Saturday, December 16, 2006

The power of one

From Riverside, California, we get a new lesson in what happens when bad ideas start to become dominant in a society, and that one person with that bad idea can ruin things for a whole bunch of people.

By now you probably know the story: at an ice skating show featuring Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen, a local high school choir was ordered to stop singing Christmas carols by a low-level special events official, because the official was suddenly concerned that Cohen, who is partly Jewish by birth, might be offended by the music.

A few items to note:

According to her mother, Cohen herself was "stunned" to hear, well after the event was over, that the carols had been stopped on her account. She thinks the official's action was ridiculous, period. Score one for Miss Cohen.

Higher-ups were quick to distance themselves from the action. The suppressed annoyance in the mayor's remarks is palpable:

Mayor Ron Loveridge called the incident "unfortunate."

"You kind of wish people [would] do a little checking first. You certainly have my apology," he said, referring to the choir members.

... and here:
City Development Director Belinda J. Graham confirmed the incident.

"This request was simply made by a staff member who was attempting to be sensitive to the celebrity guest, without considering the wider implications ... or consulting with her supervisor for guidance," Graham said in an e-mail to the newspaper.

And we also learn this:
The city staff member, special-events employee Michelle Baldwin, could not be reached for comment.

... probably because she is already on her way to the unemployment office. If so, score one for Riverside's government.

But to me, the most notable thing about the incident was contained here:

A city staff member, accompanied by a police officer, approached the Rubidoux High School Madrigals at the Riverside Outdoor Ice Skating Rink just as they launched into "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and requested that the troupe stop singing...

So this Michelle Baldwin thought she needed to bring along a police officer??? So typical of the low-level staffer determined to wield the power of the state on behalf of her impulse. Those carols are stopping right now, ya hear, or believe me, the cuffs are coming out!

But think: how did it come to this?

This wasn't some carefully considered corporate policy to forbid employees to say "Merry Christmas", or some leftist judge with a fifty-page judgment ordering a creche off city property. No, this was the impulsive act of one person -- probably a successful graduate of our public education system -- who had gotten imbued with one of the many bad ideas that are now taking over the American psyche, the idea that the every public voicing of specifically Christmas cheer has to be suppressed because someone, somewhere, might someday, somehow be offended by it.

And no matter how repentant she and the rest of Riverside's government may be, the fact remains that she stopped the music. The bad idea that she had absorbed carried the day. She won.

And everyone else lost.

Moral of the story: when you hear one of these bad ideas being put forward, don't let yourself turn away; attack it and crush it with the truth. Or someday, some low-level official with a police officer in tow may approach you, armed with that same bad idea, and you may not like the result one bit.