By Luke Mason
Editor, the Gauntlet,
It seems that everyone on campus right now has an opinion on the whole debacle that has arisen between Campus Pro-Life and the University of Calgary, so I suppose I feel inclined to express my own. To begin I would like to start off with a quote from Thomas Paine, who was a writer and patriot during the American revolution. “An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” The situation regarding CPL is clearly an issue of freedom of expression, however there is a underlying principle that does not often get talked about that goes much deeper than this particular situation. To address this issue I pose this question, who the fuck is anyone, including the University of Calgary, to tell anyone what to do with their lives?
If one would argue that the University has all the right to tell CPL not to show their display and take legal action, all that you are essentially saying is that we, as a society, should value private ownership of property more than the seemingly basic human right of freedom of expression. Don’t get me wrong, personally I feel that CPL has an extremely twisted world view that I don’t understand or agree with at all. I am very much pro choice. However, to say that they should put their display inward is nothing but censorship and censorship is always arbitrary.
Ultimately, if I am walking past science A and science theatres and their graphic display is up facing outwards, it is entirely my choice to look at it or not. Just because I don’t agree with what they are saying and that the depictions are exceedingly graphic, that does not change the fact that I could look at the prairie chicken or the library as I walk past their display. It is my choice. To say that CPL should turn their signs inward is entirely based on the content of the posters and is a purely emotive argument. It is a violation of freedom of expression. If CPL was pulling my hair or sticking a gun in my face to look at their display, I would agree that they are going too far. That, however, is not the case. It is my choice to look at their display or not.
I also feel that the Students’ Union has been very spineless in the way they have dealt with this issue. For a student run advocacy organization, they certainly seem to try their hardest to not ruffle the feathers of the university administration on this issue. What is the point of the SU if it is just going to appeal to the ideas of the authoritative body as opposed to the people they actually represent, the people who actually elected them to their positions? I understand that this is a contentious issue, but please, for the love of whatever god you want to believe in, can we not appeal to reason instead of the university administration who don’t like how this whole scenario plays on their image?
It is as Evelyn Beatrice Hall said in paraphrasing Voltaire’s ideas on freedom of speech, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” If we do now truly live in a society where we value the arbitrary decisions made by owners of private property more than something seemingly so basic as freedom of expression, well then fuck you humanity, you have reached your lowest point. However, given my nature, I will still fight for you. History is never made by the complacent and obedient and the given authorities of the time were not big fans of Tom Paine or Evelyn Beatrice Hall or Voltaire and I doubt authority in my time will be a big fan of me. Let us appeal to reason, people, or we are doomed to value things we shouldn’t and devalue things that have true meaning and inspiration.