We’re proud to share a recent editorial shared in the Lincoln Journal Star, by Amanda Gailey and Patricia Wonch Hill, editors at Seeing Red. Here’s my $.02 regarding their piece.
Nebraskans have always believed in civic engagement. Our state legislature, the unicameral, is designed to be the most transparent and engaging political process in the country. It’s only recently, led by the governor and his goon sqaud, that we’ve started questioning if citizens should be allowed to express dissenting opinions outside of work, in public spaces, and in *gasp* unladylike ways.
Since the election in 2016, the nation is gaining back a cultural understating of how critical it is to democracy to be involved in politics. For Nebraska, on the left and the right of the political spectrum, it took an evil governor demanding partisan allegiance to him instead of the people. He works night and day to kill our citizens, deny us healthcare, and defund our most vulnerable citizens.
Americans have a proud tradition of protest, including civil disobedience, the Boston Tea Party, Suffrage, and the Labor and Civil Rights Movements. We, the people, have an obligation to always remind those in power that we will not be railroaded by billionaires, fascists, and fools.
Those movements weren’t always popular in the time they occurred. They made those in power unhappy. But now, we all agree that independence, weekends, and more equality were worth fighting for. The time has come to roll up your sleeves, get off the internet, and fight for the democracy you want to live in. The time is now.
Senators Try to Silence UNL Faculty
By Amanda Gailey and Patricia Wonch Hill
May 2, 2018
Three state senators — Sen. Tom Brewer, Steve Erdman and Steve Halloran — have repeatedly asserted through op-eds in state newspapers that Nebraska is a place where political pluralism is undesirable, and where speech opposing the single party in control should not be allowed.
They have maintained that political speech they agree with is welcome, but opposing viewpoints shared in a public forum are “harassment” and “conduct issues” in need of firm punishment and termination from employment. These senators seem to believe that public universities are not sites of free inquiry but places where thinkers and researchers must fit their speech, at all times, to the ideology that won the most recent election.
Protest and civil disobedience have a long, patriotic record in American history. Readers may recall a 1773 theatrical protest in which activists dressed in costumes dumped a shipment of tea into Boston Harbor. Since that time, through abolition, suffrage, and the labor and Civil Rights movements, full participation in democracy, including civil disobedience and protest, has been part of what makes America great.
Indeed, there is nothing more American than engaging fully and wholeheartedly in democracy using the methods of our activist predecessors.
But this is not the vision of America these senators espouse. They envision a country where the ruling party can silence dissent. The senators seem to believe only people who do not work for a living should get to speak freely and act upon their moral convictions. If you are among the employed majority of Nebraskans, you should be terrified that state legislators believe that your employer ought to fire you if you engage in politics on your own time.
The senators imply that Nebraskans are of one mind politically, that they themselves define this one mind and that they are entitled to punish anyone who strays from their ideology. But they don’t speak for all Nebraskans, including many of the young Nebraskans who attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Like the two of us, many of them come from conservative, small-town backgrounds and went to college to find intellectual challenge and a marketplace of ideas.
These politicians’ attacks on university faculty are nothing new. A bishop in the Roman Empire led a mob to murder Hypatia, a female scholar whose political speech threatened his power. The Soviets required research and curriculum to fit with party beliefs. Scholars fled Germany in the 1930s. In the dark McCarthy era, politicians attempted to purge leftist thought and gay teachers from American universities.
These state senators are simply playing their part in a repeated historical struggle between those who are threatened by dissenting ideas and those who stand up for them. We are happy to carry the torch and to fight for freedom of speech and academic freedom in a state that sorely needs both.