The Battle of Oak Hill.

November 22, 2008

What did I tell you?  This kind of thing is popping up everywhere, sparking all sorts of debate on both sides.  In Standish, Maine, the owner of a one Oak Hill General Store had a sign out front of his store, taking bets on when people might think Obama will be assassinated.

OK, is this guy despicable?  Probably.  Is he just trying to make a quick buck?  Of course.  Does he think he’s funny?  Sure.  Now.. does he have the 1st amendment right to post such a sign on his private property?  Well, now, there’s the rub.

The Standish town councilors and Maine’s Governor John Baldacci have, predictably, condemned the action, saying that “Maine will not tolerate this type of hateful…” blah blah blah.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I think this guy is a little twisted in the head.  But the sign was on his private property.  If he had hung up a sign that said “George Bush should go get fucked”, do you think, in this current political climate, that anyone would bat an eye?  (Well, sure, the religious folks would get all flustered at the F-bomb, which is their own problem.  Those type of prudish shrews will always be with us.)

Do I think clearly racist remarks are OK?  No, personally, I don’t, meaning that I don’t philosophically agree with them.  But… I believe this guy has a right to express his clearly sick sense of humor.  Could it be seen as a threat towards the president-elect?  Perhaps.  But here we are, swimming around in all of this very gray area and, now that we have elected an African-American president, the waters are going to keep getting murkier where all of these “hate speech” and “freedom of speech” issues are concerned.

I guess the ultimate question is: at what point does speech – the utterance of syllables from the throat and mouth – become something truly harmful?  Something that can incite very real violence?  Would someone who hadn’t wanted to assassinate Obama be inspired to then do so by a sign outside of a convenience store in rural Maine with the hopes of settling some bet?  What truly inspires such criminal acts?

I realize that these are not easy questions – but they are very necessary ones.  Y’all have anything that might resemble an answer?

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