Here’s a couple of things the Rude Pundit read today that are bugging the shit out of him:
Over in South Carolina, some state legislators got all pissy when the University of South Carolina Upstate was gonna feature, at an LGBT studies event, a monologue play titled How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less (which sounds like the greatest TED talk ever). It’s by Leigh Hendrix and performed under her stage name, Butchy McDyke. USC Upstate had already been punished by the legislature, having $17,142 cut from its budget (along with $50,000 for the College of Charleston) because the innocent freshman were asked to read a book about a gay and lesbian radio show.
This time, after getting their marching orders from a conservative website, three legislators threatened more budget cuts. Said Senator Kevin Bryant (guess what party), “If they’ve got extra money sitting around to promote perversion, obviously they’ve got more money than they really need.” In a clear demonstration of why education in the humanities matters, another senator said the play was “recruitment” for college students to choose to be gay. Why should the state pay for such things? they demanded to know.
So the performance was cancelled because of freedom.
Over in Massachusetts, Brandeis University had planned to award writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree at the graduation ceremony. Ali is a controversial figure: she is unequivocally a supporter of rights for women and LGBT people. She is also unequivocally outspoken against the mistreatment of women around the world, including in Islamic nations and including Muslims in the United States and Europe. Ignoring her other stands (and that she is an atheist), she has been embraced by conservatives because she validates their Islamophobia, and, ignoring the work she has done on behalf of victims of genital mutilation and other violence, she has been attacked on the left for the same. She said that “we are at war with Islam” and she has called the religion in which she was raised a “cult of death.” What started as bloggers saying that Brandeis was wrong to honor her morphed into an online petition that got thousands of signatures, a letter signed by over 80 Brandeis faculty members, and excoriation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, all calling on the invitation to be withdrawn. CAIR called her a “notorious Islamophobe,” which is actually not a bad name for a rapper.
So the honorary degree was withdrawn because of freedom.
One thing you can bank on in this life is that you cannot go through the world without being offended. It ain’t gonna happen. You’re gonna go to a comedy show, and somebody is gonna say something that just hits you in the gut as wrong. You’re gonna listen to the news or go on Twitter or read some blogs and someone is gonna say the exact shit that gets to you. Someone’s gonna say a word, “cunt” or “nigger” or “fag,” and someone is gonna get upset. Someone is going to give voice to beliefs that you find appalling. You will be offended, whether you’re on the left or the right, whether you’re an atheist or fundamentalist of one religion or another. If you exist in the world, you open yourself to offenses you need to deal with.
You know what else? You are gonna have to pay for shit that upsets you. The classroom where the Christian Prayer Circle for High School Virgins Who Are Hot for Jesus But No One Else meet for their weekly support group? You’re paying for the electricity and heat. The drone missiles that are murdering people? You’re paying. The public college that teaches a class in The Fucked Anus in Art and Literature? You’re paying.
The Rude Pundit sees little difference between the outraged South Carolina lawmakers and the outraged Brandeis protesters. They are on the same side of the same filthy coin, which reads, “This person says things I don’t like; therefore, no one should hear this person.” You could add “Except for maybe in places and at times I approve.” He finds such censorship of speech (and, please, don’t fall back on the old “Well, we’re not preventing them from speaking” canard – it’s censorship) ludicrous across the ideological spectrum. You can’t think the withdrawal of Hirsi Ali’s invitation is okay, but South Carolina shouldn’t pressure a college to cancel Butchy McDyke. That’s laughable hypocrisy. That’s saying it’s wrong for one religion to be offended but okay for another one to be.
Of course, that means the Rude Pundit is offended. But he doesn’t want people speaking out to shut up. He wants them to be heard, along with all the other voices. He wants more speech, more voices, more perspectives. You can see who shoots themselves in the foot only by giving them all the bullets they can handle.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on April 10, 2014, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.