American Elephants


The Bill of Rights Will Be 225 Years Old This Year, And Nobody seems to Understand it After All This Time! by The Elephant's Child

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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.

The Bill of Rights will be 225 years old this year, and remains as contentious as ever. In a way, it’s only natural. Nobody likes rude comments directed to them, or to someone or someone they favor. Depending on just how rude — you probably want them silenced. Certainly we have a current problem on college campuses where the students not only don’t want to be offended, but they don’t want any microaggressions, and want to be protected from having to hear anyone who might disagree with them.

Well so much for education. No one who needs protection from opinions different from their own has any interest in being educated. ‘Protection from’ and ‘education’ are antithetical. Parents, you’re wasting your money.

“December 17, 2015 ought henceforth to be a date which will live in infamy, as that was the day that some of the leading Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in favor of the destruction of the First Amendment. House Resolution 569 condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.”

That freedom of speech thing is all very well until it is your own ox being gored. How did we get to a place where understanding the meaning of free speech is so hard?

Here’s a short history of how the Bill of Rights came about. and follow that up with Wikipedia’s account of the Alien and Sedition Acts. What? You mean they can throw you in prison for criticizing the government?  That’s what Sedition is, and in many countries it is grounds for being arrested, thrown in prison, or even having your head chopped off. ISIS chops off heads of those who criticize the Caliphate or its leaders, or the prophet, or its rules. Iran does the same, and Saudi Arabia just executed 47 prisoners. You will find many countries where Sedition is against the law.

Jonathan Rauch wrote a splendid little book back in 1993 called “Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. The jacket flap says “Thou shall not hurt others with words. The commandment looks harmless even admirable. But it is neither. As Jonathan Rauch states in the groundbreaking book, “This moral principle is deadly—inherently deadly, not incidentally so—to intellectual freedom and to the productive and peaceful pursuit of knowledge.”

The most frightening thing of the year has been to discover that there are significant numbers of students who have been admitted to good colleges, even ivy league colleges, who have not the slightest idea of  the importance of free speech, nor of the blessings of living in a country that has such protections. American schools go to great lengths to inform us that they are teaching “critical thinking.” That is a lie, and a big one. They are teaching the art of being a victim. They are teaching “social justice,” unaware that there is only one kind of justice in this country—which is embodied in the Constitution, the laws of the nation, the states, and the courts.

A reading list might start with Kindly Inquisitors, include 1984, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Add to that Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag: an account of the 22 years author Armando Valladares spent as a prisoner of conscience under Fidel Castro. His only crime was upholding his Catholic faith by refusing to display Marxist propaganda on his work desk. He was kept up at night by the sound of Castro’s firing squads murdering innocent Cubans, brutally beaten, immersed in human feces, forced to watch guards abuse and even murder other prisoners. President Reagan read his memoir and appointed Valladares the U.S. ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The pitiful “snowflakes” on our campuses, having been “organized” by former protesters from Ferguson and Baltimore, Acorn, and Obama’s Americorps, were protesting faux racial offenses, and nonexistent hate crimes. There was no excuse for administrators and faculty who forgot how to behave like adults, and pandered and resigned in disgrace.

Greg Lukianoff of the organization FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has been defending freedom of expression on campus since 1999. He wrote today at Cato, an essay titled “Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time.” FIRE is a splendid organization and his essay is worth your time. If we do not stand up for freedom of speech, we may end up with a new batch of Sedition laws. The Left is certainly of the opinion that freedom of speech should be curtailed.  Or do you not understand what the Citizens United case was all about? Our presidential candidates on the Left promise to get rid of the decision.

Another essay worth your time is “Campus Turmoil Begins in High School” by Jonathan Haidt. The kids are heading back to school after Christmas vacation. We’ll see if the holidays (or their parents) have mellowed the returning students at all. We can only hope.


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