Every semester, the scene plays out the same: a man arrives on campus and promptly tells the collected student body that they are going to hell.
Paul Mitchell, or as most students know him, “that guy with the crazy 10-foot sign,” has by now firmly established himself in the hearts and minds of the Saddleback Campus, if not necessarily in a positive way.
Mitchell’s extremely inflammatory methods, namely the aforementioned shouting and handing out of cards labeled “get out of Hell free,” must have left their mark on those who have witnessed this bi-annual event. Certainly, one could make the case that recently all sorts of riff-raff have been allowed into the national conversation. From a South Carolinian’s now infamous outburst at the President to crowds of rambunctiousness protestors showing up at the summer’s round of town-hall debate, crowds of easily excitable columnists have come to the conclusion that civil discourse in America has come to an untimely death.
While this is an obvious exaggeration, there seems to be a new level of vitriol hiding under most people’s skins these days. Even last semester’s visit by Mitchell was comparatively tranquil, mostly drawing a mixture of confusion and curiosity.
The noisy rabble constantly bleating its grievances on the television and over the radio has made it easy to hyperbolize the effect they have on the way Americans talk to each other.
Regardless of however many pundits are hell-bent on proving Americans now possess hair-trigger tempers and have somehow inherited all the social niceties of a pack of chimpanzees, it is clear to anyone with a grasp of history that the local bout of rage is nothing permanent.
Our parents were shouting at each other over the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, but they managed to pull together in order to become a breed of soulless yuppies in the 1990s. Their grandparents were no strangers to lively debate, as they surely argued over whether America should intervene in the First World War. And those signaling the end of civility in Congress have apparently forgotten when South Carolinian Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner to the point of unconsciousness with a cane on the Senate floor in 1856.
As a publication benefiting from the rules laid out by the First Amendment, the Lariat understands the importance of free speech in America, no matter how annoying or incorrect. It might seem easier to want to duct-tape the mouths of the various Paul Mitchells of the world, but it is an American tradition to have to listen to the rantings of idiots. As ludicrous as their respective arguments are, America would be worse off without the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and Keith Olbermanns and whoever else makes you want to throw a shoe at your television each night.
As the recently deceased columnist William Safire once wrote, “the right to do something does not mean doing it is right.” While this should be repeated ad nauseum to the various fools who feel it is necessary to show up to a President’s speech with a gun, the Lariat also stands by another adage: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”