Let the people think, and chalk, what they will

As Paul Simon once sang, "my lack of education hasn't hurt me much/ I can read the writing on the wall." In this case it's not the wall exactly, but the cement we walk on that has become a canvas and a billboard - a forum ultimately - for political debate and open resentment. Simon sees the graffiti on the wall as the voice of the people, the billboard of the unrepresented and unacknowledged - the front page headlines of the frustrated and fed-up.

When no one was looking, an unknown individual defaced the College Republicans' most recent chalkings around campus, a supposedly grievous offence which mortified some. The issue of whether the individual should be able to write on the public walkway of a public university was never really up for debate, so we end up asking whether they should have written the things they did.

Let's listen to what they were saying. A scrabble-like "racist" descending from the "R" in the word "Republican" is by far the most egregious of the chalkings - Republican racists? Republicans are not all racists, nor are any large percentage of them racists. In this way, the action was deceiving because it portrayed Republicans as something that they clearly are not.

What I believe the chalker was referring to was the Reagan quotation (also chalked) saying that he (Reagan) would have vetoed civil rights legislation. As abhorrent as it may be to question the avatar of Republicanism, the man is not a saint, but at least he's not Republican Sen. Trent Lott, right? When Bob Jones University sued the IRS because they were denied tax exemption as a racist institution, Gipper was quick to back their ill-fated attempt. The Supreme Court shot them down 8-to-1.

What else did this person write to stir up such heated controversy? The chalker has pointed out that the College Republican's quotation "denying global warming" was paid for (indirectly) by Exxon Mobil. The Republicans argued that global warming always goes in circles, but the reputable Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the Peace Prize this year to a number of individuals, including Al Gore, who furthered the cause to combat global warming. This speaks volumes, along with the incontrovertible scientific evidence on which they based their cause.

It's not difficult to see why someone is upset with the Republican Party, but it is both prudent and telling that they decided not to simply wash away quotations that they probably saw as lies and propaganda. Instead, they let both opinions stand side by side. The "racist" remark was a pot shot, but for the most part opinions were balanced by counter-opinions.

The freedom to forcefully voice opinions contrary to that of regimes is so integral to American democracy that it can hardly be overstated. The con is that sometimes these opinions seem brash or extreme. Hate speech cannot be tolerated by any justification, free speech has important limitations, but even if a comment borders on the verge of vulgar it is always better to err on the side of First Amendment rights.