My family and I were innocently walking through the grocery story last night, when we were visibly assaulted by an offensive shirt another patron was wearing. It was a red shirt with the “Keep Calm and …” message on it. The latter part of the shirt read “or I will f*#@$ing kill you”. I was immediately angered. My wife said it was free speech and that you couldn’t outlaw a t-shirt. At the heart of the issue was something more than outlawing a shirt:
- The person wearing the shirt was endorsing a message that threatens other patrons, myself included.
- The designer of the shirt made light of human life, indicating that if you could not keep calm, you did not deserve to live.
- Someone paid for the shirt in the first place.
- Our society is corrupt when we make perpetrators feel welcome in public places, especially where there is a high likelihood of the presence of children.
Oh, the list could go on. I was fuming mad. I believe that your rights to free speech end when another person’s rights are threatened. When you endorse a message that indicates you will kill someone should they not comply to your demands, you have overstepped the boundaries and no longer have those rights.
Is it a bit of an over reaction on my part? At first, I was inclined to say yes. But the more I thought about it…no, I was not over reacting. I should feel that the grocery store is a safe place to take my kids. Our culture as a whole should make the expectation that if you endorse message like that, regardless of whether you are joking or not, then you are not welcome to join the rest of us. Threatening someone’s life is not a joking matter.
Why didn’t I say something to guy? I have thought about this time & again. First, my children were present and there was potential for things to get ugly. If I were by myself, would I have said something? Probably not the perpetrator, where in it would cause a scene & honestly, don’t know how that would resolve anything. In hind sight, maybe I should have talked to the manager about escorting the patron out.
What would you have done?