Americans just celebrated the anniversary of our independence from England. It's sad that so many Americans think of Independence Day only as an opportunity to watch fireworks while they are completely ignorant of what they're celebrating, when we declared our independence, who we declared independence from, and why. Here's a funny (but still sad) video showing random people who can't answer even the most basic questions about the history of our independence.
Some kids who paid attention in school might believe we fought the Revolution because of a tax on tea. That's actually a very misleading characterization of the attitude of the colonists. It's a complicated subject but the reasons more accurately involved things like an oppressive government that did not give colonists any voice in the laws that affected them and a strong military presence of British soldiers in the colonies. The colonists believed that governments should protect the rights of its people – not subjugate them; they believed that armies were for fighting enemies – not keeping citizens in line. Because of his repeated abuses against the colonists' rights, King George III was called a tyrant.
Now, fast forward to the present. Just a couple of weeks ago, a third grade, NJ student used the word “brownies” during an end-of-the-year party at school. His mother says he was talking about the baked dessert but another student in the class considered the term to be a racial slur. Instead of educating the offended student about the word, the school decided to call the police who interviewed the 9-year-old about what he said. Read the following quote from the article from the Huffington Post:
The school then called the Collingswood Police Department to settle the matter, according to Philly.com. The exact comment the boy allegedly made has not been made public, but his mom, Stacy dos Santos, said she believes the school officials overreacted.
My first reaction was probably the same as most people's, namely that political correctness has gone too far. However, this is more than a simple case of overreaction. It highlights exactly how vulnerable our rights truly are. It's not just that the officials felt the need to call the police but it's also that the police bothered to respond at all!
As seen in this quote, the exact context surrounding the word, “brownies” is not known. Let's assume, for a moment, that the student was indeed making a racial slur. Please tell me when it became a crime to be racist? Do we not have the freedom of speech? Do we not have the freedom of association? Unless the child actually threatened violence the police should have told the school officials to call the child's parents and stop bothering them. Instead, the police responded and wanted to know exactly what the child said. Why? If the child had said he was calling a dark-skinned student, “brownie,” what then? Would the police officer have arrested him? If not, then what is the point of the police even being there? The mere fact that a police officer was there shows that our first amendment rights are being threatened.
To live in a free society means that people will sometimes say things other people don't like. I'm sorry but there is no right to “not be offended.” I don't agree with bigots but I will still defend their right to be bigots. They can spew their hatred and I can highlight their ignorance. I'm happy to compete in the arena of ideas but I don't want the government deciding whose ideas are acceptable and whose are criminal.
What would happen to me if someone decides my blog is filled with hate speech? Might I someday expect a knock on my door by an armed police officer demanding, “Tell me what you said”? Does the government fear someone being called a name? It seems to me they don't care that the actions here are earning them the name, tyrant! “King George, meet the NJ police and public school officials.”