In the latest example of intolerance run amuck, the Daily Press of Victorville, CA reported that the banners for an Orange County crusade was removed from a local mall. You’re probably asking: Why did they have to remove the banners?
After two weeks of being in the malls, the Irvine Company contacted Harvest and told church officials that the artwork on their banners would have to be changed to include non-offensive images because not only did they receive complaints about the ads but also death threats.
So what was this offensive banner that was so evil it generated death threats? See for yourself.
Harvest changed the artwork, which included pastor Laurie holding a plain black book representing the Bible. In the end, the Irvine Company still decided to take down all of the ads and refunded the ministry’s payment, according to John Collins, executive director of Harvest.
So even changing the artwork was not enough to get the Irvine Company to continue the advertising. Well, at least they refunded their fee.
What bothers me the most about this and the myriad of other stories about people and companies being black-balled from locations and websites, is that someone merely finds it ‘offensive’. We have people being refused service while others are being driven out by violent protesters. Most of these events have two things in common. First, they are done by private entities, meaning what they are doing is legal and Constitutional. Second, these actions are frequently being taken in response to non-peaceful protests, i.e., threats and acts of violence and vandalism. Yet rarely does anyone do anything against these criminal acts. Police are rarely called until afterward, and I’ve not heard of any charges being pressed against these criminals. As I said, what these private companies are doing is legal and Constitutional, but they are also cowardly and anathema to everything our Founding Fathers fought for.
When I was a child I heard an oft misquoted phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The idea back then was: I may not like what you say, but the right of free speech is so important that I will defend it even with my life. Today it appears many Americans will not defend others’ rights at all, and frequently not even their own. I believe this unwillingness to defend our rights and the rights of others is the consequence of a lack of education about our rights, where they come from, and what defending them has cost over the centuries. Now, unfortunately, forget defending them to the death; today most Americans won’t even defend them because of the inconvenience.
However, what really has my dander up, what truly infuriates me, is the fact that America is fast becoming what I call a “Thugocracy”! We have a word for the use of threats and violence to persuade others to conform to our will: It’s called extortion! Watch the news and you will find story after story about one group or another imposing their will on others through threats, violence, boycotts, or sometimes with just the phrase they “were offended”. Most Americans and most American companies simply roll over and give these thugs what they want. Now if that is what these private companies and individuals want to do, that is their right, but this level of cowardice, of weakness, and sheer apathy for the rights of others, speaks volumes about the degradation of American society as a whole.
German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller wrote a poem about the cowardice shown by German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazis:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
A similar thing could be said of America today:
First they came for the rich, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not rich and I was afraid.
Then they came for our rights, and I did not speak out —
Because I did not know my rights and I was afraid.
Then they came for the Constitution and I did not speak out —
Because I did not know the Constitution and I was afraid.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
My rights were already gone!
If we will not stand up for the rights of others, who will stand up for ours? If we let the thugs and bullies get their way unchallenged, what is to stop them from coming after you? Like in an American Western, we have become townsfolk afraid of the bad guys and unwilling to defend ourselves or our neighbors. Who will be the good guy who will help us see that we can defend ourselves, our rights, and our neighbors? Will there be any backbone left in the American citizen when he or she shows up?
We pride ourselves on being “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, but today we seem more like the land of the intimidated and the home of the coward!