One of my favorite movies is The American President, and one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when President Andrew Shepard (aka, Michael Douglas) gives a speech in front of the press in which he delivers a major smackdown to a Senator Bob Rumson (aka Richard Dreyfuss) who has been publicly maligning his character. In this speech is this bit that I love:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight. It's going to say "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."So, while I fully understand on an intellectual level that Mr. Scroggins has a right to believe whatever he wants and to express that opinion in whatever way he wants, it sure is hard to remember what it means to be an American especially when the street is only running in one direction. If I have to respect his right to not read something that he finds offensive (?!?), then why doesn't he have to respect my right - and the right of every other American - to read whatever we choose?
The nice thing about that above little snippet: As Americans, we have to respect our fellow countrymen's rights. However...
...we don't have to respect them as people. Which is a good thing because my respect for Mr. Scroggins is in the negative numbers. Clearly he has never read Speak, the book he is trying to have banned, because he would know that it is about as far from pornography as it is possible to get. How dare he judge something he himself has never read and then attempt to enforce that judgment on others?
...we don't have to like people like Mr. Scroggins. Which is a good thing because it is fundamentally impossible for me to like anyone who presumes to tell me what to do, what I can or can't read, that I'm a bad person because I don't share the same beliefs. Or a man who insists that he knows better than I do what is right for my children and would deny them anything that is their right to have, including the right to read whatever they want. People have gone to war to protect the rights of their children.
...we are allowed to form opinions about people such as Mr. Scroggins and his beliefs and express them on blogs such as this and in letters to the editor and in any way that makes our voices louder than his. Yay free speech!
...we are allowed to employ our own religious beliefs and tenants to come to the conclusion that Mr. Scroggins does not represent the true spirit of Christianity, that he clearly has no clue What Jesus Would Do, and that what goes around comes around, Karma is a bitch, and St. Peter has made note of this and will most definitely have words with Mr. Scroggins when he goes knocking on those pearly gates.
...we are allowed to speculate what kind of psychological issues Mr. Scroggins must suffer given that he equates the brutal horror that is rape with the titillating nature of pornography. I'm sorry, Mr. Scroggins, for the traumas you must have suffered in your past that have given you such a twisted and unhealthy view of human sexuality. I also ask you to stay very far away from my family and friends.
...we are allowed to ask what kind of person could call himself moral when he advocates the blame-the-victim mentality that causes rape victims to remain quiet about a violent, cruel crime committed against them. We are allowed to worry about the women in Mr. Scroggins life knowing that he would show them the same lack of compassion and human empathy should they ever - God forbid - suffer such a horror.
...we are allowed to call Mr. Scroggins un-American and question his patriotism. Banning books is about as un-American as you can get. It goes against everything we stand for - freedom of people to determine what is best for themselves and their families as long as they do not hurt or infringe upon the rights of others. With his crusade to ban Speak and other books, he's stomping all over my rights.
...we are allowed, in fact, to imply that Mr. Scroggins' thinking is far more in-line with those of members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda given that he proposes nothing less than a government and legal system based on a slate of fundamental religious "laws". Gah! What's next, Mr. Scroggins? You planning to make your fortune selling burkas?
...we are allowed to read Speak and to encourage our teens to read Speak. I own a copy and when my daughter is a bit older and more mature, I will encourage her to read it.
And in that way, we will be victorious over petty tyrants such as Mr. Scroggins and his posse of fellow book banners.
God Bless America.