Freedom of speech still valid in KA kerfuffle

Adam Tannenbaum, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The prolific 20th century writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” I emphatically agree with this quote and idea.

Open discourse coming from both sides of a debate goes a long way towards helping any society become more just and accepting of all people. That is why I am discouraged by recent developments where the wider American public, and more specifically the Tulane community, has shown an inability to be respectful and receptive to hearing opposing attitudes.

America’s intense defense of civil liberties is what makes our country so extraordinary and unprecedented when held up to other renowned civilizations of the past. It is not the American way to merely shut out a person or organization’s ability to express an opposing view because some people may find it incorrect.

Over a week ago the Kappa Alpha Order at Tulane, continuing a tradition, constructed a wall on its private property and wrote on the wall, “Make America Great Again,” the campaign slogan of the extremely provocative presidential candidate Donald Trump. Because of Trump’s previously controversial remarks on immigration and race where he, for example, said, “Mexico does not send their best … they’re sending people who have lots of problems,” along with his intention to build a wall on the Mexican border, many Tulane students construed the wall to represent a barrier blocking minorities from affiliating with Kappa Alpha.

Whether you vehemently disagreed with the Kappa Alpha wall or did not mind it, the fraternity had the right to put it up: the right to express their feelings in a nonviolent way that did not directly put anyone in harm’s way. If you feel that the wall should not have been standing because it offends you, then you have yet to understand what has made America known for the right to freely express your beliefs.

The Tulane students that opposed the wall, and those who even helped dismantle it without the fraternity’s permission, could take a lesson from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU defended the rights of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, a predominantly Jewish town, in the 1970s. Two Jewish lawyers, Joseph Burton and Victor Rosenbaum, drove the ACLU’s effort to defend the neo-Nazis right to march on Skokie. While I imagine these two men did not agree with the neo-Nazi’s message, they understood what makes the United States distinctive: its allowance of unconditional freedom of speech, assuming the speech does not arbitrarily provoke citizens, like yelling fire in a movie theatre.

While I might vigorously oppose and be gravely offended by many points of views and statements that others make, my conviction that every person should have the right to stand up for what they believe in will always hold greater weight than shutting out an opposing view because it may upset me.

Adam is a senior in the A.B. Freeman School of Business. He can be reached at [email protected] This is his last article with The Tulane Hullabaloo.

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