The nation paused to mourn the death of first lady Barbara Bush. Well, not everybody. A certain English professor at California State University - Fresno (or Fresno State University, depending who you ask) made some remarks about Mrs. Bush which caught fire in the public arena. They have even led some sponsors of the university to consider pulling their funding, according to the Fresno Bee. Of course not all of them are, but enough to spark a discussion.
Now, I won't repeat (retype rather) the comments. They weren't exactly tasteful or family friendly. Suffice it to say she was the opposite of sad when she heard President Bush had lost his wife. I, personally, had nothing against Mrs. Bush. She was the figurehead behind the anti-drug campaign of the my youth, which in turn created relics like the 1990s special "Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue." Let me tell you, if you've got half-an-hour to kill, or if you just want to hear academy-award-winning (and academy-award-refusing) actor George C. Scott lend his voice to a malevolent cloud of smoke in a suit jacket, it's easy enough to find online — FBI copyright warning and all. To this day, I don't know what in the world the cartoon teenage lead was trying to find in his drug stash — hey, I guess it worked!
Anyway, as much as a lot of people liked Barbara Bush, nobody's perfect. It's ridiculous to believe people are without fault, but it's tactless to go all-in on the subject while a family is grieving. That's not political correctness. That's just common decency. So, in response, corporations and organizations of various denominations are putting the financial screws to Fresno's thumbs, as it were.
One could call it a boycott in a certain sense.
Which sparked a light in my memory of a little occurrence a few weeks ago. Fox News host Laura Ingraham found herself the target of a boycott earlier this month after some comments she made online (I won't go into what, because I'm tired of bringing up gun violence and so are you, so let's move on). It wasn't the subject of her comments that came aglow in my memory. It was actually her response.
"I have been the victim of a boycott," she said, according to ABC News. "It is wrong. You shouldn't do this by team. It is the modern way of cutting off free speech."
I'll admit the two situations aren't apples to apples, but I'm looking at general concepts here. There's a conservative commentator saying a retaliatory group boycott in response to her comments surpresses free speech, and there's a liberal (assumably) professor whose use of free speech is causing some retaliatory group action meant to demonstrate said comments about the Republican matron were unacceptable.
And there's us in the middle (perhaps with clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right).
Just about all of us have a side we prefer in this scenario, but in priming the trap for our opposition, we find our own haunches have become caught between two steel jaws. Take Ingraham's side — say a boycott is simply bullying to silence an individual — and we must also call for the pseudo-boycott of Fresno to stop. Take the opposite stance — say such financial retaliation holds influential individuals within an organization accountable — and we must also admit boycotts are in fact our weapon of choice in keeping a tight reign on the First Amendment rights of notable people.
That presents a conundrum to which I have no real answer, other than that we (as well as notable people) should all think before we speak (or tweet). Because this generation is indeed the most documented (though largely through self-inflicted means, mind you) of any that came before it. Our own histories can and will come back to haunt us if we are not careful. So we must choose our words and our actions carefully with our minds focused on the future, rather than justifying them by past precedent. For, as several famous reverends have said over the past century-and-a-half, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
So, it would follow that we can either choose to follow the arc or oppose it.