April 28, 2017

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: Free Speech

Ann Coulter, the long-standing outspoken conservative, she who was Tomi Lahren before there was a Tomi Lahren, she who may have tossed out a brief Nazi salute at the Republican National Convention (although we know she really didn't), was planning on speaking, in a public square or a triangle park or a traffic circle or something like that on or near the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

No, seriously, she was going to speak at Sproul Plaza, the site of iconic free speech protests back in the 60s, when free speech was all the rage.

Coulter was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley by two groups, Bridges USA (politically moderate) and the College Republicans. That invitation was rescinded -- too dangerous, bad, not safe -- but then the University offered her a different date but Coulter was not having it. She wanted Thursday and she was going to take Thursday, whether the university wanted her to or not And whether the police wanted her to or not.

As it turned out, the groups that had invited her backed away, not wanting to be associated with the promised violence and protests. And Coulter, after noting that it was "up to the police to keep her safe" backed down and decided not to show up. Interestingly, she also reminded us that former Homeland Security Security Janet Napolitano is the president of the University of California. And that
She had to keep the entire nation safe. I think she can keep a college campus safe. 
She's got a point there. And of course she's got a way with words, which is why she would make an interesting speaker, whether you agree with her or not.

What the hell is wrong with us that we cannot allow her to speak her mind, at Berkeley of all places? Yes, she's a provocateur; yes, she's opinionated; yes, she's brash, and surely, she's not a lefty. But does that preclude her from speaking anyplace other than on conservative TV and radio shows?

Do her words justify violent protests? Of course they don't. Neither did Milo's, really - and yet, he too was shut down and not allowed to speak at Berkeley, even before the videos suggesting he 'supported' pedophilia were brought to light -- by conservatives -- with the purpose of keeping him from speaking at CPAC.

According to this report, Milo is not done with Berkeley yet. He's planning to "occupy the public plaza" and to host free speech rallies this fall, protesting how the university is handling appearances by folks like him, and Coulter. And, he blamed liberals for the fear of violence.
It's happening because the left knows it's losing. It's losing the political battle and losing the free speech battle. And like a dog being kicked to death, it is lashing out.
He, like Coulter, has a point.

We have a problem, whether it's because the left lost, or because the right thinks everyone on the left is a snowflake. Or, because we have become intolerant of anyone and everyone who does not agree with us.

From my middle aged white lady perspective, threatening violence in an effort to keep someone with whom you disagree from exercising their constitutional right to free speech is not brave, or strong. It's cowardly, and nothing to write home about. And how it got to the point where we interpret our rights to apply only to us and those who agree with us, and not to those who disagree, is beyond me.

Is it our intractable politicians, their heels dug so far into their own ideology that they can barely walk upright?

Perhaps it's the Internet, which encourages anonymity and stokes slowly burning embers of hate?

Or maybe our president, who employed a take-no-prisoners approach to winning, and who, when faced with statements of fact from an opponent, simply yelled "wrong" over and over and over and then moved on to verbally assault the next one?

Or fear, real fear, of being 'taken over' by the other side, by the other guy, by "those people" - you know, the ones who don't look like you or think like you or talk like you or pray like you?

Or patriotism? Are these folks all acting out of some deeply held belief that their vision of America is the only vision, and that only those of the same ilk are allowed to speak?

Former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who served in the House for ten years and the Senate for 30 before retiring this year, once said
America is not a melting pot, it's a sizzling cauldron.
I don't know the specific context for her remark, but it seems so true, and so sad. Is rage our new identity?

Above I pointed the finger at five possible 'causes' of this, to show how easy it is to blame someone, or some thing, for the actions of others. We're told to do that, we're taught to do that, it seems that's one of the first things we learn.

But we all know where the answer lies - and we know who to blame.  We just have to look in the mirror.