I've been following the current flap about the Increase Diversity Bake Sale, put on today at U.C. Berkeley by the campus Republican students' group.
U.C. Berkeley students, I'm ashamed of you. And I don't mean the Republicans, who are exercising their constitutional right to be publicly offensive in order to make a point. To paraphrase Voltaire slightly, I don't agree with their point, but I will defend to the death their right to make it. In fact, if their purpose in this was to stir up debate, I'd say they've succeeded brilliantly.
Michael Krasny's Forum gave the brouhaha half an hour this morning, during which the earnest Vishali Loomba, president of the ASUC (for you non-Berkeley folks, that's the student union), complained that the bake sale was "rude," it "dissed people" and made them uncomfortable. Well, yes. Welcome to U.S. political discourse, Ms. Loomba - that's what free speech is supposed to do. For the record, after listening to Ms. Loomba speak, she was either born here or has lived here most of her life; for those of you who don't understand satire, that remark was intended to be satirical.
For a somewhat earlier example of satirical free speech which made some people very uncomfortable indeed, I recommend Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, published in 1729. (For the record, I wrote my honors thesis for my B.A. on Jonathan Swift.)
I attended U.C. Berkeley during the original Free Speech Movement. I remember people standing on top of police cars with microphones, and sitting in at Sproul Hall. And the students all thought that was fine because they agreed with the protestors. Your lesson for today, U.C. students: free speech is meaningless if it is only available to the people you agree with. I remember some time ago when an Israeli official was booed off the stage at U.C. Berkeley by Palestinian supporters. I was more appalled then than I am now; but I hereby state that this is it: as far as I'm concerned, U.C. Berkeley has forfeited the right to call itself "the home of free speech."
And I have another bone to pick. With all the emoting about the "discount pricing" for buyers of color, none of the complainers, not even Ms. Loomba (at least until I became so annoyed I turned Forum off), has even mentioned the 25 cent discount for all women! Apparently it's OK to insult women as long as you don't insult them for their skin color. As a feminist, now I'm really appalled!