The opinions of several students, a teacher, and an employee from three public school districts in New Jersey recently made national headlines.
In my opinion, this is not normal, even in 2017.
Even in New Jersey,
The political sentiments expressed in the Morristown and Wall Township High Schools, and by a third-grade teacher in Beverly, were ideologically various, from true blue to bright red.
Diversity is good.
The opinions were conveyed using three rather different media or means: Original cartoons, clothing selections (and rejections), and the repurposing of an internet meme.
Creativity. Also good!
Alas. the satirical illustrations of the president — as a pussycat-cradling pig, and a trigger-happy narcissist — were yanked from a Morristown High art show by the principal after barely a day on display at the school in Morris County.
Censorship is bad.
Especially when it involves the work of a student; talent ought to be encouraged, not discouraged.
In Wall Township, Monmouth County, censorship also befell a perfectly tasteful T-shirt bearing the Trump name and campaign logo, and a conventional sweater vest that was similarly adorned. Both appeared to be official campaign merchandise.
One student wore the T-shirt and another the sweater, in photographs that appeared in an early edition of the Wall High yearbook — but were Photoshopped out of existence in a later edition, perhaps as an effort to avoid controversy.
Preemptive politically inspired Photoshopping?
Especially preemptive politically inspired Photoshopping as inartful as that perpetrated on the Wall kids.
Which brings us to Anthony Minniti, the mayor of Cinnaminson, and Michael Jordan, the NBA legend.
After the mayor unexpectedly lost in the June 6 Republican primary, a teacher in Beverly, Burlington County, Photoshopped a “Crying Jordan” head — a ubiquitous online image of the superstar shedding tears — onto campaign photos of Minniti and his running mate, both of whom are white.
These the teacher disseminated on social media, which is sort of like saying nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah with pixels and a “like” tab.
Minniti was unamused, believing the Crying Jordan image to be a form of blackface. About which there is nothing funny.
“Hate has no place in Cinnaminson,” he declared.
A fine statement, in my opinion.
After the mayor became aware of the true meaning of Crying Jordan, however, all was forgiven.
As Minniti told my colleague Michael Burke last week, “I’m not angry at all now.”
Glad to hear it, Mr. Mayor. I’m all for doing whatever we can do to lessen the level of anger in the land.
Civility is good!
But I also favor freedom of expression, a free exchange of ideas, and the (at least occasional) pausing of expression in order to enhance listening.
I admit there’s a conflict embedded here, so let’s note that these Garden State varieties of censorship may have been well-intentioned. The fact that the expressions involved public school students and those who teach and administer on their behalf undoubtedly made the judgment calls much tougher.
The irony is that the attempts to limit the visibility of the cartoons, the Trumpwear, and the Crying Jordan image have made them more, not less, visible. I can’t remember a New Jersey high school cartoon ever getting so much publicity.
So I’d like to wish everyone a happy LGBT Pride Month, and acknowledge the lively debate I set off by posting on my Facebook page a link to a piece supporting the addition of a brown and a black stripe to make more inclusive that longtime pride symbol, the rainbow flag.
And I’d also urge folks to go see the notorious, bloody, Trump-caricaturing production of Julius Caesar; watch Megyn Kelly’s interview with the incendiary crackpot Alex Jones; and read the latest bane-of-liberals column by Bret Stephens in the New York Times.