Category: Culture

We must protect speech, even ‘hate’ speech

Alabamians should be quite proud of the substantial progress that our state has made on the issue of racism. Last Tuesday night, a speech was given at Auburn University by a man who proclaims to be "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States." His speech was called ignorant, extremist, and racist, and the tension it created caused the talk to be covered by national and even international media. It was cancelled by school administrators, a federal court weighed-in, an order was issued, and dueling demonstrations ensued. There were even a couple of nasty fist fights. But if that same speech would have been delivered six decades ago, at the same location, it would have been called ... Tuesday night. Nobody would have noticed. Campus life would have moved along as if nothing controversial was being spoken inside that nondescript university building, and not a single reporter would have wasted their time covering something so commonplace as a little-known racist saying racists things somewhere in Alabama. That's undeniable progress, so good on you, Heart of Dixie. On the other hand, the fact that so many people did notice - and moreover, that they responded so poorly - does present the millennial generation with an entirely different yet equally insidious threat to their freedoms: censorship. Here's how it went down: earlier this month Auburn University announced that it was cancelling a speech scheduled to be delivered on campus by Richard Spencer, the aforementioned…

Should conservatives care when politicians commit adultery?

One glaring distinction between conservatism and liberalism is that conservatives believe there is usually a clear right and wrong on most social questions, or at the very least a more virtuous way to behave in difficult situations. Whether at first glance or after careful study, we find very few actual gray areas in our mostly black and white world. In fact, Russell Kirk considered this understanding to be our movement's initial principle. "First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order," Kirk wrote in his famous summation of conservatism. "That order is made for man, and man made for it; human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent." Loyalty. Fidelity. Honesty. These are but a few virtues found within this enduring moral order. While some may cast them aside as relics of a puritan past, we are governed by them no less than our ancestors were. For who wants to be betrayed, cheated upon, or lied to? As Kirk said, they are permanent, and we cannot change them no more than we can change human nature itself. When we ignore them, or worse, accept their opposite as a fact of life, we take a chisel to the foundation of society and chip away a bit of something very important. That's why it's extremely disheartening to read that most Republicans suddenly don't care if our president cheated on his wife. And to add insult to injury, it appears that Democrats have taken the high-ground on the matter.…

Conservatism accepts that some speech must be censored

Soon after the 18-century lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson compiled the first dictionary of the English language, he received visits from many prominent groups at his Fleet Street home to congratulate him upon the achievement. One such delegation was said to represent the respectable ladies of London. “Dr. Johnson,” they said. “We are delighted to find that you have not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.” “Ladies,” Johnson replied. “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.” When the late Christopher Hitchens recounted that story during a 2007 lecture opposing censorship, he was getting at this: there’s something a bit peculiar about one adult using the power of government to limit what another adult writes, reads, or in the modern sense, watches. The human instinct to censor goes far beyond harmless “indecent or obscene” words, of course, and stretches to cover nearly all forms of human thought: artistic, political, and especially religious. Censorship abounds globally and is strongly accepted, even popular, in most societies, even in the West. Not so much in the United States, though. We tend to believe that we’re grown-up enough to decide for ourselves what to read and watch, except for those who haven’t, in fact, grown up. Here, we believe that children are the only ones who should be protected from certain aspects of free speech until they can discern its usage for themselves as mature, or at least legal, adults. Even someone as zealous for the First Amendment as Hitchens…

We grade our students, teachers, and schools, but what about our parents?

Earlier this month we learned that dozens of our state’s public schools received a “failing” grade from the Alabama Department of Education, and the list is long and diverse. It stretches from the nearly 100-year old Theodore High School in south Mobile County to the relatively brand-new Columbia High School in Huntsville, and includes schools whose graduates (or drop-outs, rather) will impact nearly every community in our state. Regardless of where you live, or whether you have children in these specific schools, this news should alarm everyone, especially since state law only requires schools that are utterly abysmal to be placed on the list. “The failing school list is just the six percent that are the lowest performing in the state,” said Michael Sentence, the state’s new school superintendent. He added that “the number of schools that are significantly academically challenged is much larger.” Things could not only be worse, they probably are worse. We just don’t know by how much, officially speaking. Lawmakers should, at the very least, require the state to publish a second list comprised of those “academically challenged” schools that Sentence referenced, if only to give our communities a more accurate understanding of the situation. Otherwise some may live under the misunderstanding that if their school isn’t on the state’s official “failing” list then it’s doing just fine. But since we’re on the topic of grading those involved in our public education system, perhaps we need to think about expanding the pool of subjects a little.…

Tim Kaine is either ignorant, apathetic, or a coward about abortion

Hillary Clinton has either selected an ignorant man, an apathetic man, or an absolute coward as her running mate, at least when it comes to the abortion issue. The only question about Tim Kaine is this: which is he? Shortly before the former Virginia governor was chosen as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, he was asked on Meet the Press to explain how he can be “personally opposed” to abortion but still remain politically pro-choice. Let’s take a look at Kaine’s full answer: “I’m a traditional Catholic. I’m personally opposed to abortion and personally opposed to the death penalty. I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions. So I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions.” Setting aside the nonsense about being a traditional Catholic (the Church is clear on the matter, regardless of what its liberal members like Kaine say), what a mess. His babbling attempt to defend the indefensible is nothing but a word salad of shaky arguments that we’ve heard before. Looking back, one may recall how in 2008 then-Senator Barrack Obama said the question of…

America’s heroes are born, not made

Near the end of the Korean War novel “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” an American military commander is mourning the death of some of his best men, but also remembering their strength, their courage, and the devotion they shared for one another. Staring alone out at the morning sea, he reflects on how fortunate our nation is to have had such heroes, and then asks, “… where did we get such men?” I asked that same question many times while researching and writing the book, “American Warfighter: Brotherhood, Survival, and Uncommon Valor in Iraq, 2003-2011.” It tells the war’s story through the experiences of 10 men who, for their actions in combat, were awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Navy Crosses, five Silver Stars, and three other prestigious awards for valor. After each interview I found myself asking ... where did we get such men? Where did we get the kind of medic who’d leave the safety of his armored vehicle to shoot his way through an ambush, killing several insurgents before pulling three soldiers from a burning tank? Where did we get the former cook who singlehandedly killed six Al Qaeda fighters in close quarters combat, the last going down in a blazing face-to-face shootout? Where did we get the Marine who ran into an open ambush in Fallujah not once, not twice, but three times so he could carry his wounded comrades to safety? In an era when the term is perhaps too loosely applied, these individuals epitomize the…

A Target for Lawsuits

The small City of Oxford should be commended for having enough courage to stand against the dangerous notion that would have little girls undressing in small, closed-off rooms while potentially in the company of very sick men. Hyperbole? Hardly. That’s the type of unintended environment that our Social Justice Warriors and their invertebrate enablers have created: girls possibly undressing in the same room with either a) men so sexually and emotionally confused that they think of themselves as women, or b) perverted men who are simply taking advantage of a permissive setting. No father in his right mind would think either situation is acceptable. Thankfully someone, somewhere, is pushing back. Last month Oxford, Alabama – a small city halfway between Birmingham and Atlanta – passed an ordinance making it illegal to use public bathrooms or changing rooms different from one’s gender. The measure reads, “citizens have a right to … be secure from embarrassment and unwanted intrusion into their privacy while utilizing multiple occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities.” That has always made perfect sense, but Oxford was instantly hit with harangue. The leader of Human Rights Campaign Alabama (seriously?) called the city’s action a “shameful and vile attack on the rights and privacy of transgender people.” Typical. As if this little city is the aggressor here, rather than a multibillion dollar corporation seeking favorable press and praise by creating a dangerous environment for its employees and customers in Oxford. Target’s executives clearly thought they were being progressive and even trendy…

A conservative’s guide to opposing commencement speakers

The bright and tree-lined road leading into the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s main entrance is named for something its students should always pursue: Knowledge. Unfortunately, a few of them seem to have already left campus along a dimmer, narrower route: Ignorance. A graduate of UAH recently launched a petition to prevent Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, from delivering the commencement address at the school’s spring graduation ceremony. “Senator Jeff Sessions has time and time again voted counter to higher education and rights for all of the populace of these United States,” reads the petition launched on the ever-annoying Change.org. “His voting record has shown a disregard for the funding of public education in this great nation while also voting counter to programs that support the underprivileged and vulnerable.” The petition then references the senator’s low ratings from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union – a badge of honor in these parts – before linking him to Donald Trump’s repeated “inflammatory remarks towards women, the disabled, and immigrants.” The petition has more than 650 supporters, including UAH students, graduates, and even faculty members who left comments like these: “As a graduate of UAH and member of the extended UAH community since the 1970s I hate to see the school align with such an anti-science obstacle to a just society as Jeff Sessions has proven himself to be. Freedom of speech is one thing, but to have Sessions address a community of scholars from all walks of life on their special…

Students should be taught to question evolution

The reaction to the Alabama State Board of Education’s recent decision to keep an “evolution” disclaimer in certain science textbooks was unfortunately typical of the modern left. “We’re afraid of evolution.” “Inch by inch toward unconstitutional theocracy.” “I guess the anti-science/evolution crowd doesn’t believe in stars either.” Those were just a few of the comments written after the board unanimously voted earlier this month to continue using the one-page disclaimer which, as anyone who takes the time to read it would easily understand, is a rather moderate yet educational explanation of the controversy. The four-paragraph message begins with a brief explanation of a “theory,” as understood and used by the scientific community. It then goes on to explain how some theories have stood the test of time, while others have fallen as new observations were made. After the disclaimer succinctly explains the theory of evolution by natural selection, and how the textbook states that it forms the basis for our understanding of how such diverse life came to be, the message lays out a path ahead for the classroom. “Because of its importance and implications, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories,” the disclaimer states. “They should learn to make distinctions between the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.” It’s a perfectly reasonable and academically sound message, yet those who oppose its inclusion would have you…

No, Trump supporters, Planned Parenthood doesn’t do “wonderful things”

Donald Trump, who declared himself “very pro-choice” at the young and inexperienced age of 53, has recently spent a great deal of breath praising the virtues of the nation’s top butcher of unborn babies – Planned Parenthood. In the past month, Trump has told us that the abortion company does “wonderful things” for women, that “millions of women [with] cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood,” and that only “three-percent” of its services offered are abortions. These are all lies. First, Planned Parenthood’s chief product is abortion, but they count everything they do, or even say, equally to obscure this fact within a crowd of unequal services. As Mark Twain said, there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” For instance, if on a single day they perform two abortions, pass out three packs of condoms, and hand out five brochures about sexually transmitted diseases, they’d say that only 20-percent of that day’s business was abortion. Rich Lowry explained it in the New York Post this way: “The sponsors of the New York City Marathon could count each small cup of water they hand out (some 2 million cups, compared with 45,000 runners) and say they are mainly in the hydration business ... Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hotdogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only .012 percent of what they do.” Second, Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer the test to detect breast cancer, known as a mammogram. They…