It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales, Richard?- From A Man for All Seasons
I have been following the Oberlin/Gibson Bakery trial with the same kind of reluctant and horrified fascination with which one might regard a multi-vehicle pileup on the highway; the mass-casualty kind that involves numerous vehicles in every kind of disassembled condition and in every possible position, scattered or crunched together on the roadway or catapulted off on the verge, which attracts the professional attention of multiple fire department engines, ambulances, and every police and highway patrol cruiser for miles around. In the case of the Gibson Bakery suit against Oberlin, extensive coverage of the protests, trial, verdict and local background to the whole messy affair was provided by the Legal Insurrection blog.
One of the nastier aspects to the imbroglio is the revelation that there was an ongoing problem with students shoplifting, at Gibson’s and apparently at other local retailers. A writer for a student publication called it as a “culture of theft.”
Meanwhile, administrators at Oberlin gave every evidence of wanting local merchants who apprehended student shoplifters to turn the matter over to the college, rather than to police. This is a perfectly poisonous state of affairs, especially as the problem of student shoplifters continued unabated, to the fury of the victimized merchants. Essentially, the college appeared to indulge their students’ impulse to predate on merchants like Gibson’s, without even administering a slap on the wrist for show. They’re our privileged little pets, and don’t you stupid bigoted townies dare lay a hand on them, is what the Oberlin administrative cadre was saying in so many words.
And then, adding insult to injury by accusing a business such as Gibson’s of endemic racism, and doing their official level-best to ruin the business entirely, all as part of a vast social-justice-warrior live-action role-playing game? Like viewing the multi-car pileup on the interstate, observers are left appalled and wondering how on earth … Well, at least the Gibson family had their day in court and a just verdict at the end of it, too. As for Oberlin and their current administrative cadre; the college itself may very well pay a price for having created a situation and fanned the flames. As for the administrators who set the stage and by their own actions and inactions set it all in motion? Golden parachutes and/or remunerative offers of employment elsewhere will be their reward. That kind of executive always moves fast enough to leave the stink behind them.
As for the students at Oberlin who participated in the protests, and likely to this day believe that the owners of Gibson’s are the worst kind of racists; I might feel sorry for them, but that they chose to lend themselves to a vicious calumny against wholly innocent people. A small thing, in itself as things go – but that way, the way of small steps, going along to get along, excusing small things because it seems that everyone else is going along and no one wants to go against the tide, do they, Comrade – that is the way into a moral hell. And yes, as Sarah Hoyt muses here, it may be difficult avoiding those small steps, but at the very least, one should be aware of where those small steps may lead, eventually.