Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What, me worry? Well, I'm worried about this!

The conflicts around California's Prop 8 have got me worried about the erosion of a civil right in this state. I'm not talking about the right to get married, but the right to express an opinion.

Lawn signs have been stolen -- in the newspaper I've read only that "Yes on 8" signs have been stolen (apparently thousands of them), but I've heard that in some neighborhoods, "No on 8" signs have also disappeared.

Threats have been made, and people have gotten into fistfights -- we're talking about expressing an opinion here!

What ever happened to "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"?

Unlike many other countries, laws are supposed to mean something in this country. Here we're supposed to play by a set of rules, and I'm afraid we haven't had a lot of shining examples of that lately. Bush's no-warrant domestic wiretaps, Mayor Newsom's unauthorized "issue same-sex marriage licenses," and so on.

So when I see a sign I dislike, well, why not steal it when my neighbor isn't home? Or put an opposing sign right in front of it?

If someone's marching in a demonstration, and I don't like what they're saying, why not punch them out?

If some business donated money to a cause I don't like, why not vandalize their building?

Two reasons why not:
  1. Because it's wrong and unfair; or if you don't believe in right and wrong...
  2. Because this is America, for goodness's sake, not Zimbabwe.
Violence and lawlessness is not just "the final refuge of the incompetent" but it will bring about the downfall of civil society. If we don't play by the rules, we will become Zimbabwe.

Now, is it OK to call for a boycott on some business because I don't like their policies? Sure, that's your right.

Is it OK to march peacefully outside? Of course it is!

Is it OK to barge into a church and disrupt their meeting? Only if it's also OK to barge into an abortion clinic and disrupt legal activities therein. In other words, no!

I would like leaders on both sides to repudiate violence and lawlessness. Is that a vain hope?

When it comes to freedom of speech in California -- Oooh, do I worry....

Update November 19

Well, the San Jose Mercury News makes my point in this editorial:
Had supporters of gay marriage shown as much fervor for their cause before the Nov. 4 election as they have since, they probably would have defeated Proposition 8. But they will surely fail in their campaign to repeal the ban if threats and coercion continue to be among their tactics.
We may disagree on the merits of prop. 8 (or lack thereof), but they have it exactly right that vandalism and coercion are counterproductive and should be out of bounds.

Herhold goes even further in this piece:
You can understand why the advocates of the right to gay marriage are furious.
But the grass-roots plan for a boycott of the people and businesses who contributed to Proposition 8, from Leatherby's Ice Cream in Sacramento to the Cupertino dentist who gave $1,000, is the wrong tactic, a blunt club when a scalpel is called for. It will backfire.
Same deal here -- we disagree on prop. 8, but agree that civil discourse is important in a civil society.

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