I heard about the incident at UC Berkeley last week and recalled a potential event in Skokie, Illinois. It was 1977 and the Nazi Party of America sought to march in Skokie. The marchers were to wear uniforms like those worn by members of Hitler’s Nazi Party. They would have swastika armbands and carry a banner bearing a large swastika.
The Chicago suberb had a population of about 70,000 persons……40,000 of whom were Jewish. Approximately 5000 of those residents were survivors of the Holocaust. Needless to say, the residents of Skokie responded with outrage. They sought a court order in an attempt to stop the march, citing that it would promote hatred against persons of Jewish faith or ancestry.
I remember all of the news coverage this controversy aroused. It was one of those moments in American history when citizens throughout our country emphatically debated the meaning of the United States Constitution. I was 30 years old at the time, with not a whole lot of government information, knowledge, or life experiences behind me. I was appalled that this group would even attempt to do something so hateful! It was such a painful thing to want to do, so I felt it was wrong. Surely, they would NOT be allowed to have this hurtful march.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented the First Amendment rights of the Nazi. I was horrified. And I was young. And I certainly didn’t understand. I’ve always been a live and let live type person, but this made no sense to me. This case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and the conclusion was that Skokie could not stop the Nazis from marching. I won’t go into the details here, but now, I absolutely agree with that decision. I agree that it was a horrific thing for the Jewish people to endure in Skokie. I agree that it was disgusting for the group to want to do this. And by the way….they ended up not marching in Skokie. By their choice.
But within ten years, as I approached age 40, I went back to study and read about this incident and I completely understood. I understood that we ARE a country of laws and above all else, the rule of law must and can prevail. And I am now a proud card carrying ACLU member.
So this incident last week at UC Berkeley….he was a Breitbart speaker, he’s absolutely a racist, misogynist, white supremacist. But……free speech can be a slippery slope. One cannot have it both ways. He’s disgusting and his values are so far removed from mine. However, when it comes to something like this, I say don’t attend, don’t watch, don’t listen, etc. But……….free speech and upholding that First Amendment MUST prevail.
See you here next time…………..