Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Mr. McDavis...rebuild this wall!"

Interesting tension developing on college campuses between "safe spaces"/"trigger warnings" and the Trump candidacy, as the GOP primary season races toward the checkered flag. In yesterday's news, the president of Ohio University, Roderick J. McDavis, apologized to the school's Hispanic students for the inscription "BUILD THE WALL," which some Trump supporters had painted on a wall designated as a "free speech area." Apparently Pres. McDavis doesn't see the irony of (at least implicitly) chastising students for using the area as it was intended. In point of fact, he took great pains to parse his explanation of why this particular manifestation of free speech wasn't really free speech after all. But in the end, and inevitably, his words reduced to the assertion that free speech isn't free speech if people's feelings are hurt. Glad you cleared that up, sir. 

Hispanic students, by the way, were allowed to paint over the statement. All of which means that Ohio University took an active hand in censoring one of the key platform planks of a candidate who has already amassed millions of votes and is the current front-runner for one of the only two parties that viably compete for the Oval Office.

Curious to see how this plays out big-picture, especially if Trump does indeed become the GOP candidate. How far will academia go in policing the activities of his supporters? They'll almost certainly be a minority, of course, but a vocal one, and they are sure to hold rallies and engage in other public displays of support featuring ideas and slogans that are considered anathemaif not formally verbotenin today's academia, with its obsessive concern for the feelings of its precious little snowflakes. 

Makes you wonder, what the hell would a guy like McDavis do if, say, a David Duke were mounting a presidential campaign? Would students be explicitly banned from actively supporting Duke at all? 

Lest I be misquoted (and become even more of a pariah at Lehigh and elsewhere), I'm not saying a David Duke candidacy would be a good thing, but I go back to what I most assuredly have been saying about Trump and his impolitic politics all along: A person is allowed to run for office and espouse any platform s/he cares to, even if that platform is considered immoral/illegal by all current standards. Laws changeeven the Constitution was intended to be malleable and/or open to different interpretations as required by emerging circumstances. In any case I don't see how we can finesse our way around the bedrock idea that the American people are allowed to vote for whomever they please

Where do I draw the line? Nowhere. If a candidate wants to reinstitute slavery or deny women the right to vote, let him run on that platform and we'll see what happens. If enough Americans want to support his ideas and even, later, perform the necessary amendment to the Constitution, so be it. That is the way our democracy was designed to function. You cannot stifle political initiatives on an a priori basis (though the mainstream media surely try). 


Cosmic Connie said...

Yep, I'm all for free speech too. Trump has a right to say stupid, hateful things, and people have a right to vote for him based upon their agreement with those stupid, hateful things (or based upon any other reason). But from what I've seen, Trump himself isn't a big champion of free speech.

I don't think anyone's views should be suppressed, though, unless the folks in question are actively endangering someone else.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, my biggest gripe, as I think you know, is that these things are happening in a college environment. How can you suppress ideas--ideas that are central to a presidential campaign--in college? No matter how bruised people's feelings get. Talk about it in class, make Trump's excesses the subject of a seminar (though the school still shouldn't take sides), even have a forum where the aggrieved parties (in this case Hispanics) get to explain to their other side why in their opinion Trump's remarks are the kind of "free speech" that should be akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater... But just shut people up?? Tell them they can't openly support the candidate of their choice?

It's crazy-making to me.