Freedom of speech does not grant the right to shout down opposing voices or stifle offensive ideas, a lesson clearly lost on some college campuses in the Trump era.
Violent clashes have erupted at alleged institutions of higher learning as protesters seek to block controversial speakers from appearing at some of the nation’s most highly regarded colleges and universities. The bulk of these clashes were the result of liberal students angry over invitations extended to conservative speakers.
This may get me excommunicated, but while the right-wing perpetrates the lion’s share of political bullying, it has far from cornered the market. Lefties can be just as obnoxious, and it has become clear that some trudging their paths through academia have a lot to learn about democracy.
For instance, protest is American. Censorship is not. Vigorous debate is healthy. Violence is toxic. Please take notes. This will all be on the test.
And please read this Atlantic magazine piece, which deftly addresses a seminal American truth: Freedom of speech is for everyone, or no one. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the president.
No, not that president. I’m thinking of President Andrew Shepherd, portrayed by Michael Douglas in “The American President” (1995). For the most part it’s a silly rom-com, but Shepherd’s speech near the end says many things all Americans need to be reminded about now and again. Especially now. Take it away, Mr. President.
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, and who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
Anyone want to argue with that?