Free Speech Outrage
November 28, 2011
By Senator Bob Smith
The right to free speech is protected in the First Amendment to our Constitution, but there are times when what is said taxes the limits of one’s patience. Such is the case with Suffolk University Law Professor Michael Avery, who recently sent an email to his colleagues saying, “It is shameful to send care packages to U.S. troops who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.”
According to FOX affiliate WFXT-TV in Massachusetts, the comments were made after Suffolk University issued a school wide appeal for care packages to be sent to U.S. military deployed overseas. Clearly, Professor Avery had a constitutional right to say it, but the real question is, was it right to say it?
I found out about these remarks in an email sent to me by a disabled Vietnam combat veteran who was shocked and dismayed like most of us. To protect his privacy I will not name the veteran, but he sums it up with three words, “reprehensible, irresponsible and unacceptable.” Paul Spera, a past Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars called the remarks “despicable” adding for emphasis, “that the shameful thing is that Avery is teaching our young people.” He took the words right out of my mouth!
As if those words were not hurtful enough, Avery had to make sure he made his point by adding, “Sympathy for American troops in harm’s way is not particularly rational in today’s world.” Suffolk to its credit does not have a history of being anti-military like many other universities. They sanctioned the effort to collect and send the packages and they even have a large American flag displayed in the school’s atrium. Professor Avery objected to that too, saying that displaying the flag is “not a politically neutral act” and represents “excessive patriotic zeal.”
It is outrageous that people like Avery get positions teaching our young people in universities around the country. Although Avery made his comments in an email to colleagues, and has every right to express his personal views, publicly or privately, “teaching” is not just what occurs in the classroom. A professor has a position of authority and respect within the university. His comments and demeanor outside the classroom cannot be isolated from the “education” of his students inside the college class. Don’t believe for one minute that the good professor is not aware of the impact he can have on his students in this manner. Mark Twain realized that there is much to learn outside the formal structure of schools when he joked, “I never let my schoolin’ interfere with my education.”
When are alumni going to have the courage to stop financing this kind of anti-American venom? If endowments and fundraising dropped off the radar screen, people like this would soon be out of work. It is bad enough that parents and students have to pile up huge debt to pay this guy, let alone subject our young people to his views. When are we all going to wise up? Somewhere out there is a patriotic, well qualified teacher who would like to come to Suffolk and teach constitutional law and who understands that the reason we have this Constitution is due to the sacrifice of others. Surely, if Suffolk looked hard enough, it could find that person. It would be fun to hear the two debate in the faculty lounge and just “teach” in the classroom!
I would like to remind the good professor that if U.S. troops had not gone overseas to defeat the Japanese and the Nazis, and yes, to “kill other human beings” in WWII, his free speech could have been eliminated permanently. It was also the willingness of the Founders to place their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the line to win a war and write a constitution that gives him the right to be unpatriotic. To put it more succinctly, professor, how do you think you got the right of free speech? The blood of thousands of patriots, like my dad, died to give it to you. That is how you got it!
Perhaps the disabled Vietnam veteran who called this to my attention said it best: “I feel sorry for him [Avery]. He has no idea why our young men and women freely risk their lives and volunteer to protect our freedoms from those who would take them away from us.” They have even died for you Professor Avery, so that you can speak. It would have been nice if you had walked down to the drop off location and left your own care package with a small thank you. The really pathetic thing is that somewhere out there a Suffolk-bound student is borrowing money to go to college and study constitutional law and they will be stuck in Avery’s class. Only in America! Freedom of speech lives on, but it isn’t always pretty.