BELL VIEW--Did you know that conservative voices are being silenced by the all-powerful PC thought police? Mike Pence is shunned by the Notre Dame Class of 2017; Betsy DeVos is booed at a historic black college in Florida; Ann Coulter is run out of town on a rail in Berkeley. Donald Trump complains about his historic bad press, while across the country his supporters cry that no one understands their pain.
The American Right has grabbed hold of the mantle of free speech with the same death grip it used to strangle the meaning out of religious freedom. Donald Trump – who claimed to be the voice of this movement – summed up the Right’s position on free speech quite well when he said that “in the old days” people who disagreed with him “would have been carried out on a stretcher."
My commitment to the right to free speech is about as close as I come to religion. The Nazis had every right to march in Skokie. The Westboro Baptist Church must be allowed to hold their vile signs as high in the air as they please. Rush Limbaugh can continue to dress up his white supremacy in the guise of political commentary.
But does this mean these “voices” should be handed the podium at a graduation ceremony? Does the culture suffer when Bill O’Reilly loses his job for serial sexual harassment? The right to speak does not encompass the right to be respected. Or the right to be listened to. When a Nazi gets shamed from a high-end health club for being a Nazi – does free speech really suffer?
Walking out on Mike Pence during the Notre Dame graduation was as much an act of speech as the prepared remarks the Vice President spoke from the podium. The students who stood and quietly walked out of their own graduation ceremony said loud and clear: “We don’t respect you and your `ideas’ have no place in the celebration of our achievements.”
White supremacy is an idea I know well. I grew up around it. People mistake it for the kind of violence and hatred that erupts from the extreme fringes of this belief. But the burning, vile core of white supremacy is the belief that – no matter what the circumstances – a white person is superior to a non-white person. It is this religious belief – clung to now more than ever as the still-dominant white race has been duped into believing its power and privilege is being usurped – that drove the Civil War, fueled Jim Crow, justified redlining, and acquits the killers of children. This belief put Donald Trump in the White House.
This idea must be rooted out, suppressed, and destroyed forever. We have been politely debating these questions in the halls of Congress and the pages of newspapers since the beginning of this country. The time has come to ‘punch a Nazi in the face’ and drive this belief into the dirt.
So boo, turn your backs, close the doors of polite society, and shout down the purveyors of this filth until it has nowhere to turn. Stop giving these people podiums and stages and radio shows to spout this nonsense. We’ve had enough. Just shut up already.
(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)