so another action-packed weekend. spent yesterday at labour party regional conference, then at the AGM of the waikato multi-cultural council (used be waikato ethnic council, but it seems that nationally, people don't like the word ethnic to describe ethnic & racial minorities, hence the name change). then spent time on skype with my overseas connections, and had a dinner engagement in the evening. today was a bit quieter, with only a shama board meeting and some work on funding applications for another community organisation to get done.
i want to carry on just a little further with the whole freedom of speech thing today. i know it's probably a little boring by now, but various things just keep leaping out at me, demanding my attention, and i just feel like i gotta share. this week, it was the speech of white house correspondent helen thomas, when she said [and i paraphrase] that jews should get out of palestine and go back to their european countries of origin. if you missed the whole thing, you can see the youtube clip here.
now i can't say that i agree with what she said. the kindest thing i can think to say about her comments is "not helpful", particularly in the current environment. as to whether she should have resigned (retired?) over these comments, yeah, i'd think she should have to face consequences. there is an interesting take at the huffington post here, particularly the fact that she has not had the opportunity to clarify or explain what she meant.
but the thing that strikes me most about this whole incident is that no-one is saying "lighten up", which is the most common response to the whole abusive cartoon drawings of Muhammad issue. there aren't arguments about freedom speech being made and her comments are predominantly seen as the hurtful words that they were. maybe if she drew what she'd said in a cartoon, then we would be having a different discussion? somehow, i don't think so. the sort of people who would defend a comment like paul henry's "cheeky darky" and tell us not to be so sensitive or PC are pretty silent here.
i'm not saying that i want to see helen thomas vigorously defended. i think people should be careful with what they say - not overly careful, but there is "bleeding obvious" and then there is "just crossing the line". the comments from ms thomas fall more in the former category, and even if she was the subject of a "gotcha" sting, i think that a person in a position of infleunce needs to be careful. i think she could have made points about the injustice of the occupation and the theft of palestinian land in a more helpful way, and i'm sure she would still have been lambasted far and wide for it, but this was a step too far.
i'm sorry that she has retired, simply for the fact that she was so brave and strong in holding various administrations to account, and a pioneer for women in journalism. at her age, there's little chance of a comeback. nor is there anyone else like her who will fill the gap.
but the next time someone tries to tell me that i shouldn't be so sensitive about drawings of Muhammad, i'm just going to say "helen thomas".