Knowing how to make good use of our right to free speech can be tricky. We all know you can't scream "fire!" in a crowded theater, but would it really be so bad if we were to lower the threshold just a skootch? Yeah, probably, but while certainly no American has any sort of God-given right to go through life without ever being offended, when that theater we were just talking about starts filling up with wild-eyed yahoos jabbering things like, "Slap your children so we can stop the fags from putting the Devil music inside us with vaccines!" one might start seeing the lure in tweaking the limit to, let's not say silence, but ... encourage those folks to shut the fuck up for the sake of society at large. Folks like ...
#5. Man Decorates His Property And Business With Confederate Flags And Nooses
Despite some rather unfortunate connotations, the use of Confederate flags as ornamentation isn't all that out of the ordinary in many parts of the U.S. There's technically nothing wrong with it -- putting a rebel bumper sticker on your F-150 or a flag on the roof of your double-wide doesn't automatically make you a racist, after all. You could just be really into the musical stylings of the Van Zant brothers, or have extremely strong opinions on cotton- and tobacco-related issues.
Start hanging a bunch of nooses in public view around your property as an accompaniment, however? That's just a wee bit harder to defend.
Yeah, that tree swing definitely isn't up to code.
That's Robert Tomanovich, proprietor of Robert's Discount Tree Service in Livonia, MI (note that MI stands for Michigan, not Alabama). Recently, Tomanovich's neighbors became understandably flustered when they noticed a hangman's rope dangling from a tree outside his home. When someone complained about it, that's when a second one appeared, this time at his nearby tree-service business. And even though nooses and trees do go together like the world's darkest s'mores, it's doubtful that the act was intended as a wacky advertisement.
This raised no small amount of concern among nearby residents, as expressed by one neighbor, who did an outstanding job of completely missing the point:
"It's a tree that is easily climbable. Any kid could climb the tree and hang himself."
Another neighbor described the situation a little more accurately:
"One hundred fifty years after Abraham Lincoln's death, we are still going through this kind of atrocity. A hangman's noose and a Confederate flag?"
When a local news team showed up to ask Tomanovich about the situation, he quickly ducked inside his house. But luckily one of his more amenable employees was on the scene, who admitted to hanging the second noose and expressed his remorse by stating, "Screw 'em. I love it. We're going to put up more."
Nope, not at all how we expected that man to look. Not. At. All.
Tomanovich's wife later made herself available to reporters, and in one of the more spectacularly ridiculous defensive arguments of all time, vehemently denied that her husband was in any way racist. According to her, the nooses were actually a tribute to a dead friend who committed suicide by hanging. Which makes total sense -- that's exactly why I have used hypodermic needles scattered across my lawn. It's a tribute to my uncle who died of diabetes.
Tomanovich himself eventually gave a half-hearted attempt to explain his (perfectly legal) actions to the press, but walked away from reporters mid-interview. His explanation? "I had two women in my house naked, and I didn't want them to see them." But before heading off to deal with all the rampant Benny Hill skits taking place inside his house, he proved definitively that what he did wasn't racist by invoking the that old, tried and true standby, "I know black guys. I have black friends."
Sorry, buddy, but this doesn't really count.
#4. RFK Jr. Calls The Use Of Vaccines A "Holocaust"
Bobby Kennedy the elder is remembered fondly by many, and who knows what he may have accomplished were he not cut down in his prime by a crazed gunman. His namesake, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., carries on his legacy of impassioned righteousness, but unfortunately it's in an arena that's about as credible as chupacabra-based homeopathy. In a move that made Jenny McCarthy look like a well-reasoned and responsible member of the intelligentsia, RFK Jr. claimed that vaccines are a "holocaust" on children.
To his credit, he apologized for the comparison a week later, but in a way that let everyone know just how thoroughly committed he is to his debunked view on scientific reality:
"I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word to describe the autism epidemic. I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism, which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families."
RFK Jr., the true face of science.
Yes, I think we can all agree that autism sucks. It's perfectly understandable that he might have ill-advisedly knee-jerked the disease in with the murder of 6 million Jewish people. But the truly fascinating part is that he thinks it's just the word "holocaust" that we have a problem with ... and not that he still believes that vaccines cause autism. Look, I realize how suspicious it must seem when every reputable study on the issue says the exact same thing. If it wasn't for that kind of healthy skepticism we'd never have come to find out that man never actually landed on the moon or that contrails are in fact an alien plot to spread saltpeter among the breeding population of New Mexico. But there can be a fine line between crusader and crackpot, and perhaps RFK Jr. should reevaluate the situation before he accidentally publicly refers to vaccines as the "Bull Connors to our Alabama babies."
And he's, like, only the third-most-embarrassing Kennedy on display right now.
If you really need a cause, how about starting a grassroots movement to prevent your family members from driving?
#3. High School Students Organize An "Anti-Gay Day"
People seem to finally be giving a shit about the specter of school bullying, and that's awesome. Being a little different from your peers shouldn't result in years of (potentially violent) harassment, and a national day of silence that brings attention to the plight of gay and lesbian students seems like a good way to raise awareness. But not for some of the students at McGuffey High School in Pennsylvania, who decided to take action against such an outrageous plea for tolerance by organizing an "anti-gay day."
Those involved in the counter-demonstration showed their solidarity by donning flannel shirts for some reason -- perhaps invoking the fundamentalist evangelical bent that was so prevalent in 1990s Seattle grunge bands? They then proceeded to tape offensive posters on gay students' lockers along with some pushing and shoving, name-calling, and other demonstrations of hormonally befuddled immaturity.
If he gets to college, karmic justice requires that he be Sharpied with all the dicks.
Apparently, this wasn't an isolated incident. In granola-nibbling Oregon of all places, some students took action against the day of silence by heading to the local mall to have some T-shirts printed up with slogans like "Gay is not OK" and the more timely version, "Gay day is not OK."
But at least they're learning a valuable lesson about product quality.
When a reporter showed up, one of the students explained, "I'm not comfortable with you guys making a whole day about what you believe. So if you're going to make a whole day out of it and not talk and a have a 'moment of silence,' then I can wear my T-shirt." Well, while that may certainly be a valid expression of your rights as a citizen, teenage arbiter of all things proper and just, maybe we should wait on an opinion from you until after you've gone through your college "experimentation" phase.