“I didn’t come here to make friends”

If you will, indulge me as I tell you a story about why I don’t like secret meetings and stripping people of the right to meet:

When I was in college, I served in my school’s student judiciary.  The biggest responsibility of that organization was to recognize (or not) student groups.  If a student group was recognized, they could reserve meeting rooms, apply for funding, use the name of the school, etc.

The judiciary of which I was a part was presented with a case in which a conservative Christian group, the Tufts Christian Fellowship, that was a recognized and funded student group, had not allowed a member of the group serve in a leadership capacity.

The girl who had wanted to be a leader in the group was a lesbian.  She had been a member of the group for a long time, and had spent a year of her life trying to get rid of her gay-ness.  (This didn’t work, but she continued to be a member of the group.  No, I don’t think you can “cure” someone of their sexual orientation.)

The student judiciary had received a complaint that the group was excluding her on the basis of her sexual orientation. 

The chair of the judiciary decided to nip the situation in the bud, because that’s what the dean of students wanted.  So the chair scheduled an emergency meeting at 10:00pm on a weeknight, inviting neither party, in order to de-recognize the group.  (She had previously tried to schedule a meeting about this issue when she knew I had a class in the hopes that I wouldn’t be able to attend.  This meeting was scheduled in the hopes that I’d still be working.)

I felt a touch of due process was in order.  The rest of the judiciary disagreed and voted to no longer recognize the group (which also stripped them of any school funding).

At the meeting, a fellow student called me a homophobe and that I should recuse myself because I was a member of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship on campus.  I told him that this had nothing to do with my beliefs — the Tufts Christian Fellowship was so conservative it was unclear whether they considered me to be a Christian or an idol-worshipper — and everything to do with making sure that the group could not get reinstated based on an appeal for the lack of due process.

After the meeting, some fellow residents of my dorm refused to talk to me.

And that meeting was my last in the judiciary — I was graduating, and my term expired the following day.

The Tufts Christian Fellowship tried to bully the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and other religious groups to rally to their defense.  The folks I dealt with lied to me and were quite forceful, and there was no way were going to support them in any way.  But they still deserved the right to have their point of view heard.

You can find a highly biased account of their travails here.  And — as I told my fellow judiciary members — they appealed our decision and were once again recognized by the school.

Now, about the library:

I find NEWP and their beliefs to be beyond reprehensible.

But I think that — just as when I served in my school’s judiciary — you cannot just have the right intentions when it comes to dealing with this kind of group.  You also have to think through to the consequences of your decisions.

Now, I don’t think anything good would have come out of Saturday.  I was especially concerned for the safety of library staff, patrons, and any police officers who might have needed to intervene.

But I don’t think that three white supremacists were going to be the major instigators of violence.  Not because they’re not violent folks — I don’t know them — but because it doesn’t serve their purposes.  It does not serve their purposes to be the first one to throw a punch, or to say anything too violent, because then they fall right back on those stereotypes.  Much better to be the oppressed white man.

Despite everything that was said on that Youtube video, it would not serve NEWP to be the ones pushing violence.  They’re smart enough to know that.  All they’re really guilty of is saying “come and get me”, which is pretty much what I said in seventh grade on a weekly basis.

Let’s say — for the sake of argument — that there were a (true) civil rights group meeting at the library, and right-wing psychos came and attacked them.  Would we be talking about not allowing the civil rights group meet because it was too much of a security risk?

Of course not.  Because you don’t punish victims, and because people have the right to meet.  And we shouldn’t be picking and choosing based on someone’s belief system.

Kevin Ksen asked the following in the Telegram: “why do we want to allow a group of outsiders to come into our community to promote violence?”

NEWP is not a group of outsiders.  It has members and contacts right in Worcester.  Hatred is not just a peculiarity that occurs on the internet and in “those other places.”

What if NEWP were the locals and the folks who came to beat them up came from outside?  Because that’s pretty close to what might have happened: outsiders would have come to Worcester to promote violence.

Or is it only the outsiders we don’t like who aren’t allowed to come and promote violence?

What about the outsiders who have been pressuring our library for months to ban NEWP?

I don’t like NEWP.

I don’t like the methods of many who oppose NEWP.

I’m obviously not on this blog to make friends.

(montage via fourfour)

I’m a woman who likes to go to the library and take out highbrow literature and opera CDs and the occasional arthouse movie.

I’m a mother who wants her kids to color and take out a few books without fearing for their lives.

I am the opposite of edgy.  I listen to Keane and read books by people you’ve never heard of.

But every once in a while, we need to stop listening to whiny pop music and put down our books and say —

  • No, it is not ok to have meetings on the fly so we can ban undesirables from the library.
  • No, it is not acceptable to say that you’re going to have meetings with public discussion later in the summer when just last night you had a meeting where you didn’t inform the public what you’d be talking about.
  • Yes, we will stand up for people with disgusting beliefs because for once they are not in the wrong.

Everyone — even a jerk — has the right to be in the library without fear of violence. 

When NEWP last met, they (all three of them) were attacked by a group of guys who couldn’t think beyond their own testosterone-fueled fantasies of beating up the nazis.  They never thought that the nazis would then be able to use this as a recruiting tool or as proof that they’re white males being oppressed by the privileged minorities.  But that’s exactly what they did.

Remember when the Emperor told Luke, “Give in to your anger. … With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant”?

That’s all you do when you try to take away NEWP’s rights.  You serve their interests — which are to seem like oppressed whites — and you help them recruit new members.

Defeating these kinds of groups can not be accomplished by giving them the kind of publicity they want.  And that’s exactly what we just did.

Way to go!

Belated CWW: Earn-a-Bike Kids Bike Sale Redux and more

While you wait for me to further rant on about the First Amendment, more cheapness to prove that I am essentially helpless in the face of good deals:

1.

Worcester Earn-a-Bike sold plenty of bikes last Saturday, but they still have many left over, so they will be continuing the sale this Saturday, July 16.  “Some old, some new, some with training wheels, some bigger bikes with 20″ wheels, styles for boys and girls.”  All are $5.  34 Cambridge Street (near Price Chopper) in the rear of the building.

2.

A bit more information about the Broad Meadow Brook Discovery Day on Saturday:

10am-3pm, Rain or Shine
FREE admission for all
Enjoy guided nature walks, nature crafts, face painting, healthy snacks and refreshments, and more.
11am- nature drawing – come try your hand
1pm – live raptor show
For your free admission ticket and for more information about future Mass Audubon Discovery Days, please visit the Mass Audubon website.

3.

If you live close to Millbury,  the Millbury Improvement Initiative will be hosting its 13th year of Peanut Butter & Jam in the Park, a series of free, one-hour concerts to be held on four Fridays at noon from tomorrow, July 15th to August 19th on the Millbury Town Common.  More information here.

NEWP not at the library

The Telegram is reporting that the library board suspended NEWP’s ability to meet at the library for three months.

I’ll write more about this later today.

I wasn’t at last night’s meeting because I wasn’t aware the board was meeting.

A member of the board who also happens to be a perennial candidate had told me that he’d inform me of meetings where they’d be discussing the meeting policy. As far as I’m aware, this policy has been discussed on at least two occassions and I have not heard from this individual.

That’s ok — he doesn’t need to discuss it with me, but as a member of the public, I do have a right to know when open meetings take place, and that has not happened on at least one occassion.

When I was gathering signatures last Tuesday, I saw a member of the board enter the library. I waved to him, he waved to me.

I was at the library the following evening, Wednesday, when I ran into a different library board member, who told me the board had met the previous evening to discuss NEWP.

At the time, I thought it was weird and a bit flaky. After all, I hadn’t seen the meeting posted on either the library website or the city website.

Now I think last week’s meeting is worthy of an Open Meeting Law complaint.  Even if it was an emergency — which is a bit tough to justify considering it was nearly two weeks before NEWP was scheduled to meet — the meeting should have been posted as soon as it was announced.

Last night’s meeting, too, was posted on the city’s website (though I didn’t notice it on Monday, which was the last time I looked at the city website), but the AG’s website states that “Meeting notices must be posted in a legible, easily understandable format; contain the date, time and place of the meeting; and list the topics that, as of the time the notice is filed, the chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting.  The list of topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.”  (emphasis added)

The last time any library-related agenda — which would list the topics — was posted on the city website was in April.

They knew perfectly well what they would be discussing, and chose not to inform the public.

(I should also note that it’s unclear who was meeting; the Telegram reports that it was the board, the calendar seems to suggest that it was the committee on administration.  Either body is governed by the Open Meeting Law.)

It does not matter which side of the NEWP debate you are on — why weren’t folks properly informed about last week’s meeting, and why was it not made clear what they were going to meet about last night?