By Kathi Bliss
Before I start discussing this topic, I want to make one thing abundantly clear. I think that Donald Sterling is a bigoted idiot. I hate every word that came out of his bigoted, idiotic mouth, and I applaud the LA Clippers’ decision to take off their jerseys and wear their t-shirts inside out to protest his idiotic bigotry. I do not agree with a word that he said. He’s a racist jerk.
With that being said, when did we become a nation that punishes free speech? When did we become a nation that supports the punishment of free expression? When did the ideas of “tolerance” and “political correctness” become more important than one of the founding concepts of this nation?
One of my favorite movies, “The American President,” starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, addresses this topic, in part, in a rousing speech given by Douglas’s “President Andrew Shepherd.” He says, in part:
“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.”
As Americans, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Granted, when those words take physical form and become actions, then yes, something should be done – case in point, when Sterling was sanctioned and fined for refusing to rent to people of color. That’s discrimination, flat out, and we have laws preventing such things. Sanctioning him, in that situation, was the right thing to do.
But sanctioning him for expressing himself verbally – regardless of how unpopular those thoughts might be? I just don’t get that. I don’t get why anyone thinks it’s right, and I don’t get why anyone supports it.
To my mind, the action taken by the NBA is a clear-cut violation of Sterling’s right to free speech. When push comes right to shove, being a bigot isn’t illegal.
I had the same feelings earlier this year, when I heard that Mozilla was bowing to public pressure and driving out CEO Brendan Eich because of his donation to a campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
Again, I don’t agree with Eich’s position on the matter, but I will defend his right to have that opinion, and to make a donation to support that opinion. I’ll defend it right to the ground. As should we all.
If we do anything short of that, we’re standing by and allowing our God-given right to free speech to be eroded, right before our eyes.
Somewhere, at some point, our tolerance of “tolerance” has to stop short. What follows, if we allow ourselves to be punished for the words that come out of our mouths, in private conversations? What follows if we allow ourselves to be punished by society for the causes that we support – or the causes that we don’t?
Do we then allow ourselves to be punished for the thoughts in our heads? Do we allow ourselves to stand quietly, like sheep, not expressing any opinion other than the popular, any idea other than the status quo?
If that is our final outcome, than we can no longer claim to be the “land of the free.”