As a journalist (pause for laughter) and as an American in general, I consider the First Amendment of the United States Constitution perhaps the single most important run-on sentence ever written: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I especially hold sacred the first semi-colonic clause: "or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Sadly, this is the one that I worry is in the gravest danger. This is the one that seems to be getting stamped out by a generation of over-coddled, everyone-gets-a-trophy young people who've been raised to believe that no one should have the right to say anything that hurts their feelings.
So far, the biggest offenders in the assault on free speech have been, sadly enough, American colleges. Watch the YouTube video of the girl at Yale screaming at a professor that he needs to keep her safe from offensive Halloween costumes. Or read about Ithaca College's program wherein tattletale students can report "microaggressions" said to them by members of a more "privileged" class. It's enough to make you concerned for our future.
That's why I was so excited last week when the first blow in the fight to save the First Amendment from whiny college students was finally struck. I honestly think that the acceptance letter from University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison to the university's incoming freshmen could contain one of the most important sentences of this decade:
"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
What he's saying, in essence, is that if you want to attend the University of Chicago, you're going to have to grow up and accept the fact that no one in the real world gives a crap about your feelings. All I can say is thank God someone in an official capacity finally said it. Enough is enough.
And, yes, I realize that Clint Eastwood said basically the same thing in much coarser language just a few weeks ago -- an outburst for which I belatedly give him kudos -- but to the younger generation, Dirty Harry is just the old guy who talked to a chair.
His opinion, while absolutely spot-on, in my opinion, carries no more weight with today's college students than would a similar sentiment from Charlton Heston or Ted Nugent. So when Eastwood called young people the "pussy generation" the way he did, it likely fell on deaf ears.
But the good news for the First Amendment is that Ellison's letter wasn't the only positive reaffirmation of American freedom of speech that took place last week. The other one came courtesy of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem before a recent preseason football game to protest racial injustice or something.
Kaepernick's actions, to me, are kind of whatever -- he could have slept through the anthem for all I care -- but it's the response that his actions have engendered that has me so upbeat.
After the media made a story out of Kaepernick's protest, lots of American military veterans and other people who we honor by standing for the national anthem came forward to rigorously defend Kaepernick's right to do the sort of thing he did, as much as they may have disagreed with it.
You see, that's the difference between the U.S. and a place like North Korea, where a vice premier was reportedly executed in July for dozing off during a meeting. Here, we have the right to express ourselves in whatever legal way we choose, even if that way is offensive to someone else. It's one of our most basic defining principles as Americans.
For the past few years now, I've honestly been worried that our hyper-politically correct culture has had us on the road toward a repressive, Orwellian groupthink future, wherein contrary thoughts could be punishable by prison sentences. Thanks to Ellison and Kaepernick, I wouldn't say I'm less concerned, but I think at least maybe we're not headed down the road quite so fast as we were.
Sticks and stones can break Todd Hartley's bones, but words can never hurt him. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.