Letters to the Editor: Shutting down speaker sets a dangerous precedent
I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about Donald Trump’s hair. Yes, it’s a bad comb-over, and yes, it can have a faint orange tint, but frankly, I wouldn’t care if he looked like an eight-foot tall hamster if I thought he were sane, competent, trustworthy and had the interests of America and Americans at heart.
Of course, what people are really saying when they complain about his looks is they don’t agree with him. And that bothers me, because I’m not excited to have people making fun of my hair the next time I run my mouth off about something. Or insulting Hillary or Obama’s looks, either. Because what seems like innocent fun can easily turn darker, and if we set the precedent, we can’t very well complain if someone turns the tables on us.
It’s the same reason why the news of the disruption of Charles Murray’s speech last week concerns me so much (even leaving aside the violence at the end). As with Trump, there’s plenty to say to debunk his conclusions, and as with Trump, his statements — and what they’re used to justify — are troubling, to say the least. But the minute you respond to that by shutting out his voice, you’re saying it’s ok for yourself to be silenced next, because I can guarantee that in this political climate, no matter who you are, there is someone who finds your views to be anathema.
Look at the call for fair and impartial policing. I am positive that there are many in Vermont who find the notion that our police may be motivated by racial bias — conscious or not — personally offensive and disruptive to the whole social fabric. What if they used that sense of umbrage to justify drowning out the voice of people who point out that they are pulled over by the police again and again simply because they are black?
As sanctimonious as the name “the Golden Rule” is, the concept is fairly simple: let’s set ground rules for behavior that apply equally to everyone. You can’t just operate on the principle that the ends justify the means, because what seems self-evidently right, even morally imperative, to you is just as self-evidently wrong to someone else. And what looks like virtuous resistance when you’re the actor may suddenly feel like tyranny when the shoe’s on the other foot.
By all means, point out that Murray’s scholarship is specious and his conclusions morally and intellectually bankrupt. Point out that Trump is acting like a particularly dim-witted bull in a very large china shop. Nominate Alec Baldwin for an Oscar.
But let’s leave the bullhorns and the orange-hair jokes at home.
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