Merrick Garland. File
Jay Ambrose, Tribune News Service
It was a president named George Washington who said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter,” and right now Merrick Garland is leading us. Cheated out of a seat on the Supreme Court and failing as US attorney general, the poor man is furthering the prospect of Americans having to shut up on public issues and thereby risking slaughter in the form of authoritarian governance.
What this official with a notable past has done is instruct the FBI to crack down on parents voicing criticisms of public schools at school board meetings even though this is an extraordinary abuse of power. Yes, some have threatened violence or something supposedly akin to it, but Garland has no right to intervene even when a crime is committed. That is the duty of local and state cops, not a federal government with constitutional restrictions
Joe Biden. File
An instigating factor in this attack on free speech and rule of law was a ridiculously overwrought letter to the Biden administration from the National School Board Association. It hysterically said threats “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” meaning parents caring for their children are the Ku Klux Klan in disguise.
Keep in mind that the letter cited only one example of actual violence and that some utterances cited by others don’t seem to fill the law’s criteria of something to make you quiver. Garland is nonetheless quivering.
He is employing the FBI and six other agencies of the Department of Justice to figure out how federal law enforcement instruments can be used to prosecute and help local cops on acts falling short of federal crimes. Under his miswrought guidance, the Justice Department will also train school board members on how to recognise, report and produce evidence when threats occur, again helping prosecution, dear old prosecution.
The message to parents is surely clear enough. If you go to a school board meeting to spell out your concerns and somehow offend a properly sensitised mind with anger or a politically unbecoming remark, you could maybe go to a highly publicised trial and who knows where after that.
Even if one disagrees with the point of view of some parents, it’s a horror that the federal government would be threatening them more seriously than they are threatening anyone. And it’s not as if they have no reason to be concerned about a wide range of issues with the one about race receiving special attention.
A perspective with growing instructional impact in a number of the nation’s 14,000 school districts is that racism is deeply embedded in all our institutions and that whites are therefore privileged and Black Americans inevitably victims. Some schools are teaching that slavery has defined who and what we are more than anything and still persists as mass incarceration.
Some parents might say there has been change for the better and that individuals have human agency enough to walk away from racist attitudes. A voiced concern is that misplaced teaching might unfairly plague white students with guilt and Black American students with helplessness. Parents are concerned with public schools in other ways, such as wearing masks. The idea of school choice is growing in popularity.
Garland? It was terrible that Republicans denied him even a hearing as a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of the Obama administration, but how bad would he have been as a justice? It’s now come up that a Garland son-in-law has had financial dealings helping schools in the kind of racial instruction parents have been arguing against, a conflict of interest. The foremost issue, however, is summed up in a second quote, this one from the English intellectual George Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”