We Don’t Burn Books in Canada, We Snow Them

“Hate speech, n. Speech you hate.”—Aaron Haspel, Everything (2015)

THEN: When the (supposedly) sacrilegious film The Last Temptation of Christ came out in 1988, the conservative Pentecostal church I attended as a teenager convened an emergency meeting, made protest signs, and demonstrated outside of the theaters showing the movie. These were hard-core Christian fundamentalists, and they were pissed. The movie infuriated them. Yet no one suggested that we shut down the movie theater, or prevent people from seeing the film.

NOW: When some local activists learned that a (supposedly) misogynistic poet was coming to town for a poetry reading, they discussed various ways to forcibly prevent Zachariah Wells from speaking, and forcibly prevent people from getting into the building to hear him. One person actually suggested rushing the stage at The Atwater Library, grabbing all of the copies of his new book, taking them outside, and throwing them in the snow.

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Many of the criticisms of The Open Society that I hear from the far left and the far right come down to the same thing: The Open Society is, like a big city, far too loud, rude, uncouth, hectic, smelly, stinky, disgusting, profane, disorderly, gross. They say that if The Open Society is going to survive and thrive, if it’s to have a future, it must become The Respectful Society.

I know it sounds like a good idea, maybe even a noble idea, but The Respectful Society people on the far left and the far right long for is little more than a mirage, a misleading myth. There have always been but two choices available to us: We can live in The Open Society, which is a messy, chaotic place where nobody gets their way all the time, a place where everybody has to put up with shit they don’t like. Or we can live in The Closed Society, which is, in practice, usually just one big fat “safe space” for the ruling majority.

Every time we allow a piece of public space to be seized and transformed into someone’s private little safe space, every time we allow touchiness to trump tolerance, we become a little less free. Our thin-skinned age needs to remember that The Open Society isn’t a safe space; it’s a tolerant space. And tolerance isn’t tolerance unless it hurts. The Respectful Society isn’t a new and improved version of The Open Society; it’s a new and improved version of The Closed Society.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

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About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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