Sam's Little Larks

by Sam Van Wetter | 11/12/15 7:36pm

FREE SPEECH SAM and POLITICALLY CORRECT SAM are waiting in line for Hillary Clinton.

FREE SPEECH SAM: Three hundred people here three hours before she’s supposed to start? Liberals, man.

POLITICALLY CORRECT SAM: We’re all politically minded Upper Valleyans interested in seeing what’s up. Not everyone here will vote for her.

FREE SPEECH: It’s herd mentality, man. A bunch of yuppies come to worship the white feminist warlord.

PC: Did you see the Kasich event? Same crowd. Chris Christie in Salt Hill? People were surprised there were enough republicans around to fill it up. But that’s the thing — they weren’t necessarily republicans. We’re all just here for the Snap story and the promise of a potentially presidential selfie.

FREE SPEECH: Bull. People went to Salt Hill for Christie, the beer and the selfie. In that order. We’re smart people and we care about our country. We need to make our voices heard, show up en masse and demand attention and action. And we need to see all sides, hear all parties. Which is why it’s such absolute codswallop that they said no to a Trump event.

PC: What?

FREE SPEECH: Didn’t you see that headline? “Clinton ‘trumps’ Donald”? Smucked up. Cockamamie. How dare the college so blatantly influence who can and can’t come to campus, especially along such obviously politicized lines.

PC: Well maybe they just didn’t want to offend anyone.

FREE SPEECH: It’s more offensive to dictate who we see speak! After saying explicitly that the Hop is for arts programing and no candidate will ever get Spaulding and perhaps Trump could find a different venue they let Hillary come! Lizard Lady Hillary! And they spout some malarkey about how it was a Tuck organization that brought her, like that’s something different than an undergraduate student group? That’s censorship. That’s the college interfering with what ought to be an open political climate on campus.

SPAULDING: Besides, I don’t discriminate.

FREE SPEECH: Exactly!

SPAULDING: All are welcome.

FREE SPEECH: Right.

DARTMOUTH HALL: And Dartmouth has a long history of hosting radicals and agitators. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke inside me in 1962.

PC: You’re not comparing Trump to MLK, are you?

DARTMOUTH HALL: No!

RAUNER: But back when I was Webster Hall I had George Wallace speak! Twice! The segregationist! The racist! Live at the Big Green!

DARMOUTH HALL: But that didn’t go over easy.

RAUNER: Of course not! Dartmouth students are as politically conscious now as they were then. He was catcalled. His speech was interrupted due to scuffles and boos. When he left, his car was surrounded and rocked to a chorus of “Wallace is a racist!” HPo broke it up! And it made headlines! It showed that you students don’t stand for that idiocy.

FREE SPEECH: But that’s the point — Dartmouth students can stand up for themselves. We don’t need the administrators or facilitators to tell us what is or isn’t palatable.

PC: I don’t know, Sam. This isn’t the 1960s. I’d like to believe Dartmouth would never conscionably host someone as vitriolic as Wallace. And Trump may well be that! He has said some awful things about higher education, about minorities, about women. Maybe it’s best to refuse him a venue. It means fewer feelings are hurt.

FREE SPEECH: That’s so like you to ask for that kind of treatment.

PC: What’s that supposed to mean?

FREE SPEECH: Listen to yourself! Just because someone might take something personally means it should never be said in the first place?

PC: Probably, yeah.

FREE SPEECH: We live in America! We have the right to say whatever we want.

PC: Free speech is something assholes invoke so they can defend themselves. They spit some awful cut down that they realize is hurtful and wrong but it’s not “technically illegal.” It’s a way of deflecting basic human goodness onto the Bill of Rights.

FREE SPEECH: And?

PC: And??? Did you ever watch Bambi? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. Even Thumper knows that.

FREE SPEECH: But what if you think you’re being nice? What if you can’t imagine that anyone anywhere could possibly be offended by what you’re saying? You think you’re speaking truth or a truth or your truth and there’s someone somewhere who says you shouldn’t be allowed to say that because it hurts them. Then you’ve sent something out there thinking it’s fine and someone shoots it down, calls you a fascist or a racist or a bigot? And what if it’s not even the thing you say that’s fascist or racist or bigoted but how it lands? What if the problem is not what you say but how it connects with whomever hears it? Is that your fault? Ought that be disallowed, abolished, banned?

PC: I don’t know. But you should be careful.

FREE SPEECH: Of course you should be careful! We all absolutely must be careful. But we also shouldn’t have to engage in some kind of constant thought experiment, trying to imagine all the multitude ways that everything we say could be interpreted by someone else, someone whose reality and response you can’t possibly know.

PC: But if someone tells you that it’s hurtful, don’t you have a responsibility to mitigate that hurt? To ensure that it doesn’t happen again? That it doesn’t become systematic?

FREE SPEECH: Within reason.

PC: Well, what’s reason?

FREE SPEECH: I don’t know. It’s impossible to know. Listen — I hate the term “entitled,” I hate the word “coddle” and I don’t believe that people sharing what offends and hurts them and expecting some level of engagement and understanding is unreasonable. It’s reasonable. But we also must be aware that, despite the bubbles we live in, we inherently belong to a system. It’s a moldable system and one that we must work to make better, but it’s a system nonetheless.

PC: And our community is the first system we really get to affect. So we should be interested in making it as good as it can be.

ZAPPOS: That’s what we’re here for!

PC: Okay really quick did you know HPo fielded dozens of calls when you came through because people saw you leaving packages on their porch in the middle of the night and then thought they were bombs? You might have at least labeled the boxes.

ZAPPOS: We just love you so much!

PC: Right spirit, questionable move. Again, think about how it lands — on doorsteps, on hearts, on community. So let’s keep working on it — all of us. That’s the only way to be better.