18 June 2019

Harvard Will Be Judged By The Redemption Denied Kyle Kashuv

Kyle Kashuv is many things. Most notably he is a survivor of last year's shooting incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of that tragedy, he has been a forceful and articulate advocate for the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. In March of this year, he became a member of Harvard University's Class of 2023.

Kyle Kashuv is also a teenager, prone to teenage recklessness, teenage crassness, teenage crudeness, and teenage stupidity. He is also someone who made a series of outrageously crude, crass, stupid, and racist comments in an online document just a couple of months before the Parkland shooting. He is also someone who apologized for those comments when they were revealed recently. He is also someone who has had his Harvard admission rescinded because of those comments.

Is Kyle Kashuv a racist? That I do not know.  Is he an anti-Semite? That seems unlikely, as he is himself Jewish. However, other than this one bit of online posting, there are no other examples of racist language coming from Kyle Kashuv.

Which is why we must remember that Kyle Kashuv is a teenager, prone to teenage recklessness, teenage crassness, teenage crudeness, and teenage stupidity.  We must remember there is a reason teenagers are regarded as possessing an ample reservoir of bad judgement--teenagers in fact do possess an ample reservoir of bad judgement.

So it is that we should remember something else as well, something the admissions office at Harvard has forgotten, something the far-left outrage mob that called for him to be denied entrance to Harvard has forgotten--the twin miracles of forgiveness and redemption.

As I argued in my Easter Sunday essay, redemption is an integral part of Western thought and Western civilization. Redemption, the act of one paying the debt of another, is at the core of our notions of mercy and of justice. It is woven through our most important legal documents, and it is what makes the very idea of forming a "more perfect Union" possible. Regardless of whether one is a devout Christian or a committed atheist, redemption is elemental to how we grow as people and as a society.

Redemption is how we can be tolerant of Kyle Kashuv and intolerant of his racist remarks. Redemption is the nuance that allow us to condemn all hatred, bigotry, and intolerance without condemning everyone who wallows in hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. Redemption is how we ourselves can avoid being condemned for our own mistakes, our own errors of judgement, even our own judgmentalism towards others.

We may be fairly certain that, at the time he made those comments, Kyle Kashuv never envisioned what direction his life would soon take. He could not have known that, barely two months later, he would be at the center a horrific school shooting, that he would witness friends gunned down by a mentally disturbed young man. Perversely, but for that tragedy, his remarks likely would never have come to light, for without that tragedy, Kyle likely would not have been admitted to Harvard, would not have emerged as a young advocate for the Second Amendment, and would not have attracted the attention of leftist activist types--the "outrage mob"--that went searching for and discovered his racist outburst. At the time he made those comments, Kyle was the epitome of the anonymous person, enjoying the ironic liberty that comes from being part of the nameless faceless crowd.

Anonymity does not excuse racism, nor racist rantings, nor should we allow Kyle Kashuv to use anonymity as an excuse for his execrable postings. He was wrong, his words were wrong, his impulses were wrong. There is no room for doubt about that point.

Yet the reason redemption matters is because past mistakes do not necessarily become future sins. Because redemption is real, all of us do not need to be defined by our failures. Because redemption is real, each of us can climb back up again.

To say that Kyle Kashuv made a mistake is both trite and cliche. It is also true.

The challenge for the rest of society, at least for those who take notice of Kyle Kashuv, is simply this: What do we do now?

We have Harvard's answer: excommunication, expulsion, eternal damnation for past mistakes. Harvard has offered no redemption, no forgiveness, and will not allow Kyle Kashuv to rise above this error. Harvard has judged Kyle, found him wanting, and cast him out.

Nothing ever happens without consequence, as Kyle has learned brutally by this incident.  Every choice begets an action, which begets a reaction, which becomes a consequence. While we have total control over our choices, and thus our actions, we have zero control over the reactions and thus the consequences, save that by choosing the right actions, we may hope to evade the worst of consequences.

Thus, even without concluding whether Harvard is right or wrong in expelling Kyle Kashuv from the Class of 2023, we may be certain that Harvard will face a consequence for its choice and its action. It will receive commendation from some quarters, and condemnation from others. Whether it receives the commendations it seeks or accepts as earned the condemnation it gets is a tale yet to be told, but there will be no avoiding the reality that Harvard has chosen for itself both the particular commendation and the particular condemnation arising from its expulsion of Kyle. For better or worse, it has chosen this outcome.

That may be the best argument of all for why society should consider forgiving Kyle Kashuv. Ultimately, forgiveness is for each of us a choice, but it is always a choice about ourselves, about what consequences we want for ourselves. If we wish to avoid condemnation in our own lives, we must at least entertain the possibility of not condemning others for theirs. We must consider the possibility that what a young man says at 16 is not some depiction of immutable personality, but merely a crass, cruel, thoughtless, stupid thing that comes out in a burst of momentary impulse.  We are well advised to contemplate what consequences for ourselves we desire to arise from our choice in this matter--redemption or rejection. We should answer in our private minds the simple question, do we want the consequences of offering redemption or do we prefer those from demanding rejection?

Harvard has chosen to reject Kyle Kashuv. No doubt that school's administrators believe they are right in this choice. Yet whether they are right or wrong, they must now face the consequences for their choice. Having judged Kyle and found him wanting, they will now be judged, and the measure of that judgement will be the redemption they chose to deny Kyle Kashuv.


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