do anything drastic, such as uninviting John Bolton. And no individual shenanigans either, such as chaining yourself to the door of Page Auditorium. That would just make the story about spoiled Duke students who were afraid to engage in civil discourse. Win the war of ideas, not the war of intolerance and empty gestures.
Lena Yannella is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, the unlicensed ethicist, typically runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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