Only correct speech is not violence. And only correct speech is acceptable.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
In the movie, “Cool Hand Luke”, Paul Newman plays prisoner Luke Jackson. Strother Martin is the Captain in this Southern chain gang prison film. After trying to escape for the second time, the Captain says to Luke, “You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice, you got yourself two sets. You ain’t gonna need no third set ’cause you’re gonna get your mind right. And I mean RIGHT. [To the other inmates] Take a good look at Luke. Cool Hand Luke?”
Powerful forces are working, with increasing success, to get all of our minds “right”. And it is not just the media, powerful political groups and social media working on our minds–sometimes it is family and friends.
Luke never beat the system, but he refused to let them get his “mind right.” And he left an important legacy for his fellow inmates.
The First Amendment is not just about speech; it covers 5 important freedoms: religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly and redress of grievances. “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 need to guarantee free speech arises because we all need to be free to say and write things that may deeply disturb some others, even things those others might find hateful. The First Amendment right to free speech is there to protect speech that some may find deeply objectionable. If people wish to be deeply offended, that’s on them, but the so-called offensive speech is–and must be–protected. And as silly as it may be to have to point this out, silence is also protected. Without offensive speech, without hate speech, there would be no need for the Constitutionally guaranteed free speech.
In recent years, “Speech is Violence” became a slogan with certain crowds. Groups protesting speakers would claim that their violence in shutting down the speaker was justified because of what the speaker said–or was said to have said. “We will shut this talk down by any means necessary. His speech is violence and we must respond with violence.” The speaker did not need to even hint at violence to give rise to this claim. All he had to do was say the “wrong” things.
This early cancel culture soon spread to the media, social media and politics. We will see that clearly now as we start a list of examples with the Tom Cotton op-ed piece in the New York Times. The Times published an op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton, arguing that the president should invoke the Insurrection Act, sending federal troops to help restore order across the country. In response, reporters and editors at the Times took to Twitter to insist that the paper must “retract” Cotton’s op-ed as it “puts Black New York Times staff in danger.” In a fight that developed between the older, liberal (in the original sense of the word) staff and the younger, progressive staff, the editor of the Times, James Bennett, 54, was forced to resign. Over an op-ed piece.
In case you thought this was a one off, and could only happen at the Times, in nearby Philadelphia at the Inquirer, its editor, Stan Wischnowski, 58, was forced to resign over the assigned title to an article. The headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” was not chosen by the author, Inga Saffron, the paper’s architecture critic. Saffron’s article worried that buildings damaged in violence over the past week could “leave a gaping hole in the heart of Philadelphia.” I would not have chosen that headline, and at the same time one would have to be wed to an agenda to make the case that the headline means that buildings matter more than or as much as Black Lives. No sane person would choose property over life, and implying that the headline writer or the editor was making that case is absurd. But such is the nature of true believers with an agenda.
Future NFL Hall of Fame New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, was forced into a series of apologies for saying that he would never kneel during the National Anthem. He invoked the memory of his two grandfathers, both of whom served in WWII, as part of his reasoning. Even his wife joined in with her apology.
Denver Bronco head coach, Vic Fangio, said that he has never seen any racism in the NFL, observinging that it was a meritocracy. He may still be apologizing. If we tear down, cancel, everyone who is not considered flawless by current standards, no one will be left. Everyone from arch conservative Winston Churchill to pacifist Founder of modern India, Mohandas Gandhi, and Trump-hating liberal J. K. Rowling is being attacked. Churchill and Gandhi are being attacked as, what else, racists, and Rowling for her observation that there are only two sexes.
In case you think that staying quiet might save you from criticism and worse, now staying silent is unacceptable. According to this view, if you fail to use your platform to speak out about a targeted issue, you are guilty of violence.
As part of the Catechism team at St. Katherine of Siena school in Wayne, PA, I remember having to memorize the Baltimore Catechism. The process is similar today; read, memorize, and repeat. Listen, memorize and repeat. Don’t get anything wrong, and don’t stop repeating. You see, it has nothing to do with silence or speech, it has nothing to so with free speech. It is all about correct speech. It is all about getting our minds right. Stother Martin as the Captain used force. Colin Kaepernick in a pinned (semi-permanent) Tweet seems to agree with the Captain.
“When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction. The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance. We have the right to fight back! Rest in Power George Floyd.”
I am with Gandhi in approaching this–and any issue–with militant non-violence, and no, that is not an oxymoron. If we are going to listen to each other, as we must, then we need to do deep research to find what is true and be free to speak the truth–and be free to speak the truth. We must have a sufficient understanding of history and current events, and have enough of an open heart to recognize the truth when we hear it.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.