I. Things to Adopt: A Highway and a “Whites-Only” Policy
According to this story, a National Nazi party (called the National Socialist Movement) has just adopted one mile of U.S. 85 in Colorado. Here, in their own words, is what they stand for: “The rights of white people everywhere…and promotion of white separation.” Want to join? Here’s who’s eligible: “non-Semitic heterosexuals’ [sic] of European Descent.” I guess it’s too much to expect good grammar from angry pinheads.
You know the drill: The state is helpless to prevent this message, it’s free speech, if the government allows one message it has to allow them all, blah blah blah. But is this true? First, states, however revenue-strapped, should get out of the business of having organizations “sponsor” miles of state roads. This is a quintessentially government function, and now we can see what happens when the government allows third parties to participate. Under the program, the sponsoring group agrees to pick up litter, thereby saving the state some money in would otherwise spend in doing so. A worthwhile project, but maybe not worth it. What’s next, the Wal-Mart Old Faithful Geyser? And the argument about the need for government to stay out of this dispute, by letting every message wash over it, is much too simple. States also have non-discrimination laws, and the state should be able to stand its ground here, saying that it can’t be in bed with neo-Nazis. Let them march. But they shouldn’t get the imprimatur of state sponsorship. States with those terminally annoying vanity plates set ground rules for those displays (i.e, no profanity, no offensive language, no sense of irony, etc.), so why not here? If we can dictate or limit what people place on their own cars, why not on state highways?
The policies related to the program are here. As you can see, the state leaves itself plenty of discretion. Why not use it in this case?
II. (Ne) Vive (Pas) La France!
I hate the burka. My reaction to it, and to what I think it says about the women who wear them — and worse, the uncovered husbands who enforce this anti-social discipline — is visceral.
I’m not alone. The French government, apparently taking its cue from the more defensible ban of religious symbolism in schools, is now seriously considering banning full face coverings from many public places, including government offices and public transportation. For a good debate on the issue, listen to the BBC Newshour story from today.
This would be a terrible mistake, precisely because people feel so strongly about the issue. It’s in those cases that individuals most need protection. And banning the burka will only mean that many Muslim women wouldn’t be able to leave their homes. How is that going to help the assimilationist goal of this legislation? I don’t oppose all government policies in support of secularism; in fact, we are too sometimes too far to the contrary, as with the bans on same-sex marriages, which are justifiable only by appeal to (dominant) religion, But this measure is likely to be counter-productive, and will feed the rhetoric of extremists.
As for the title of this post: It’s not fair, even in blog-hyperbole speak, to call this move Nazism. And the parallel I’m trying to draw is obviously too simple. But there’s surely something to it, and this latest move by the French should concern us all.