February is First Amendment month, and yes, I know that it’s kind of silly all of the “months” that we have. Some of them are quite good, like “Black History Month,” “Great American Pie Month,” “National Heart Month,” and “National Macadamia Nut Month.”
Can we all agree that the First Amendment is a good idea? In fact, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the bedrock foundation of our free society. Right up there with the Declaration of Independence.
And having said that, let’s get this silly idea out of the way. The First Amendment says that “Congress Shall Make No Laws” that abridge the freedom of speech and the press. It doesn’t make exceptions for “hate speech” (whatever THAT is!) or speech that makes you uncomfortable or speech that challenges your dogmas. The First Amendment was specifically designed to provide protection for people you loathe, people you detest and fear. It was invented to protect those who offend you the most. People who advocate dogs and cats living together, people who want to hum happy tunes using nothing but sharp notes, and, worst of all, people who eat purple vegetables.
This appears to be something that our colleges, which used to be hotbeds of freedom of speech, have forgotten. Berkeley University, which was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, obviously needs an enema of some sort now since these days it’s more the home of the Constipated Speech Movement. And spare me your emails. I know that they were protesting someone who is a provocateur, who loves to poke fun at various sacred notions and enjoys outraging people. Doesn’t matter. He has the right to speak. His right to speak should certainly be defended from goons in black leotards wearing black masks and wielding iron batons to silence those they disagree with.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote defenses of the right of people to burn the flag because it was protected by the First Amendment, even as he admitted that, if he were king, he would prefer to cut their heads off!
So, when you hear that people are not being allowed to speak somewhere because someone considers them to be the moral equivalent of Hitler, and that same someone beats up people, sets fires and destroys store fronts in the name of combating fascism, you may be forgiven for being skeptical. Fascism is as fascism does.
There was only one Hitler, and no one else even comes close. But some of us are trying.