Wednesday, July 2, 2014

TFP Column: Canceled Commencement

(Contrary to logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 5/25/2014. 
In response to a lunchtime protest by the janitor and groundskeeper at Whatsamatta University, I have canceled my commencement appearance at this extinguished center of higher yearning.

While neither surprised nor disappointed to discover that my opinions are objectionable to some at Whatsamatta U (in fact, I take a certain warped pride that they are), I ultimately decided that such events should be about those graduating (both of them) and not about me.

In spite of the public dissent,  some have told me it’s important I speak, accept the honorary degree that’s been offered, begin to call myself “doctor” publicly and insist that others do so as well, and eventually try to parlay this into a career as a radio or TV talks show host.  I say, however, that an honorary degree is little more than a fancy piece of paper rewarding me for work that I’ve never done and I already get a pay stub for much the same thing every couple of weeks.

Others say that I should damn the naysayers and accept the opportunity to fly halfway across the country (difficult when you live in the middle) in order to say things to an audience smaller than (and soon to be even more impoverished than the titled characters) for “Two Broke Girls.” I say, however, that I have already put in my time in riding these “Greyhounds of the skies” and let me tell you, it’s no longer what it once was. Besides, if I wanted to work for peanuts, I could continue to write freelance columns for the rest of my life.

It appears, however, that I have inadvertently managed to become a member of an ever-growing (and far more credentialed list) of conservatives that have accepted an invitation to speak at a university event somewhere around the nation, only to later cancel said appearance in response to the pathetic whining of a vocal minority protesting the decision to invite them in the first place.
We are told this is a First Amendment issue, which only proves that we appear to be living in an age where the writings of the Founders have been vastly misconstrued by a number of the citizens who live under its freedom. While it’s true that the Constitution guarantees us the right to speak freely, it does so only within certain legal limits. Those limits do not include a protection against there being consequences against anything other than arrest.

Sadly however, it appears that any expression of politically incorrect speech (especially at institutions that in theory exist for the free exchange of ideas) is now likely to cost you everything but your freedom. No longer content with being the PC police, today’s latest group of zealots has a adopted a pose more consistent with that of the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected).

This is not to say that anyone must like what’s said by someone exercising those First Amendment rights.  It certainly doesn’t mean that you must agree with what they’re saying. It does perhaps mean, however, that a person in this country should be able to be heard out politely without fear of interruption or reprisal.  I remember the Michael Douglas line from the movie “The American President”:

“You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

Now, however, it seems as though every casual remark, every failed joke and certainly every tweet gone wrong are subject to endless scrutiny by a group of sanctimonious hypocrites who celebrate their own free speech by castigating others behind anonymous screen names.  Conservatives face the additional damning change of well … being conservative, and these social media bigots are are more than willing denounce and censure on the basis of that charge alone.

As for my own situation, regardless of my decision not to appear this year at Whatsamatta U, I am resolved to keep the down payment made on the speaker’s fee. Though cancellation means I am no longer be required to deliver my remarks (a boon for which many would gladly pay me), recompense is nonetheless deserved for having completed the difficult task of preparing them in the first place (which you can’t prove I didn’t).  Besides, retention of this honorarium should be just enough to “Super Size” my dinner tonight. 

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