|Destin, Florida anti-circumcision protestor. (Photo by Robert Angone)|
I had a lot of fun putting Wheaton College over my knee yesterday. But when I was done, after finishing the first draft, the column was 1100 words long. One important point got cut out reducing it to the print-friendly 719. I lost professor Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor forced out of Wheaton College in 2015 for wearing a headscarf in solidarity with Muslims threatened by the rise in poisonous rhetoric. In retrospect, I wish I had kept her and cut Wheaton scuttling health insurance for its students, lest one girl use it to buy contraception, since the Hawkins case spoke to the school's trademark stifling of free speech and religious immorality even more than health care did.
Ah well, not every choice is the best one.
And I also lost the thread on how The Bean will be cluttered if we let one in religious fanatic, we let in them all. Plus freedom of speech never means freedom of speech everywhere at any time. I wrote, then cut:
The sidewalks of the city are not enough. Chicago doesn't have enough corners, apparently. With 99.99 percent of the metropolis at their feet, of course they'd must come here, where so many lambs aggregate. The question is, how many flock there in order to be endure a religious lecture, and the answer is: none of them.Abandoned as too much of a digression was a passage where I pointed out that just as people pushing for school prayer can only conceive their prayer being allowed, and forget that opening the door also welcomes in a confusion of prayer mats, beads, rituals, prayer times, sacrifices so that nobody learns long addition.
The ability to control when and where rights are expressed is inherent to running a city. You may not preach the gospel in the Gehry bandshell—also public space—during a CSO concert, you may not read the Constitution in the middle of Michigan Avenue during rush hour.
Thank goodness Eric Zorn had my back, and expressed it perfectly in his take, the same day on the same subject:
“Irritation or annoyance of some opinionated minority is unavoidable in public spaces and is never enough to prohibit someone from exercising their First Amendment rights both to express and to hear ideas wonderful and ridiculous,” said a letter to the city from John Mauck, an attorney for the students.Well said. Protest used to be about information and entreaty—you were telling the public about a situation and urging them to act. Now a lot of public action, like our political realm, is about manifesting power, showing what you can do—you carry your gun into the store because you can, or think you can. You bully and harangue strangers because, well, that's what you do. Of course they don't like when the afflicted push back. Nobody cries like a bully.
“Visitors at The Bean who want to enjoy the reflection of Chicago’s skyline will not miss it because they turn their heads for a few seconds,” Mauck wrote.
No, but their enjoyment of their visit to The Bean stands to be dramatically impaired if the immediately surrounding area becomes a boisterous daily forum for competing religious, political and social activists ululating for attention. And that’s what a total victory for the students here might do.