The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

No headline here — silence is golden


There are few members of the American Civil Liberty Union in the conservative communities this column appears. They might well conduct their meetings in a phone booth.

(Note to younger readers: “Phone booth” is an ancient call box invented in 1889. It was a glass-enclosed contraption just wide enough and tall enough for your grandpa to stand and put a dime in the coin slot so he could dial grandma to tell her the bus was running late. It did not provide texting and stuff like that. Your grandpa thought he had to go to Newport Beach to surf.)

The balance of this column will unfortunately make just everybody mad, so we might as well get it over with.

To my friends who lean right: The ACLU is a valid, essential organization devoted to protecting civil rights, standing up for immigrants, fighting for free speech. The right is fond of painting these folks as heathens endorsing such things as gay marriage, but these same critics like to forget the ACLU fought hard and won a battle to protect the First Amendment rights of two preachers who were arrested for proclaiming the gospel on Roswell streets.

To my friends on the left: Please, ACLU, take the afternoon off. Go golfing. Forget this idea of filing a lawsuit on behalf of the knucklehead Albuquerque protesters who staged a silent protest when each, turn by turn, stood mute at the city council podium.

We are all well too aware of what is going on in Albuquerque, the state’s metropolis that has become a New Mexico embarrassment. Her police department’s mow-’em- down culture inflamed, as it should have, legitimate outrage among Duke City citizens.

Well-reasoned protests morphed into nutty buddies who stormed city hall and actually took over a council meeting, occupying the city council chairs when council members logically vacated the area. Having thus captured the arena, the protesters began acting exactly like eighth-grade boys when the teacher is called from the classroom.

It became clear to the protest organizers this type of behavior was going to be squashed. The next gambit, then, was to disrupt the upcoming council meeting with a silent protest. When given the chance to address the council, protesters used their allotted two minutes at the microphone to remain mute. Security officers escorted seven of them from the building.

The ACLU says there is no distinction between verbal and symbolic speech. Lawsuits could be pending. Oh, kiss my ever-loving cheek.

It is pure foolishness to defend this silent treatment which is nothing more than a disruptive tactic designed to impede reasonable discourse aimed at solving a problem.

Think of the consequences. Imagine a city council meeting in Farmington, Portales, Alamogordo, Silver City, Las Cruces. Suppose council policy permits 20 citizens three minutes each to talk on any relevant issue, water, police, library, playgrounds. If each of those persons were allowed to remain mute, there would ensue one hour of pure silence.

How stupid. It would be no different than allowing me to take my three minutes at the podium and begin reading Moby Dick. Free speech, baloney. I would be disrupting the process and I would be legitimately removed.

New Mexico’s smaller cities and rural areas have a hard time as it is finding smart, energetic people to serve. They get little if any pay, they take a lot of guff from disgruntled townspeople, and their only perk is throwing out the first ball to launch Little League season.

Allowing disillusioned dissidents to disrupt their meetings is not going to encourage qualified people to accept leadership rules.

Don’t like this column? Fine! Next time this space will run blank. I’ll show you.

(Another note to younger readers. Where did you go?)

Contact Ned Cantwell at:

[email protected]


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