Heckling At Commencement Ceremonies? Totally Inappropriate.

This week-end, John McCain was heckled at a college commencement ceremony. On the one hand, if anyone in American politics deserves to be heckled, it’s John McCain. Personally, I have the urge to yell, “You suck,” at the television screen every time I see his face. But still…is a commencement ceremony a proper place for idiots to try to scream over someone just because they disagree with that person’s political views? Apparently, ex-Senator Bob Kerrey, who actually invited McCain, thinks that it is:

“That said, I now speak in defense of the behavior of my students – the minority who protested and the majority who did not. On the surface, some of the tactics of the protest were rude, noisy, and disrespectful. Less obvious, however, was the self-restraint that prevented the protestors from behaving in a fashion that would have shut down the commencement or made it impossible for Senator McCain or me to continue. Though many in the audience – including Senator McCain and I – were offended by the heckling, at no time were we in danger of not being able to proceed. By the end of the program, we had awarded five honorary degrees and graduated 2,630 students in The New School’s 70th Commencement ceremony.

More importantly — and also lost in the charges and counter-charges — is this fact: student protests are a necessary and essential part of democratic free expression. Did we not love the brave and disrespectful students at Tiananmen? Did we not applaud the determination of the student led movements that helped bring down the dictators that ruled Eastern Europe in 1991? Have we forgotten the critical difference students made in reversing an unlawful election in Ukraine or in driving the Syrians from Lebanon or who still seethe in discontent under the religious law of Iran’s mullahs?

Thus, when some of the critics of The New School students suggest they should have behaved with more discipline, as did the students at Liberty University, I strongly disagree. Our students were moved by idealism, not arrogance. I may not agree with their conclusions, but I do not begin with the presumption that my age gives me a privileged view of the truth. Quite the contrary – I believe that those of us who are older should keep our ears and hearts open to the possibility that our age may have cost us the most important of human characteristics: the hope for a better, fairer, and more just world.”

Oh geeze, did he just compare a bunch of idiots shouting from the commencement ceremony crowd to the students who stood up for democracy at Tiananmen square and protested the Soviet Union? Those were brave kids standing up for Democracy in the face of tyrannical governments. The idiots who yelled over McCain at that commencement ceremony were just a bunch of yappy punks who were apparently never taught any manners. What’s next? Will Kerrey explain how the people in movie theaters who are talking on cell phones in the middle of a picture are actually fighting for our 1st Amendment rights?

If you go to a speech or a political rally and you have to protest, you should at least show enough common courtesy to do it silently so that you don’t disturb the other people who actually want to hear what the speaker has to say. Turn your back on the speaker or hold up a sign…I mean, don’t get me wrong, you’ll still look like a jackass, but at least you’ll be a quiet jackass, not a braying jackass, and that’s a step in the right direction.

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