Sunday, February 26, 2012

“Mic-Check”: Verbal Terrorism and Pushback at UNM

Last Thursday evening when my class on Case Study ended, I stuffed my papers in my notebook and hurried across campus to hear Nonie Darwish speak. I expected a good, tightly focused talk by a woman who has experienced the oppression of Sharia Law firsthand. I did wondered briefly as I approached the Anthropology Building from the rear and cut through the side-hallway where the labs are, whether anyone would attempt to block me getting in, but the night was quiet as a brand new moon dropped in the west.

Nonie Darwish is the daughter of Egyptian General, born during the Revolution of 1952, and is now an American by virtue of her passionate love for liberty. She has spoken at many universities, as well as before the United States Congress, the European Union Parliament, and the British House of Lords.

She was brought to the University of New Mexico by two campus groups, the UNM Israel Alliance and the UNM Conservative Republicans, with funding from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and sponsorships from organizations affiliated with local synagogues and churches. Her talk was entitled Why the Arab Spring is Failing and How Israel is Involved.

I walked past a dessert table set up by the Israel Alliance, and took a bottle of water on the way in. I was just in time for the talk, so I did not linger. As I went by the table I noticed a young man standing holding a sign that read: “Stop Israel Apartheid.” I swept past him and sat down next to fellow members of Congregation Albert with whom I share almost no political views except support of Israel. We greeted one another with Shalom’s and Howdy Do’s and settled in as Nonie was introduced.

Nonie came on stage, a small, round woman dressed in slacks and a simple red top, full of energy and passion. From the moment she launched into it, her talk was not disappointing. Her thesis was that no Muslim country can expect anything from revolution other than more tyranny because of the structure of Sharia Law, which dictates all aspects of life for Muslims, including the structure and practices of the Islamic state. Throughout her talk, she reiterated that her hatred was not for Muslim people as individuals, but rather for the Sharia Law that keeps them enslaved to a brutal system, one that openly preaches violence against women and non-Muslims.

At the point where Nonie began speaking about the duties and responsibilities of a Muslim dictator under Sharia, there erupted from the back of the room a chant: “Mic Check!” a small group yelled, “Israel is an apartheid state!” I stood up to get a better idea of who was doing what, and I had a terrible sinking feeling that we, the people who had come to hear Nonie Darwish speak, would see her silenced. This initiation of force against those they wish to silence is a favorite tactic of the left. The call for “mic check!” became a favorite method of the Occupy Wall Street “movement”, who have such a sense of entitlement that they act on the belief that only they have freedom of speech because only they have something to say.

So as the disruptors continued their chant, I began chanting: “USA! USA!” I had learned this tactic to counter disruptions when I was trained to monitor Tea Party rallies. But New Mexicans are so generally laid back that we never had occasion to use our training at the Tea Parties. Other audience members had the same idea, and it seemed like many of us started chanting back at the same time, turning to face the disruptive element at the back of the room.

As we stood there chanting, I looked around for security or the UNM police, but neither were anywhere in evidence. (Apparently no one thought it was needed, because those with opposite views in the past had politely tolerated each other’s events). Instead several older men approached the disruptors in a businesslike fashion, and it looked like they were going to force them from the room. One man tried to grab the script from the hands of the leader, but failed. Another seemed to trip over feet or a chair and landed on some of the disruptors. I saw one female disruptor shout “No violence! No violence!”, as these men forced them whole lot of them out of the room. I remember thinking to myself: Sweetie, you asked for it when you used violence against Nonie’s freedom of speech and our right to hear the talk we came to hear.” She looked like one of the (un)Occupy Wall Street chics I had seen last fall, the one who thought it was not okay to occupy except when she was the one doing the occupying.

As soon as the little barbarians were out of the room, people settled down, and Nonie commented: You must feel sorry for them. They cannot stand to have their prejudices confounded by the truth. They hate anyone who disagrees with them, and call them vile names, but they call me the hate monger.” She then continued her speech.

There was one other disruption that came when the President of the Faculty Senate got up and first accused Nonie of hate speech, citing a You Tube video of her speech at a rally honoring an honor killing victim. As Nonie responded that the video had been edited, the dimwit professor went on to interrupt her, and then began to make a speech. The audience was once again on edge, and angry at this professor who had apparently forgotten that the floor was his only to ask a question. There was some booing, but he went on in his ignorant arrogance, until I called out: “What’s you question, sir?” Then another audience member took the microphone from him, and handed it to the next questioner in line.

From that point on, there were no further disruptions, although many questioners disputed Nonie’s talk, and one called her a “bigot.”

Later I learned that the disruptive element came from a campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the (un)Occupy Albuquerque movement. (That familiar looking chic was exactly who I thought she was). Both groups have a very privileged view of rights, believing that they have them because they are right about everything, and nobody else has rights. Therefore, they believe that they have a right to occupy a lecture sponsored and paid for by someone else, and try to shut the speaker down. Of course, the Heckler’s Veto*, as it is popularly called is the initiation of force against the speaker and those who came to hear her. It is violation of the rights of everyone else in the room. As a UC Irvine law professor states:

“You have the right – if you disagree with me – to go outside and perform your protest. But you don’t get the right to come in when I’m talking and shout me down. Otherwise people can always silence a speaker by heckler’s veto, and Babel results.”

Babel did result, but only until the entitled barbarians were forced from the room. No one was hurt, and the men who removed them used only as much force as was necessary to remove them. That force was invited by the disruptive ones themselves, when they initiated force against the speaker the audience came to hear.

This incident leads me to believe that taxpayer money is being wasted at the University of New Mexico. Students there clearly have no idea what rights mean, and believe that they are entitled to shut down a speaker invited and paid for by a campus group because they happen to disagree with her. Others claimed that: “This is OUR university”, to which the audience rightly replied: “No. It is our university. Our tax money built it and funds it.” I would suggest to the dimwit professor who believes he has the right to turn a question into a speech that perhaps he ought to spend his time learning what his contractual responsibilities are, and what the definition of a public lecture is. The event was not a public forum. But even in a public forum, individuals must follow the rules of decorum, taking the floor only when it is yielded and for the purposes defined by the speaker or moderator.

I will be voting no on every bond issue or other allocation of money to UNM until the New Mexico Legislature gets control of the place, and requires all students and faculty to take courses and demonstrate competence in respect for rights, the understanding the difference between rights and privileges (hint: attending university at public expense is not a right, it is a privilege), and in the manners and mores required at public lectures, forums and other events.

I’d say that these kinds of events definitely turn the Town against the Gown. Taxpayers begin to understand why in days of old, the town used to lock the barbarians inside the gates of the University each night at sundown, letting them out on rare occasions and only when they minded their manners and respected their betters—the ones paying for it all.

Hmmm. Maybe we should build a wall around Redondo Drive. A cast-iron gate decorated with gargoyles would be fitting right in front of Sholes Hall.

But until then, I am glad that pushback has started against these barbarian tactics aimed at quashing speech that certain elitist academics have decided must not be heard. And in the process, they demonstrated quite well the truth that Nonie Darwish came to speak.

*This popular notion of the Heckler’s Veto is different than the legal definition, which is the unconstitutional silencing of speech by the government because of a threat of violence on the part of the speaker’s opposition.


A video of Nonie Darwish’s entire speech at UNM may be found here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Tea Set Has an Heiress



In my china cabinet, on the  top  shelf sits an antique Polish tea set. It consists of a small tea pot, a cream pitcher and a sugar bowl. It is very old, and somewhat battered, having been passed from oldest daughter to oldest daughter, down to me—the 7th in my female line.

It does not belong to me, although I am its current keeper. When I used to gaze at it, in the built-in china cabinet of my grandmother’s craftsman home in northern Illinois, it did belong to me, having passed into my ownership on the day of my birth. And it passed on to my firstborn daughter on the day of her birth, even though at that time it resided on my mother’s display case in her home in Central Illinois, far from the duplex where the Chemistry Geek Princess was born. 

The CGP became the eighth in the line of oldest daughters to whom the tea set passed. It was brought from the old country, one of the few things of beauty and value to survive the misfortunes of the old country, and the slow building of new lives and fortunes here, in the Golden Land. I can imagine my great-grandmother lovingly and carefully placing it on the shelf behind the square-cut craftsman leaded glass doors of the dark china cabinet in the corner of her dining room. Anna was her name, but I don’t know the name of her mother, the woman who carefully packed it for the journey across the Atlantic in days long ago. Mara, perhaps? I never knew her and I may be getting her name mixed up with the name of my mother’s father’s mother. And before her, three other women, oldest daughter to oldest daughter to oldest daughter, back to the one who acquired it, the circumstances of which are shrouded in the silence of the long past. But from Anna it went to Esther, and from Esther to Madeline, and from Madeline to me. And then it belonged to my daughter for twenty-six years, most of which passed while it stood on my mother’s shelf.

It came to me about seven years ago, when I got a china cabinet and my mother decided to send it back with me, after a visit we made to Illinois.

And now it no longer belongs to my daughter, even though she will one day become its keeper and carefully unwrap it and put it in her own Italian cherry wood china cabinet.

Last week, the tea set got a new owner when the 9th in the line of oldest daughters arrived, although we knew on her mother’s birthday last fall that the tea set was going to have an heiress. She is indeed the Princess Heiress, a tiny little thing compared to her mother, with dark hair and a sweet disposition.

And I gaze at it now in wonder, amazed that somehow the golden-haired little girl in the pink sailor dress got big enough bring a new little girl into the world. There it sits, the Princess Heiress’ tea set, right next to my Bumpa’s Birthday Angel, who bears a bouquet of snowdrops and has a garnet set into her skirt, for she is the January angel. She shows that I share my birth month with the husband of Anna, even though he was gone when I was a little girl. Behind the tea set is a “Welcome, Baby!” card, in the distinctive style that marked the middle of last century, a card from my grandma Esther’s neighbor, one Gal Mignone, who brought it over along with baked goods upon the occasion of my birth.

Generations come and generations go. The tea set is a visible sign of the more mysterious unbroken chain of mitochondrial DNA passed on for at least nine generations, mother to daughter. Nine generations, about 200 years. As as I look at it’s beauty and marvel at its age, I wonder what the life of the new Princess Heiress of the Tea Set will bring. I can expect to see her daughter, the 10th heiress born to the Tea Set sometime around 2035, but it would to take great luck to see that woman’s daughter born to it somewhere around my 100th birthday. And beyond that, I will not have even a glimpse of those girls.

I wonder, though, what perils and wonders will the keepers of the tea set see beyond my lifetime, in the generations of the tea set, the 11th, the 12th and the luck 13th, who will be born somewhere around the turn of the 22nd century.

In the meantime, I am the keeper of the tea set, holding it in trust not only for my daughter, but for my granddaughter, who sleeps contentedly in her mother’s arms, protected under the roof of her doting father’s house. She is such a tiny little girl, but she bears a big name and an even bigger inheritance.

May this little one grow great! May she in her time bequeath life and beauty to the generations who will come after her. And may she in her turn relinquish the tea set to her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, in the great chain of life.