For more than two centuries, Americans have believed that our way of governing was best. Instead of having an autocrat or small group ruling us, we have held to the principle of majority rule. And it has served us well.
But increasingly I see efforts to change this foundational principle. In North Carolina, the most recent example is Senate Bill 49, “The Parents’ Bill of Rights.” This bill says that parents decide what their children learn in school. That notion may sound reasonable, even appealing, but further investigation leads to questions of whose parents choose and which rights will be chosen? We’ve seen in other states how small groups claiming their “rights” have banned books, censored school curriculums and forced teachers to file lesson plans online, demanding changes in instruction if a group doesn’t like certain points.
But here is the critical question: Just because one parent or a group objects to a book, do they have the right to have that book banned? What about those parents who don’t object to the book? Do their rights matter?
As a parent you have every right to decide what education your child is exposed to. If you don’t “feel comfortable” with the education your child is receiving, you have the right to remove your child and receive instruction someplace else. But you don’t have the right to dictate your beliefs to me…..or for other parents.
Example: 61 percent of people say abortion should be legal. Now I never understood new math, but when I was in school 61 percent was a majority. Those 39 percent who don’t agree about legal abortion should not have an abortion or be forced to do so. It’s their right, yet a minority of legislators, justices and political candidates would refuse to allow women the right to control their own bodies.
This growing movement ventures far beyond the schoolhouse. In fact it is growing faster than kudzu. Want some situational examples?
Some want to dictate their version of history and don’t want any discussion of slavery in history class, because it would make some “feel uncomfortable.” (It should make us all feel uncomfortable.) 63 percent of Americans want gun laws to change, however the minority insists on their rights to own any style weapon they want with little or no controls and with nothing more than “thoughts and prayers” for those killed, injured or threatened from their weapons.
Their collective panties are wadded up screaming they have a right to have more conservative teachers or speakers on college campuses, yet this same bunch denies the right to have more liberal, minority or female members on the UNC Board of Governors. It’s highly permissible to draw election districts gerrymandered to elect your tribe, while disdaining the rights of others. Remember the quote about drawing districts to elect 10 Republicans to Congress because district drawers couldn’t figure out how to configure them for 11? Just below the surface is an unspoken but present racial and sexual prejudice. The rights of straight heterosexuals are championed, however anyone gay, transgendered or bisexual should not have rights.
Just last week we saw how far this movement has gone. Mass shootings in Kentucky and Tennessee brought large protests against gun violence. When three legislators led a protest using a bullhorn on the floor of the Tennessee House, two Black members were expelled for “unbecoming conduct.” A white female member was allowed to remain. Gary Pearce, one of North Carolina’s sharpest and most seasoned political observers, posted on his Talking About Politics blogsite the question, “Which bothers you most: the bullhorn in the legislature or the assault rifle in the elementary school?” What’s your answer?
Happily, the two expelled representatives were returned by their respective local governing bodies, but those actions are the exception rather than the rule. What we should be asking is why we allow bully groups to get away with these minority positions without an equal and opposite rebuttal?
Here’s my spin: The only difference between George Orwell’s classic book, “1984,” and what we see today is that Orwell’s story was fiction. We are inching ever closer to those behaviors becoming a reality today. The constant harangues, condemnations and pontifications chip away our confidence in education, public safety, government, media, religion and you name it. If these demagogues can make you afraid of an issue and tell you who is to blame for it there’s no big leap to making the changes they want.
Will we continue to allow the modern-day Thought Police to take over or will we, the plurality, assert our rights?
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. His weekly half-hour TV program, NC SPIN aired for 22 ½ years. Contact him at email@example.com.