You’d better watch what you say
You’d better watch what you do to me
—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Good Love Is Hard To Find
Do you ever look around you and ask yourself, “What the hell is happening to us?” I’ve found myself in that boat lately after a string of stories I’ve been seeing.
Wednesday, a group of students from the Penn State chapter of the Young America’s Foundation were outside the student union building handing out free copies of the United States Constitution. They were doing so in one of the campus’ handful of specially-designated “free speech zones,” which in itself begs the question why—on Constitution Day, no less—they had to confine themselves to a specially-designated area to exercise their right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the very Constitution they were trying to distribute. Worse, not only were they at a university—a place where almost by definition the whole idea is to marinate in a free exchange of ideas—but they were at a state university, meaning they were on public property.
The students were then confronted by university officials, who told them they could stand there and distribute their materials, but because they hadn’t reserved a space in advance—undoubtedly requiring a fee (read: free speech tax)—they had to take down their display table (which, of course, was allowing them to attract the attention of interested people without the uncomfortable exercise of personally confronting everyone whether they like it or not). And if they didn’t comply, the official was going to call the cops. The reason? It “violates the policy.” Nothing about the students being disruptive, destructive, or inciting violence—just mindless, jackbooted enforcement of “the policy.”
You WILL comply, and you will do so because I say so.
Now, you know the people behind these kinds of policies are the same people who were taking over university administration buildings and rioting with police when they were exercising their freedom of speech in the 1960s. Apparently anything goes when they’re the ones doing the talking, but mention a conservative idea like the Constitution—the modern Progressive Left never talks in Constitutional terms anymore—and you’d better jump through their policy hoops or shut up.
Think that’s insane? Read on.
At Arkansas State, a football player and student manager were killed over the summer in separate incidents. The team sought to honor the pair—both of whom were known to have been Christians—with a small sticker on the back of their helmets depicting a cross bearing the two students’ initials. Predictably, an atheist got bent out of shape enough to bitch, and the university punted (a decision later reversed, but only after a conservative legal foundation threatened to sue the school, and only on the stipulation that the players voluntarily wear the sticker and pay for it themselves).
How juvenile and self-absorbed do you have to be to complain about a sticker a bunch of 19-year-old kids employ to help grieve over their dead friends at an event nobody forced you to attend?
Last week, principal Val Wyatt told the football booster club at Ventura High School in California that they would be forbidden from selling 200 sandwiches donated by a local Chick-fil-A. The original reason given was that the principal was working to keep the school free of marketing by vendors attempting to reap a profit. Profits?!?! Horrors! But as Todd Starnes points out FoxNews.com, the Chick-fil-A shop donated the sandwiches; it wasn’t going to make a dime. The principal conceded that her real motivation—supported by the district superintendent—was that she didn’t like Chick-fil-A’s position on gay rights:
“With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus.”
Trouble is, as Starnes also notes, Chick-fil-A as a corporate entity—bear in mind even that is separate from the local franchise owner who was actually donating the sandwiches—doesn’t have a position on gay rights. And if what she’s really referring to is company president Dan Cathy’s now-infamously mis-paraphrased remarks in a 2012 interview in which he was asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage, all he said was he supported the Biblical definition of the family unit. He didn’t slander or demean homosexuals. [As an aside, I’m not even sure you can characterize his statements as affirmatively opposing gay marriage or any other “gay rights.” Saying you support traditional marriage is not the same thing as saying you oppose legislation permitting Ken to marry Steve (or marry Steve and Rick, or marry Mr. Tinkles the cat), and it’s worth noting that many of these same people on the Progressive Left support abortion at the top of their lungs yet will tell you that they do not condone abortion in their personal lives.] But it was enough to deny the kids on the Ventura High football team the benefit of a charitable donation large enough to have bought brand-new state-of-the-art helmets for every kid on the team.
I wonder what Principal Wyatt will have to say to the parents of the first kid with a life-altering brain injury.
But wait. There’s more.
Last month at the College of Coastal Georgia, physics professor Dr. Leon Gardner handed out a syllabus that informed his students if they responded to someone’s sneeze by saying “bless you”—a common courtesy dating to before the Middle Ages, and maybe even to before the time of Christ—it would result in up to a 15% grade reduction. 15%. That’s turning a B into a C-. The rule was later rescinded after a massive public outcry, but the idea that it would even occur to someone to enact it in the first place speaks volumes.
At Ramay Junior High in Fayetteville, 8th grader Chloe Rubiano came to school last month wearing a t-shirt that said “Virginity Rocks.” A laudable sentiment in a 13-year-old, don’t you think? But at a school where girls are pregnant and guidance counselors distribute condoms, apparently the concept of virginity is too disruptive and sexually-charged to be permitted in public. So she was forced to change into a gym shirt or be sent home.
This is where we are with our schools. You can’t distribute the Constitution—even in a designated “free speech zone” on public property—without being slapped with a hyper-technical violation of bureaucratic “policy.” You can’t mourn a dead teammate by putting a sticker on your football helmet. You can’t support the local high school football team by selling sandwiches donated by a franchisee of a corporation whose president says he’s happy he’s still married to his first wife and that she’s a she. You can’t say “bless you” if someone sneezes. Your 8th grader can’t support virginity, at least not out loud. Updating a post from several years ago, the 9th Circuit full panel has upheld rulings that an American high school can ban students from wearing American flags because they might incite Hispanic students to violence. And as I’ve covered previously, your 5th grader can’t read his bible in class during “free” reading time, and if you protest too loudly about your 14-year-old being assigned porn as required reading you go to freaking jail.
Meanwhile . . .
At Clemson University, students and faculty are being required to answer a survey that asks, among other things, how many times they’ve had sex in the last 3 months, and with how many people. Failure to do so is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Supposedly this is part of some kind of sensitivity training the federal government is requiring under Title IX—and if so, it’s a good example of why the federal government shouldn’t be funding state universities in the first place—but one struggles to see the connection. I’ll let that speak for itself.
In a world where even dozens of purported “Catholic” universities—including Notre Dame—have sponsored productions of The Vagina Monologues in recent years, and public schools make graphically illustrated sex ed books available to middle school kids, I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising. But this is where our cow-towing to political correctness has gotten us. Sane, rational speech that happens not to fit with the Progressive narrative is banned, while perverted and hyper-sexualized expression, behavior, and intrusions are perfectly acceptable.
I understand that the First Amendment does not mean you can say anything, anytime, anywhere. And I get it that schools need to be able to maintain a certain degree of order, particularly inside classrooms, to be able to fulfill their primary mission of teaching. But this persistent and two-faced attack on conservative expression is out of control.
If the Progressive Left gets to control—by force—what we can say and where we can say it, particularly in our schools, then it’s over. We have to fight back. We have to push back against this sort of PC-fascism and reclaim our unalienable rights guaranteed to us under the First Amendment. All of us. If we don’t start doing it soon, there may be little left we have to say about it.