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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 1998)
So this is
ruins season of giving
It’s no wonder that Americans have a
global reputation of indulgence and materi
alism. After converting the carrion turkey
into a freezer full of potential sandwiches
and Thanksgiving casseroles into a
microwaveable Tupperware form, we roll
ourselves to the mall to celebrate our real
holiday of excess: Christmas.
It’s not news to anyone that the once-reli
gious holiday of Christmas has become
usurped by rampant materialism and intense
marketing, and, most importantly, bad par
enting. What was once celebrated through
groups of carolers, Christmas plays and
Nativity scenes is now played out among
vying parents in the aisles of Sears.
Christmas seasons are no longer defined
by family or religion, but by fads and ad
campaigns. These fads are sponsored by
eager and selfish parents who stop at noth
ing to buy the right gift. Christmas 1996 was
Tickle Me Elmo; this year, Furbys and
Beanie Babies. Christmas, like so many
people, is becoming defined by objects
rather than values.
^nsumensm ana manceung nave raxen
the place of the family and church, not just
during the holiday but year-round. The les
son that parents now are teaching children is
the importance of gifts and objects, not the
value of the holiday as a religious event.
Kids rapidly learn how important toys
such as Furbys and Beanie Babies are when
their parents are at the shopping mall at 6
a.m. rather than at home with them.
It is a sad irony that holidays and reli
gious holy days reflect the erosion of our
societal fabric instead of reinforcing our
beliefs and values. For Christmas, happiness
is guaranteed by the best gifts, the most
gifts, the hottest gifts.
Although it’s easy to point the finger at
saturation advertising and exploitation of
children, parents are the ones responsible
for supplying meaning to holy days. Instead
many parents feel it is easier to buy the spir
it of Christmas than teach it.
The fanaticism of the holiday indicates a
general breakdown of parenting in the
United States. Parents placate their children
with gifts and give them attention through
material means. It’s much easier to buy
Johnny a toy to play with on his own than to
take him to the park day after day.
The Christmas toy craze is the parents’
fault, not the advertisers’. Our culture is
always in the hands of those who shape it,
the people raising families and making deci
sions. Those are the people supplying mean
ing and tradition to holidays.
When those people buy into every
Christmas craze and load piles of gifts under
the Christmas tree, the children are not get
ting something. They are not getting the
cause for celebration. They are not getting
the values of gratitude and spiritual love.
Instead, they are getting a Furby.
Unsigned editorials are the opinions of
the Fall 1998 Daily Nebraskan. They do
not necessarily reflect the views of the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, its
employees, its student body or the
University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
A column is solely the opinion of its author.
The Board of Regents serves as pubfisher
of the Daily Nebraskan; policy is set by
the Daily Nebraskan Editorial Board. me
UNL Publications Board, established by
the regents, supervises the production
of the paper. According to policy set by
the regents, responsibility for the editorial
content of the newspaper lies solely in
the hands of its student employees.
The Daily Nebraskan welcomes brief
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but does not guarantee their publication.
The Daily Nebraskan retains the right to
edit or reject any material submitted.
Submitted material becomes property of
the Daily Nebraskan and cannot be
returned. Anonymous submissions will
not be published. Those who submit
letters must identify themselves by name,
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affiliation, if any.
Submit material to: Daily Nebraskan, 34
Nebraska Union, 1400 R St. Lincoln,
NE. 68588-0448. E-mail:
Don’t censor me
Legislative action needed to ensure freedom ofspeech
TIM SULLIVAN is a third
year law student and a
Daily Nebraskan colum
A Daily Nebraskan columnist who
exercises his or her rights to freedom of
speech or freedom of the press can live
a dangerous life.
Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting thefree exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition
the Government for a redress of griev
ances. U.S. Constitution Amendment I.
When I applied for, was offered
and accepted this job as a DN colum
nist, I thought I would be free to write
about pretty much anything I wanted.
As a law student, I knew I had cer
tain First Amendment protections, and
I felt comforted by that fact
i inougni mai wnung a column
would give me an avenue through
which I could put my opinions into the
marketplace of ideas, stimulate thought
and promote critical thinking regarding
issues that impact us all.
Little did I know, however, that
exercising one’s freedom of speech
could be so dangerous.
I hadn’t really thought about it until
after the weekly columnist meeting a
couple of weeks ago. At die meeting,
we meet with our editor, and, among
other things, we talk about what we plan
to write about for the week to come.
At that meeting, I talked about
something I saw happening here on the
streets ofLincoln. I indicated to the
other columnists and to my editor what
my opinion was regarding that activity.
I‘m not going to tell you what I
wanted to write about right now. What I
will tell you is that my editor cautioned
me about writing on it, out of fear that I
may be putting myself in harm’s way.
It was suggested to me that I might
receive death threats or be assaulted by
a person or persons unknown to me.
These people might, I was told, feel so
strongly about what I wanted to write
about that they would cause me great
bodily harm for the mere expression of
Hmmm. Let me see, now. I thought
one of the most cherished cornerstones
of the democratic society we live in
was our much-coveted right to freedom
And in this context, freedom of the
So does our beloved Constitution
protect me from would-be aggressors
as I seek to vindicate my rights to free
dom of speech, and of the press?
You see, the Constitution protects
me only from the government, not
from private individuals.
My remedies against private indi
viduals can be found only in the realms
of criminal and civil law.
So if I decide to exercise my rights
to freedom of speech and freedom of
the press by publishing my opinions on
controversial issues in the Daily
Nebraskan, and some crazed lunatic
harms me in some way for the expres
sion of those views, I will have to rely
on a county attorney to prosecute the
And you can rest assured that if I
have suffered damages, I will bring a
civil action in the realm of tort law,
whether that action be one for assault,
battery, intentional infliction of emo
tional distress or whatever other cause
of action I can dream of which the facts
of the particular case give rise to.
Now, why is it that the Constitution
protects us only from governmental
intrusions of our constitutionally pro
tected rights, and not from intrusions
by private individuals?
I think we need to enact laws that
afford constitutional protections
against private individuals as well as
against the government
I see much of the recently enacted
“hate crime” legislation as an effort by
state legislatures to remedy, or at least
mollify, the effects of this constitutional
Nebraska is one state that has
enacted such hate crime legislation.
A person in the State of Nebraska
has the right to live freefrom violence,
or intimidation by threat of violence,
committed against his or her person or
the destruction or vandalism of, or
intimidation by threat of destruction or
vandalism of, his or her property
regardless of his or her race, color, reli
gion, ancestry, national origin, gender,
sexual orientation, age or disability.
Neb. Revised Statute § 28-110.
The above statute provides only for
rights greater than those found in the
Nebraska Constitution. It’s captioned
as a “Statement of Rights.”
Many crimes of violence have
enhanced penalties if the crime were
committed because of: a person’s race,
color, religion, ancestry, national ori
gin, gender, sexual orientation, age,
disability or because of a person’s asso
ciation with a person of a certain race,
color, religion, ancestry, national ori
gin, gender, sexual orientation, age or
Neb. Revised Statute §28-111 pro
vides for these enhanced penalties. It
basically makes the penalty for a spe
cific offense fall into the realm of
penalties for die next highest level of
Turning back now to the subject of
freedom of speech, I think amending
our hate crime statutes would be a good
place to start if we want to increase the
protection of that constitutional right
Here’s my proposal to the 1999
Nebraska State Legislature to amend
Neb. Revised Statute § 28-110: A per
son in the State of Nebraska has the
right to live free from violence, or
intimidation by threat of violence, com
mitted against his or her person or the
destruction or vandalism of, or intimi
dation by threat of destruction or van
dalism of, his or her property regard
less of his or her race, color, religion,
ancestry, national origin, gender, sexu
al orientation, age, disability or his or
herfree expression of speech, or of the
Naturally, Neb. Revised Statute §
28-111 would require corresponding
amendment to provide for the
The law recognizes that not all
speech is constitutionally protected,
for example, you can’t yell “fire” ina
But the most fundamental of our
freedoms - freedom of speech and free
dom of the press - deserve enhanced
protection as against private individuals.
We need laws strong enough-with
enough “bite” - to deter individuals
from harassing, intimidating, threaten
ing or in anyway causing harm to any
one who engages in rights so fimdamen
tal as freedom ofspeech or of the press.
So what was it that I was going to
write about that started me down this
road of thought?
You’ll find out next time. Because
whether or not I feel adequate protec
tions exist, I’m going to exercise my
right to freedom of speech.
Those who would seek to harm me
for the mere expression of my ideas are
not worthy of the protections our con
stitution and our laws have to offer.
And I will seek to vindicate my
rights against such individuals.
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