Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com. His new book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph," will be published April 24 by HarperCollins.More ↓Less ↑
Last week, the National Football League called off an NFL game because it was going to snow in Philadelphia. This has not happened before. American football is played under all weather conditions. That is part of its appeal. Snow, rain, freezing temperatures – nothing stops an NFL game.
But last Sunday, the NFL and Philadelphia city officials called off the Eagles-Vikings game because of an imminent snowstorm – in order to protect fans from having to drive at that time.
Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, wrote a scathing column for the Washington Times, indicting those who called off the game. He described it as an example of the “wussification” of America.
He was right.
Sadly, this risk-averse/avoid-pain mindset is overtaking America. Anything that entails risk is to be avoided and, when possible, banned. The breast cancer drug Avastin has just been banned by the FDA because of side-effect risk to some patients. Yet terminally ill breast cancer patients who understand the risks have begged to be allowed to take the drug (even Europe allows it). Peanuts and peanut butter, particularly good sources of protein for kids (because kids actually like and therefore eat peanuts and peanut butter), are banned in more and more schools because of the risk (which is far less than being killed by lightning) that peanut-allergic students may die in schools that do not ban peanuts. Desperately needed nuclear power plants are shelved because of the infinitesimally small risk of nuclear-waste radiation leakage. And now an NFL game is canceled because of the risk that some fans might get into auto accidents in a snowstorm.
Americans are becoming increasingly risk-averse.
Though Rendell is a Democrat, this risk aversion comes from the left, which has made it its mission to protect people from risk. Risk may lead to pain, and the left dreams of a pain-free life.
The most left-wing institutions in America, our universities, are therefore the most pain- and risk-averse. That is the reason for speech codes on campuses: No student should have his or her feelings hurt or ever feel “offended.” Likewise, no Christmas trees are allowed, lest a non-Christian student feel not included.
That is why Yale University Press last year decided at the last minute to cancel inclusion of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad in the very book it was about to publish about the Danish Muhammad cartoons! Too risky. The liberal university now stands for avoiding pain much more than for freedom of speech.
I have a sad confession to make. Whenever I hear or sing the national anthem, I no longer fully believe its ending – “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We have many freedom-loving and brave Americans – just think of those in the armed forces. But overall, risk has been banned as Americans seek to be immunized against pain.
Needless to say, the liberal Philadelphia Inquirer supported the decision to cancel the football game. And so did some of my callers who think of themselves as conservative. But all those self-identified conservative callers who supported the decision were, I noted on air, under the age of 40.
I explained to them that they have grown up in a different America than I did. The idea of telling an American that a pro football game is canceled because he might drive in bad weather strikes a conservative over 40 as demeaning. But the young have been raised without monkey bars, dodge ball or seesaws, lest they fall and hurt themselves; without “Merry Christmas,” lest it offend; protected by parents and schools from experiencing the pain of a loss in sports; being told they are wonderful when they are not; and otherwise weakening them to the point where it seems perfectly natural to cancel a football game because fans may drive in bad weather.
A listener who disagreed with me sent me an e-mail asking me how I would feel if my father drove to that game and died in an accident because emergency vehicles could not reach him in time. I responded by giving my correspondent my father’s e-mail address. I told him that I suspected that my father, who is a healthy 92 and fought for three years in World War II, would probably respond that he doesn’t recognize the America of today as the one he fought for 65 years ago.
That’s why the cancellations by the NFL and Yale University are important. Once the home of the brave, America is becoming the home of the risk-averse and the pain-avoiders. And when you are risk-averse, you are not only less brave, you are less free. With freedom comes pain, a price more and more Americans don’t want to pay.