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Regarding the Feb. 17 article “NBA sanctions ex-star Hardaway following anti-gay tirade“: The recent trouble that American basketball player Hardaway has found himself in gives us lots to consider. First, since when does a single sentence (“I hate gay people”) amount to a “tirade”? By definition, a tirade is a long, vehement speech. And in any event, Hardaway is free to like or hate anything he chooses. So are we all.

But perhaps he said more in his radio comments than was printed in the newspaper. Or, maybe in today’s world any criticism of anybody amounts to a “tirade.” I hope not, because it unduly infringes on our freedom of expression, and it is just plain silly to misuse a word like that. But it may indicate the intolerance with which a society now regards its own citizens exercising their legitimate legal rights.

Second, no doubt Hardaway’s remarks are also called “homophobic” by many, despite the absence of any sense of fear in his expression. But that’s the way it is, isn’t it? Lacking any word in the language to describe “dislike” of homosexuality, any expression of dislike is immediately translated, reported and absorbed by society as fear or “phobia.” I think it has become an ideological association. Dislike equals fear, and one’s preferences are used as a kind of litmus test to evaluate not only your deepest, heartfelt ideas, but your entire social suitability as well — suitability to run for public office, suitability to be a high-profile, role modeling athlete, suitability to be an educator, suitability to be a television personality, etc.

Third, America has a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. That means that people are mostly free to say with impunity, not just think, anything they please. And yet, employers, schools, governments try to deny impunity and control thought by rewarding (sanctioning) desirable language/ideas and, alternately, punishing (sanctioning) undesirable ones.

The administration of President George W. Bush does this on the national security front by sanctioning acceptable political expression, and punishing unacceptable ones according to Washington neoconservatives’ thinking on the matter. In the case of Hardaway, money is a prime motivator — deny him product endorsement contracts, participation in lucrative league events, etc. to control his thinking, or at least his speech.

grant piper

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