I don’t remember the year, I only remember that I was at UGA. That puts it somewhere between Fall of 1994 and Summer of 1996. The school newspaper, The Red and Black, published a piece from a student. It was either a letter to the editor, or possibly an op-ed. Again, I don’t remember exactly. And it doesn’t matter.
The piece itself was a scathing denouncement of homosexuality, and it was pretty brutal. So much so that by “today’s standards”, it may have been considered hate speech. I am certain of that. People talked about it for days afterward. On the bus. In the halls. In the classrooms. He had his moment in the sun, for sure. His name was Cade Harvill. And I am not even sure I spelled that correctly.
Some things in your life, you just never forget where you were when they happened. For me, it’s been the Challenger explosion, 9/11, Princess Diana’s death, and Cade Harvill’s letter. I was on the “Orbit”. The UGA bus route that literally orbited campus. When I looked up, I saw that most of the passengers on the bus were reading it too. Some, like me, were uncomfortable. Others were ready to buy him a beer. But, we all had to go about our lives.
We went about our lives, he wasn’t kicked out of school (that I am aware of), and we each just dealt. Same thing as when the KKK spoke on campus. And many other extremists.
We just kept on going.
See, at the time, the First Amendment was pretty solid. It meant that we were allowed to speak our minds, regardless of how screwed up our words may have seemed to others. It meant that we were free to our own opinions, without fear of “punishment”, or being banned. If people didn’t want to hear your bullshit, they were also free to walk on by. Or turn off the TV. Or throw the paper in the trash. College campuses were champions of free speech. The “safe space” for the First Amendment.
We’ve come a long way from those days. I just peaked at this article online: http://www.king5.com/article/news/local/5-arrested-after-skirmishes-at-uw-college-republican-rally/281-517101622
About forty people showed up to a “Patriot Prayer” event held on the Washington campus. The Patriot Prayer group (Goddamn, I am so sick of that word being so freely bastardized by everyone anymore) is a group founded by a Japanese-American guy that wants to “liberate the conservatives on the west coast”. They are a conservative group, and maybe a little anti-big government. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing). What they are NOT, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a hate group. Nor, according to SPLC, is founder Joey Gibson an extremist. Critics of Gibson’s group often bitch about the fact that the events often attract the alt-right pigs. However, this doesn’t directly tie the group to the known hate groups. It only means the pigs are out and about trying to go places where they feel relevant.
The counter response to this 40 man event, was a protest that consisted of four to five times as many people as were attending the prayer event. According to news sources, a few fights broke out and five people were arrested.
Why? Just as “we” have the right to protest (peacefully), those forty people have the right to get their patriot prayer rolling. I wasn’t there, but I’d bet my next paycheck that those forty people were not the primary agitators in this particular shit show. Forty vs Four Hundred doesn’t seem like a smart place to pop off your prayer mouth.
At what point did the First Amendment get flushed down the drain, and “we” get the right to “demand” that people we abhor not be allowed to enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by it? When did they apply only to those of us “on the right side” of history? When did college campuses become the very last place one can invoke their First Amendment rights?
I think that my college experience, particularly having to accept and “deal” with people like Mr. Harvill, prepared me for adulthood and life in general. I learned early on that not everyone would feel the way that I feel, nor think the way I thought. But, I also learned that we all had to inhabit the same space, either at school, at work, or for some people, even at home.
Maybe I am wrong, but I fail to see how spending the energy of 400 plus people to go protest the huddling of forty people, accomplished anything. Other than some internet news headlines.
Maybe that was it. Maybe the headlines were really what the 440 people wanted?
As always, these are just my thoughts and opinions and do not reflect on my friends, family, nor others that know me.