Think I’m crazy? Ask Chico State Prof. George Wright what happens when you voice an opinion that runs counter to that of those Ford Excursion-driving, real-big-flag-waving, let’s-kick-some-ass Americans. People come after you and get in your face, and the next thing you know you’re in a story, reported in a twisted fashion, that makes its perverse way into the national media and the hands of right-wing talking heads like the FOX network’s Brit Hume. And you’re buried under a landslide of hostile correspondence. (By the way, that flag on the gas-guzzling SUV can only mean, “I support both America and the OPEC cartel.")
Burn, baby, burn. Or ask Chico City Councilmember Coleen Jarvis, who last week found herself embroiled in a tragicomedy of local speech control. Seems Jarvis was on an Internet chat room for local lefties. A woman named Juanita, who regularly writes long, goofy letters to the Chico Examiner, asked about her right to burn the American flag as a political protest. Jarvis, falling back on the old philosophy of “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it,” wrote: “Rest assured, Juanita, you can burn a flag in protest of government action or to send any other message. Flag burning is fully protected by the First Amendment. … However, constitutional protection may protect you from arrest but will not protect you from folks who don’t like the fact that you are burning a flag. So let me know and I will send a group of my students to protect you! (We just discussed flag burning and the First Amendment today in class).” Jarvis, an attorney, teaches a class at Chico State.
Someone monitoring the chat room site to see what the lefties are up to forwarded Jarvis’ response to KPAY radio General Manger Dino Corbin, who, obviously fearing for the future of the country, passed it on to Chico State President Manuel Esteban. Corbin wrote: “I can tell you that if it were my child and that child was injured in a confrontation because this instructor has an out of control ego or sense of what is appropriate … my attorneys would be contacting the state’s attorneys regarding this.” (Nice to know how Dino would react in such a situation—let’s litigate!) KPAY talk show host Bruce Sessions read Jarvis’ response on the air. A few days later, Chico Examiner publisher Tim Bousquet went on the Sessions show and told the host he should not be faulted for taking Jarvis’ message out of context because he was “acting out of ignorance.” And then Jarvis got this thoughtful note from Nancy Brousseau of Oroville: "You are a traitor to our nation. You should not be able to hold your head up and look the patriotic citizens of our country in the eyes … May you and your flag burners and George Wright all get on the first communist ship and sail away to the wonderful areas of the world that you love so much, such as Afghanistan. I will be happy to contribute to your travel fare." See. No one’s opinion should be stifled, no matter how insane.