It’s been an interesting week at The Morning Sun. We got a call late Tuesday that the "God Bless America" sign would be coming down from the side of the post office and by Thursday we knew we had a major story on our hands.
By the standards of, say, Hillary Clinton’s emails I suppose it wasn’t huge. But for Pittsburg this was a big deal.
We’d expected the story of the week to be the failed bond issue, but the community had other ideas.
It’s understandable why the good citizens were upset. One person made a complaint to the Freedom From Religion Foundation — a group which specializes in being professionally offended by things which are mostly inoffensive and goes out of their way to belittle people of faith — if you don’t believe me, call them and get put on hold. One of my reporters did and the hold music is rewritten Sunday school songs saying Christians are stupid.
So let us be clear. The “God Bless America” sign on the side of the post office was, by the current (mis)interpretation of the establishment clause a technical First Amendment violation. The Supreme Court has held that such displays are unconstitutional. From that standpoint the sign had to come down. I don’t agree with that interpretation, but the court has spoken and I can hardly point to interpretations with which I do agree as final if I refuse to acknowledge ones with which I disagree.
All that said, that same sign had been sitting there for nearly 15 years without spontaneously hopping down and forcing someone to start praying.
But this is a symptom of a larger problem in the culture today. We call them Social Justice Warriors. It’s a group of perpetually offended people looking for something to be outraged by. Generally some perceived injustice that no one ever noticed before. They’re people like Tor.com contributor Liz Bourke who finds herself unable to watch a movie or read a book without — not kidding — counting the number of people of color, women, homosexual, transsexual or who-know-what-sexual characters. And then complaining ad nauseum that there’s no “parity” — as if a movie must have the same number of women as men or the film is “problematic.” They’re people like Melissa Click, the former University of Missouri professor, who apparently didn’t understand the First Amendment gathered a mob to try to run a reporter off from a student protest.
They tend to use shaming tactics to try to force people to their will. They call you racist, sexist, homophobic. They scream that you are anti-science, anti-poor, bible-thumpers. They gather in mobs on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and blitz your feed until they force you off. They’re the “journalist” who attacks a world-renowned scientist for the shirt he was wearing when he landed a freaking spaceship on a comet, forcing him to engage in a neo-Maoist public self-shaming. Over a bowling shirt with pinup girls on it made for him by a female friend.
The good news is the kerfuffle in Pittsburg this week is a symptom of a backlash we’re starting to see against this sort of bullying nationwide.
People are tired of being told they’re evil for simply existing. They’re tired of being accused of foul attitudes they don’t hold. They’re sick of being accused of “microaggressions” they’re not even sure how to avoid.
They’re standing up and saying this culture of perpetual offense is ridiculous. They’re saying they’re tired of having to police every word they say for fear of being called vile names for a slip of the tongue. They’re sick of the perpetual outrage.
Are there some injustices in this world which need addressing? Certainly, and there always will be. But the pendulum has swung too far — as it is wont to do — and made every minor irritation a massive issue. In this case the predictable result was that whomever found the post office sign objectionable will now have to see the same message all over town.
That would seem to me to be justice.
All IMHO, of course.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.