Important lessons in civics do not need to involve the ACLU

Fish sticks on Tuesday, and no gays at the prom

Remember how awkward and nervous you were at your senior prom? Try being a gay student and attending. This is the trial of Constance McMillen, who now has the unfortunate task of being the one being blamed by her own school for cancellation of her senior prom:

The Itawamba County school district’s board decided Wednesday to drop the prom because of what it called recent distractions but without specifically mentioning the girl’s request, which was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The student, 18-year-old high school senior Constance McMillen, said the cancellation was retaliation for her efforts to bring her girlfriend, also a student, to the April 2 dance.

There aren’t any indications of any other recent distractions, so it might be safe to assume that the looming ACLU suit on behalf of McMillen. Before we dive too far into the story here, is all the ACLU has time for? I know that they are also wrapped up in declaring the US a torturous Gestapo state, but why was the proper time for reconciliation between McMillen’s parents and the school board allowed to happen? Surely at least an agreement could have been hammered out before then, without the sledge hammer of the ACLU appearing. Are they hoping to tie up the school board in court until they get their way? What if the prom goes by and still no same-sex dates? See you next year, maybe?

There should be no question that if McMillen was invoking her Constitutional rights, she should have outlets to be properly represented and be able to plead her case. Wearing a tuxedo to a dance is not going to invoke some sort of crazed riot, and it’s not even banned under the school’s dress code. If they think that the part that “shall not constitute a health or safety hazard” means that seeing a woman in a tuxedo will cause a mass panic and injury, so be it, but it’s dubious.

The entire dress code of the school should be shot down by the ACLU, right? Just because I wear baggy pants doesn’t mean I am carrying a knife or gun. Why are clothes advertising casinos outlawed? I personally think outlawing tank tops and muscle shirts is the biggest slap against gay male students. How are they supposed to show off their six-packs?

The lesson here for the ACLU is that, yes, the schools have at their discretion to tell the kids how to dress, as with a lot of their other rights now frittered away. I did a search through the ACLU’s archives for media releases on airports, just out of curiosity. I figured passengers are now subject to random screenings (which always seem to “randomly” screen the passengers who will be the least belligerent, i.e. me), new body scanners which can only be seen as absolutely unnecessary and invasive, and the surtaxes that are being placed on passengers to pay for these invasions. Go get ‘em, ACLU!

Actually, all they had was a few unfortunate arrests, including an ACLU lawyer (what a coincidence!), and the ACLU to sue for allowing non-citizens to retain their sensitive security jobs. First, I haven’t yet met an airport security screener who didn’t sound like they arrived in the country on the red-eye. Also, as a Canadian I cannot even work for the United States Geological Survey. No lawsuits on my behalf. (They also merely “question” the efficacy of the body scanners.)

I’m convinced that many kids out there get their enigmatic rights abused now and then, and winning the ACLU lottery to get your case exposed to the national spotlight is fortunate. I think if McMillen really wants to learn a powerful lesson in both participatory democracy and citizen responsibility, she will relinquish her attendance at the prom. After that, she should approach the students and plead their case to them to let her attend. It’s unfair of her to ask, and I would hope the student body would take it upon themselves. The students could do their own protest by not attending the graduating ceremonies. The kids will just get their diplomas sent to them anyway, right? How embarrassing would it be for the school board to have a total abstention from their own graduating ceremony?

Leave it to the stalwart district board and the destructive power of the ACLU to blow this out of proportion. McMillen can learn about excessive government control, punitive powers of the courts, and the benefits of pleading your case to the public and rallying them behind you. If dancing in a suit was so offensive, Ellen Degeneres would have lost her talk show ages ago. Let her attend.

8 Responses to “Important lessons in civics do not need to involve the ACLU”

  1. Andy Says:

    Rocky, I guess none of us really know all the ins and outs of this situation. I graduated from High School in 1977. We had some lesbian gals back then. A few of them came to the prom alone. They did wear dresses, but I’d have just as soon they wore a tux, if you know what I mean.

    Having three sons that have graduated from HS in the 90s & 2000s (in the deep US South…though not in a rural area such as this), I know for certain that even though they don’t “understand” lesbos, they, and their classmates are all very tolerant, accepting, etc. of them.

    I am quite sure that if this girl/guy/whatever plead her case to the students, this would be a non-issue. It seems from the article that some of the kids were already on board with it.

    On the other hand…we do not know this girl’s history at the school. If she has been a “trouble-maker” with her/his sexuality…well, “old heads” have a tendency to try to head off trouble before it starts.

    I don’t know. Man…that was a LONG comment to come up with an “I don’t know.” But, that’s my specialty.

    The ACLU is one of my least favorite orgs. But, I have never had a lesbo daughter, either. Raising kids is a crap-shoot…I know. It would be a really tough call for a father one way or the other…

    I’m glad it’s not me. But, I think I’d just let the prom go on, and let the chips fall. Heck, in a couple of years nobody will remember it anyway.

  2. Rocky Says:

    My best guess is that if she were such a troublemaker at school, they could have come up with a more trumped-up reason for keeping her out. That’s the risk I usually take with these opinion pieces, and I’ll never really know the whole story.

    My guess is they think she’s going to make a joke out of the prom showing up in a tux. I’m feeling strangely generous so I am taking up a liberal cause while slapping the ACLU. Feels great. :)

  3. Mr Fnortner Says:

    I don’t mean to disparage Andy, who seems to be a top-notch guy, but I have to say that the ACLU is an organization especially needed today to confront the efforts of our government officials to abridge the rights of all people. While you and I may not need their efforts, being right in the middle statistically, all of those on the fringe who wish they were included in everyday liberties certainly appreciate the ACLU.

    The insensitive belief that all others are like us blinds us to the plight of those who are marginalized. Statements like “This is a Christian country” or “Gay attendees would be disruptive” expose this hidden belief that our own personal attributes are the standard, and that variations are deviant and may deserve fewer rights. As individuals, we are free to hold these opinions and accept the consequences, but our government and its officials are not at liberty to act this way. The job taken on by the ACLU is to keep the government honest and within the confines of the Constitution.

    One day it may be your rights (like the right to bear arms) that the ACLU rescues.

  4. Andy Says:

    Mr. Fnortner, I do not feel one bit disparaged by your comment. It is not possible to offend me, or hurt my feelings in any way. I had my feelings surgically removed about 30 years ago.

    My problem with the ACLU has much more to do with their slant than their mission.

    I will admit that I haven’t researched this, but I can’t seem to remember them joining in too many right to bear arms suits…I could be wrong. Maybe they only make news when they represent someone that is “offended” because they have to drive by a nativity scene, or read something about the greatness of God on a public monument.

    I am a Libertarian Christian. I believe in “live and let live.” Heck, I’d let the gal just go to the prom if I were in charge. If she’s a butt about things, the kids will straighten it out.

    What bugs me about the ACLU is that they seem to want to ruin our traditions for the sake of the few that hate those traditions.

  5. Rocky Says:

    Luckily, I have an answer for the gun rights straight from their website in 2008:

    The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. While the decision is a significant and historic reinterpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, the decision leaves many important questions unanswered that will have to be resolved in future litigation, including what regulations are permissible, and which weapons are embraced by the Second Amendment right that the Court has now recognized.

    It’s important to know where an organization like the ACLU stands on this issue, and by that I mean what they think the Bill of Rights is. Will they just as easily interpret the First Amendment as a “collective right” or is the intent of the document to protect individuals from the government?

    I don’t begrudge the ACLU’s history. They were instrumental in fighting for Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps, they fought to end racial segregation in the schools and even in the case of marriage. They WERE a great organization, even getting rid of communists on its national board because it did not believe in totalitarian rule. (This was a decade before McCarthy.)

    Now it’s basically interested in tearing down the Mexico-US border, extending constitutional rights to foreigners who are enemies of the state, protecting drug users driving around in their cars, and promoting abortion as an enshrined right. Rather than protecting rights that already exist, they want to make up new ones, and like any true patriotic American, they use the courts as a lever to set legal precedents for situations that can now never be undone because that one time they were found to be right.

    It is definitely important that a just civil rights entity exist, and the ACLU is not it anymore. They are so diminished that they are chasing after school boards for letting this person and that into a school dance.

  6. Mr Fnortner Says:

    I once was a dues-paying member of the ACLU and, like Rocky, believed the organization was doing good work. Several years ago I became disillusioned with them because I felt they came off the rails. They have developed their special interests like anyone else, and no longer sound like they’re being informed by James Madison (or Thomas Jefferson). They still hound me for money, but I prefer Ron Paul.

  7. Andy Says:

    Thanks for the input Rocky, & Mr. Fnortner.

    Ummm… “I have to say that the ACLU is an organization especially needed today to confront the efforts of our government officials to abridge the rights of all people…”

    Became “…Several years ago I became disillusioned with them because I felt they came off the rails. They have developed their special interests like anyone else, and no longer sound like they’re being informed by James Madison (or Thomas Jefferson).”

    So, is it a thumbs up, or thumbs down on the ACLU, Mr. Fnortner? Or, is it one thumb up, and one thumb down?

    To be honest…that is the way I have always viewed the ACLU. While they piss me off greatly with their slanted approach…I know deep inside that there is some righteous seed in the mission.

    But, as Rocky quotes their disagreement with DC v Heller, it’s awfully hard for a hick like me to hold out much hope that the seed will survive. Good grass for grazing, guys! Thanks for taking the time to learn me something. :)

  8. Mr Fnortner Says:

    Well, I try to give them credit whenever I get the chance, primarily because I think they are unfairly maligned–not for going “off the rails”, but for challenging the entrenched notion that what is custom equals what is right.

    My original motive for supporting them remains the same, and to the extent that they perform that sort of legal work (as in backing the rights of kids be protected from expulsion from a prom by government employees who don’t like who they’re dating) they have my support. When the ACLU burrows deep into the fringes of their own special interests, and wastes their contributors’ money jousting these windmills, I object. If school administrators, because of the ACLU, one day learn that children have the right to be treated as human beings and not as inmates–in other words, stop fucking with them–then cases such as this one will have made a difference.

    As far as the 2nd Amendment goes, Heller is bad law. When SCOTUS condescended to grant the people the right to bear arms under some conditions, it did more to strip rights held by the people than to protect them. We, the people, have always had the right to arm ourselves, government or no government, from the beginning of time. The second amendment was written to protect that right from government “infringement”. SCOTUS simply said “Here’s how you can infringe on that right.”

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