Thursday, November 3, 2005

[Conditional] Freedom of Speech

I used to manage a progressive gift shop, The Peace Store. We sold various forms of merchandise that featured progressive and left wing messages (e.g., bumper stickers, buttons, T-shirts, mouse pads, etc.) One of the ways I advertised the store -- being a small nonprofit, we did NOT have an advertising budget -- was by plastering my truck with bumper stickers. At one point, I had nearly 40 on my rig.

Most of these stickers were overtly political and in-your-face. Since I was preparing to serve as an Americorp*VISTA volunteer (see the previous two entries -- this is the 3rd installment), I removed all but 5 of them. The ones which remained were the least political and two of them were quotes from famous figures.

Here are the 5 messages that remain on my truck:
  1. No one is free when others are oppressed -- MLK quote
  2. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind -- Gandhi quote
  3. Peace Begins when the Hungry are Fed
  4. Hell: It's not the heat, it's the humidity
  5. Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he'll be one mile away and barefoot
Compare these rather docile messages with some of the stickers I removed.
  • Boost the Stock Market -- Fire Somebody
  • Politicians & Diapers Need to be Changed -- Often for the Same Reason
  • I Love my Country, but Fear my Government
  • The Death Penalty -- WWJD
  • Under Republicans, Man Exploits Man -- Under Democrats it's just the Opposite
  • EVERYONE does better when EVERYONE does better
  • Subvert the Dominant Paradigm
Yet, despite the fact my right of expression is protected under the U.S. Constitution, this safeguard doesn't seem to protect a person who has been INVITED to serve in VISTA. Mind you, not yet serving IN VISTA, but merely invited to serve.

When Bobbie saw my stickers plus the peace flag flown on my antenna he must have decided then and there that a person who supports peace, nonviolence and justice is not moral enough to serve the poor.

This has led me to wonder: If I had different stickers on my truck, would the stickers have been an issue at all? Do you think Bob would have had his "change of heart" if I had stickers which supported pro-life, the troops in Iraq and I was flying an American flag on my antenna? My guess is probably not.

So, even though, by law, a person volunteering through VISTA cannot be discriminated against due to their political beliefs, that's precisely what happened in my case. I got bounced because I was too far to the Left of Bob-o!

[If you're interested in obtaining some great left-wing stickers, buttons or T-Shirts, please visit Northern Sun.]


  1. so pimping a site that sells pro-socialist revolution (of the sort that killed over 100 million in the last century) propaganda is pacifistic?

    Goe, doesn't wanna go to a 'reeducation center'.

  2. I think you ruffled the feathers of Bob's brother or maybe it was Bob checking up on you.

    So, how many people would have died if there hadn't been a pro=socialist revolution in the last century?


  3. Nice quotes. I'd never heard that particular Ghandi.


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