Thursday, September 1, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: Tolerance will not be tolerated

  Tolerance will not be tolerated at Hoover High School.

  A 15-year-old student has been barred from sporting an outrageously obscene message on her t-shirt: "Gay? Fine by me."

  Lest the vapid, misleading headlines dupe you, it is certainly not some inflammatory, eye-popping "pro gay" message, merely one that diplomatically advocates tolerance. And by God, that won't be tolerated. Special shout-out to our friend Irony here.... It isn't a graphic cartoon depicting a same-sex couple locking lips or anything of the sort. Just a nod to the dying yet noble practice of exercising tolerance.

  A Birmingham News report indicates the princples-challenged principal, Don Hulin, is an avid fan of double standards and outlines his opposition to the rogue article of clothing as saying the school supports free speech, "unless such expression disrupts the learning environment or deprives the rights of others."

  How does harmlessly advocating tolerance create a "disruption?" Community groups, churches, charitable organizations and businesses do it every day without resulting riots. Most of us level-headed people with at least basic home training and a shred of morals and decency do the same. So why would it prompt a disruption in a learning environment unless this man is admitting the student body in question is overwhlemingly intolerant? If that's the case, then what the hell have administrators and teachers been filling their heads with in Hoover?

  Or how does this student's clothing deprive someone else of their rights? Are the other students not allowed to wear clothes? Are they not allowed to sports crosses to brag about their Christian faith or school colors to show support for the Alabama Crimson Tide or even that other outfit over in Lee County?

  Any of these things could create a "disruption." One could argue that the mere presence of religious slogans and symbols create disuptions since different faiths often clash due to contrasting or conflicting theologies, or that someone simply wants to learn in an evironment in which they're not constantly being subjected to proselytizing emblazoned across their classmate's back. And it doesn't require a long-winded thesis to remind everyone how easily moronic pissing contests can erupt between football fans. Just mention those upright repositories for toilet paper in Auburn and see what happens....

  So why is an innocent, well-intentioned, non-offensive, non-verbal nod to tolerance such an issue for this man and his school? Is advocating tolerance and respect for others the infamous, fabled "indoctrination" we've been hearing about from paranoid, misguided right-wingers? If so, I'm all for it. These individuals should be able to teach and learn in an environment free of discrimination and free of intolerance. Anything else would be pretty damn gay....

Update - September 1: Principal Don Hulin has reversed his decision following the threat of a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the student will be allowed to wear the t-shirt in question.

  About the author: Joseph O. Patton is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Capital City Free Press. He is a former news editor for the Coosa County News, lead reporter for the Montgomery Independent and editor-in-chief of the AUMnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn-Montgomery. Patton is also the creator of and writer for the satirical news radio segment "Goat Hill Gossip," which previously aired on WAUD in Auburn, Alabama and has appeared on several Central Alabama radio programs as a political analyst.

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