Dr. Laura and the Mosque

Posted: Aug 19, 2010 10:17 PM
The mosque debacle isn't the only First Amendment controversy that's been brewing over the last week or so.  Perhaps the other one might clarify the issues of "constitutional rights" vs. "right and wrong" for our friends on the left.

So let's talk about the whole difference between having the right to do something vs. doing what's right. 

As many know, Dr. Laura Schlessinger apologized last week for having used the "n word" on her radio show.  Did she have a constitutional right to repeat the "n word" 11 times during her broadcast?  Absolutely.  In other words, the government cannot (nor should it) prosecute her for having used a term that is, understandably, deeply offensive to most African Americans.

But as Dr. Laura herself acknowledged, what she did was neither the wisest nor the most responsible use of her rights.  It was insensitive and wrong.  That was why she apologized -- fully and forthrightly.

It's funny . . . I don't seem to hear any defense of Dr. Laura from any of our friends on the left, who are so committed to defending the First Amendment rights of Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf and others to build a mosque at Ground Zero.  Somehow, when it comes to the mosque, only the rights seem to count . . . not the responsibility to use them rightly. 

By their own reasoning, shouldn't the Ground Zero mosque supporters be out front defending Dr. Laura's right to use the word and dismissing those who object to it as intolerant idiots who abhor the First Amendment?  Shouldn't the President be instructing us that this freedom of speech is what makes America so special?

Remarkably, Peter Beinart, a Ground Zero mosque defender, had this to say on last night's Larry King Live:

I  think the basic point is that we don't effectively correctly honor the sensitivities of people who have been victimized by repeating the victimization against others. There are lots of people who have suffered traumas; Jews who have been victimized by non-Jews; African-Americans who have been victimized by white people, who then come to hate all members of those groups, even if they had nothing to do with it.

It seems to me we do not actually help those people in coming to some kind of overcoming of their trauma by, in fact, encouraging them to perpetuate the cycle of hatred.

In other words, Beinart says, people just need to grow up!  But hey, wait a minute . . . wasn't that the very point that Dr. Laura (very inartfully) was making?

By Beinart's reasoning, Dr. Laura certainly has no reason to apologize -- and those who have castigated her are just "repeating the victimization."

Absurd, obviously.  What the Dr. Laura episode (and the mosque defenders' silence  about it) proves is that everyone -- including Dr. Laura -- understands the distinction between possessing constitutional rights and the responsibility of deploying them with basic decency and sensitivity to others.

If the left gets it here, why not with the mosque?  Could it possibly be that insensitivity is actually OK with the left, so long as it's used as an occasion to poke a stick in the eyes of regular Americans -- and offers lefties another opportunity to contrast their own supposed high-mindedness with the bigotry of the ordinary folk?