By Siobhan Rahilly
CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) — What really bugs me…. Ann Coulter.
(Do I really need to write an introduction before naming her as the subject of this post? I don’t think so.)
Ms. Coulter appeared at my school, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, yesterday to deliver a speech that was supposed to address the topic “Evaluating the Change in American Government.” What Ms. Coulter actually delivered was a litany of rude and crude one-liners aimed at Democrats, liberals, women, African-Americans, gays, the “coastal elites,” and several prominent government officials and celebrities. Instead of evaluating change, she tore apart the beliefs and practices of every segment of the American populace that she disagrees with. Instead of using her knowledge about the law to honestly evaluate where our government stands and how it relates to where we’ve been and where we’re going, she instead chose to use her time to tear her fellow Americans down.
I am not naive enough to believe that those who practice law will always be able to remain objective when it comes to applying law principles to real life. I do, however, believe that those individuals who have knowledge and the public spotlight on their side should remember that they are beholden to the public. Pundits like Ann Coulter speak on issues ranging from the government to Hollywood. They are introduced as intellectuals, and portrayed as experts in their field. What a lot of Americans fail to realize is that the field of expertise for many of these pundits is talk, not debate that aims to objectively evaluate issues and break them down so the viewing public can better understand them.
Ms. Coulter has made a name for herself by being unbelievably inflammatory, and supposedly for saying the things that “real Americans” believe and want to hear. While I appreciate that every American is entitled to their opinion, and under the First Amendment they are allowed to express those opinions, I do not believe that talk like Ms. Coulter’s is doing anyone any good. At a time in this country when the topic of divisiveness is being debated in schools and in the news, don’t the so-called experts have any sense of responsibility to use their knowledge for good? Is it unconstitutional to ask that pundits fairly debate issues instead of throwing barbs at anyone who doesn’t agree with them? What good does it do to hear Ann Coulter say negative things about every Democratic president going back to John F. Kennedy, with a heavy emphasis on Bill Clinton? Clinton hasn’t been president for nearly a decade and his past transgressions can’t be changed or erased, but they can be forgiven for the sake of moving on. Don’t we owe it to ourselves and to our country to use the lessons of the past to help us build a better future? Pundits like Ann Coulter would have people believe that mistakes are not to be learned from, they are to be used as weapons against those people and their constituents.
I wonder if anyone who sat through her talk yesterday learned anything new about the government. Did anyone walk out of that room with any insights into the constitutional ramifications of changes to health care? Ms. Coulter is a constitutional attorney, yet she barely mentioned the Constitution. She chose instead to say hurtful and completely subjective things about President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Hilary Clinton, just to name a few. America is a diverse country, and we enjoy a lot of freedoms. However, I believe that we have yet to learn that if we abuse our right to free speech by injuring and dividing our citizens, we may forever damage the fabric of this nation.
The last thing I’ll say on this topic is a positive one. The rebuttal offered by a professor from UTC’s English department was elegant in its simplicity. Dr. Rebecca Jones said exactly what I hoped she would – that there is no point in arguing against such inflammatory remarks. Would my views seem any more credible than Ann Coulter’s if delivered in a similarly divisive way? Good argument and debate can only take place if both sides are staying on topic and playing fair.
I went to see Ann Coulter because I believe that having convictions and beliefs requires knowing what “the other side” has to say. One can only stand firm on “their side” if they know what they’re standing firm against. I may not agree with anything Ms. Coulter has to say, but at least I listened to her side which is more than I can say for her. I am a proud liberal, a coastal leftist, a feminist and an American, and I don’t believe that the latter is canceled out by the former.