I made a new friend from Turkey this year. She told me that she wanted to read a book that was written in English, but something easier—maybe even for a younger audience so that the vocabulary was tenable. I loaned her a copy of The Giver: a novel that we often pretend is for children. This narrative explores The Community, whose leaders have decided that they would be better off if their knowledge, emotions, and memories were all locked away into just one person. The previous sentence probably makes that place sound so blatantly unappealing that you might wonder how there could be a whole book written about it. On the other hand, for those who are compelled to make sense of every one of their thoughts, and feelings, and experiences, searching desperately for truths to stand on—The Community might sound more like a place of rest than reproach….
The third Republican debate took place on CNBC. The topics were broad, but among them was the familiar argument that liberally biased media groups treat the party unfairly. Frustrations were high, even prior to the debate, illustrated by the demands of Ben Carson and Donald Trump for logistical equality with the Democratic debate that occurred two weeks earlier. Then, during the main event, the moderators’ aggressive questioning solicited several other negative comments from the candidates, like when Marco Rubio called the mainstream media a large super PAC for Democrats, or when Ted Cruz used the moderators’ behavior as an example of why Americans don’t trust the media. I became upset, immediately downplaying the candidates’ claims: thinking of those who’ve been discriminated against in vastly more significant ways. Even so, their argument has stuck with me, as has the distrust, as I Skimm the daily news.
We started a unit in my Educational Law and Policy class on students’ rights concerning freedom of speech in schools. On the one hand, we read infamous cases like Tinker v. Des Moines where students peacefully protested the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school, were expelled for it, and ultimately were victorious when the Supreme Court heard their case. On the other hand, we also studied cases like Glowacki v. Howell where a student wore a confederate flag belt buckle and said, “I don’t accept gays,” in front of his classmates, then won a lawsuit against his teacher for removing him from class based on his comments.
“Isn’t that hate speech?” one of my peers asked, referring to Glowacki’s statement.
“You could argue that,” my professor responded, “but where’s the line between saying something hateful, and saying something offensive? I think that line exists, but you have to define it.” The freedom to be controversial, I thought—including the freedom to turn away from love and towards hate—is a God-given right, in a way.
Tonight I watched V for Vendetta, like I’ve done every year since college. This year’s showing was small but solacing, with just one other friend and a bottle of Pinot Noir. (We actually watched the movie on the fourth, but tried to time it so that it ended at midnight). The date has a special significance in the film. On November 5, 1605, Robert Catesby organized what is known today as the Gunpowder Plot, where he and a group of Catholics attempted to blow up the House of Parliament, and King James I with it. This was because James I, a Protestant Christian, continued to enforce certain oppressive practices against Catholics, like making them pay fines for practicing their religion in his country. They were caught, however, right before the explosion, and were hanged for their crime. Throughout the movie, a recurring allusion is made to an old English folk verse that celebrates the deaths of the plotters. However, only the beginning of the poem is included in the film, appropriating it as a foreboding prophecy that compels me—a torn and conflicted millennial, grappling with the many political, racial, religious, social, economic, and international tensions that our country faces—to remember, every year, the grave repercussions that come from silencing one another.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.