If you’ve read my writing at all, you know I’m opinionated. I don’t generally back down, but I’m kind about it. I won’t attack someone personally or insult their life choices, even when I don’t agree with them. I know that may not be the norm, but it’s me.
I’m also a Christian, a fan of firearms, against most taxes, and more pale than Snow White herself, so people make a lot of assumptions about me. All kinds of people think I’m “one of them” and are sorely disappointed when I’m not. I’m not one with anyone. I think for myself. Odds are really good that we’re going to disagree about something, and I’m okay with that. I won’t think you’re a lesser person for it. I’ll just think we see things differently.
But I know not everyone feels that way. Many people subscribe to the “us and them” philosophy where you either belong to their tribe (remember my rant on solidarity earlier in the week?) or you’re the enemy. Which brings me to my college class tonight.
My instructor is very opinionated and on the very far side of the political spectrum. Whatever. Those are his opinions and he’s entitled to have them. So far we’ve had some ideas in common, but his rants have not usually required a response. I know he likes me, but I also know he thinks I’m one of his “tribe” politically. I’m not. I’m not in any tribe. Which is still okay. Intelligent adults disagree, we learn from each other and life goes on.
By the way, if you’re not occasionally disagreeing and learning from each other and the world, you need to go back and read my last post, Itchy Wool. Really, you should. I’ll wait.
Glad to have you back. I have heard through the grapevine (okay, RateMyProfessor.com) that this particular instructor grades down significantly if you write a paper that goes against his political beliefs. But he teaches freshman English, so how bad can it be, right?
Our midterm, an in-class paper tonight, was to read an editorial discussing the exit of Brenden Eich from Mozilla earlier this year. A gay rights group discovered that he had donated $1,000 back in 2008 to help fund Proposition 8 in California. Prop 8 was an attempt to amend the California constitution and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
It’s not where I would spend my money, and I disagree with him, but he is free to donate to any cause he sees fit.
The gay rights group got together with a bunch of other people that agreed with them, and they wrote up a petition stating that Eich should either say he supports marriage equality now, step down from his position, or be fired by the board of directors.
It’s not where I would spend my time, but they’re free to protest and say whatever they want as long as they don’t say anything untrue.
The editorial we were given to comment on stated that Eich was fired. According to Mozilla, “Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.” Which probably means he was pushed into it and not something he volunteered to do, but still not the issue. Semantics.
Eich has the right to freedom of speech. The petitioners have the right to protest. The company has the right to make decisions that further the interest of the employees and stockholders. Everyone had the right to do what they did.
But now I’m being asked to write a midterm paper discussing whose rights were violated, what really happened and whether something like this should happen in a free society. I know the answers he wants and the answers that will rate a glowing A+ and maybe even a smiley face. “How dare they violate his freedom of speech! How dare they discriminate against him!”
Except they didn’t discriminate against him.
Freedom of speech is pretty well defined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And they didn’t. The government had absolutely nothing to do with this. But that’s the only guarantee you get. You don’t get any guarantees that people won’t get mad at you, or your boss won’t think you’re an ass, or your wife won’t refuse to sit with you at the PTA meeting, or your employer won’t see you as a major public relations liability that needs to be let go. You’re not guaranteed any of that.
In the same vein, Freedom of Speech didn’t guarantee the people that signed the petition and spoke out against him wouldn’t have a backlash of people angry that they picked on this one guy that seemed to have a pretty decent resume and hadn’t caused any other problems.
You open your mouth, you take your chances. Welcome to the real world where those less insulated than CEOs of massive corporations have to deal with real live people on a daily basis.
And I’m one of those 5 figure income people, so I guess I’m used to it. But still stressed because my instructor has the power to make my semester really suck. I’m not going to lie, I considered writing an A paper. But I would be completely ashamed of myself if I had caved and written a gold star paper, so I just couldn’t do it. My A would have been dirty. And I wouldn’t have slept well. I still might not tonight, but at least I know I did the right thing.
If I have to take some flack for being honest about my beliefs, then I guess that’s the price of freedom.