• Anti-Semitism, satire and sarcasm
    July 15,2014

    Anti-Semitism, satire and sarcasm

    Satire and sarcasm are difficult tools to use in a serious discussion. John Anderson’s recent letter, while appearing to be satire, was serious. Mr. Lambek’s commentary, sadly, is also hard to decipher. Despite numerous readings, I am unable to understand if his labeling Jews as “greedy, miserly, and scheming” represents his true point of view or whether he is using this reprehensible example to make a point. I feel similarly about his claim that Americans don’t murder “despised groups” such as Jews or homosexuals, which we most certainly have done. Calling anyone a despised group, even in jest, reinforces the underlying mindset rather than challenging it.

    So whatever point Mr. Lambek was trying to make, I don’t feel it was appropriate or necessary to repeat lies about persecuted groups to make it.

    Further, if you are using metaphor and sarcasm to make a point, doesn’t it make sense to use truly similar examples? In the case of the Boy Scouts debacle, the city was not contracting with them, as Mr. Lambek’s parable implies. The Scouts were applying for a vendor permit, and they were entitled to the same treatment as anyone applying for that same permit.

    If the Boy Scouts had applied for a zoning permit to construct a picnic shelter on land they owned and the city turned them down because we didn’t like their national policies, the city would be sued and the city would lose. Period. That’s what the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution guarantees. Vendor permits are no different.

    There are lots of private organizations out there that have policies we all think are awful. But that doesn’t give a public agency unlimited discretion to deny them access to governmental permits arbitrarily. The Augusta National Golf Course at one time didn’t allow women to play, but it still got the permit needed to build it. The Ku Klux Klan regularly gets government permits to hold parades and rallies. It’s not pretty, but it’s the price we pay for being a constitutionally protected democracy, with free association and equal protection under the law.

    The St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York does not allow LGBT groups to participate in the parade, but it gets its parade permit. Until this year, the mayor marched in the parade. To his credit, Mayor de Blasio refused to march in it this year.

    But Mr. Lambek, who represents the city of Montpelier as an attorney, does not appear to understand the 14th Amendment (equal protection and due process), or the First Amendment (freedom of speech and association). I’m sure glad he’s not my attorney.

    Michael Taub


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