Monday, January 17, 2011

In defense of the "shit-talkin'"

On this MLK day, I find myself angry and frustrated.

My frustrations are aplenty and likely boring to most.

My institute of education--the place that is named on one of my degrees and will be named on the next--prefers that I be liked than that my students succeed. So be it.

This week, my students and I listened to Sarah Palin defend herself against the stupid possibility that her poor choice of rhetoric caused someone else to make a far poorer choice of action. We discussed the rhetorical content of her speech--a rather fine speech, which would have stood as her finest if she had not hit the worst possible note when making the center of her point. The tenor, the word choice, the ethos, all were well put together. But the speech writer didn't recognize the irony of the use of such a rare term as "blood-libel"--a term that all the journalists who've picked up on it had to define for the majority of America that simply doesn't grasp it.

But my frustration, rather than lying with Palin's speech writer, who committed a basic act of verbal stupidity, lies with the responses to the shooting that have included people who want to limit speech to what they find acceptable.

As a First Amendment junkie, as a Jew who actually knew what a blood libel was before having to explain it to her students, as a woman, I honestly think that making people stop their vitriol is far more dangerous than allowing them to scream it from the mountaintops.

A racial slur committed aloud can be refuted. A slander spread in the silence of hatred driven underground can only gather force, speed, and violence.

Hate speech is our best warning shot. It's a bright red flag that lets us all know where ignorance needs to be fought, loudly, and with words--to avoid fighting it bloodily with weapons.

Let all who hate loudly proclaim it. Let the rest of us take MLK's example and love them into seeing the other in themselves.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. " -The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.