Friday, May 9, 2008

I Do Solomnly Swear

OK. I've been holding up on this rant for a while now, but it's time to launch it. I am going to be teaching online for an institution of higher learning come fall, and along with the usual sheaf of papers to be filled out and filed back with the admin bureaucrats is one piece of paper that has to be notarized ($3 if you're not a customer of the bank, I found out). This is the Loyalty Oath by which I "solemnly swear" that "I will that I will support the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America and the Constitution and laws of the State of [my employment]." Are you kidding me? This is beyond outrageous, this is contemptuous, this is beyond belief in the United States. But, of course, there's no choice but to sign if you want the job (and I need the job).

How many objections do I have to this idiocy? Where to start?
  • The first thing that struck me was how the language of the oath would be interpreted. What exactly does "support" mean? Does this mean if I say some provision of either is "stupid," or "unenforceable" or "dubious" or "nonsense," will I be hauled into court for violating the oath?
  • Does anybody besides lawyers know what the state constitution says?
  • What chance would an obvious socialistic bastard like me (subscription to Harper's magazine, member of the ACLU, contributor to peace organizations, publisher of this blog, etc.) have in such a court?
  • What chance would anybody brought to court for violating this oath have?
  • How much does this muzzle teachers at this institution of higher learning from saying what they want?
  • Is there any conception of academic freedom at this institution?
  • How many other states require such an oath?
  • Has anybody ever tested this oath in court? (would obviously have to be somebody who has secured employment elsewhere)
  • There are some laws of this state that I will not support . . . like the draconian immigration law. Does this disqualify me from the start?
You get the point: this oath is about making sure that people teaching in the flagship university of this state say only what is approved by its conservative power structure. It holds a hammer over the heads of any dissident voices in a university, the very place where the voices of dissent ought to be welcomed, if not respected.

I can remember a time in this country when everybody defended somebody's right to say what they wanted, the right to have an opinion (unless you were black in the pre-1964 South, a communist, socialist, or pacifist). That was before we became possessed by fear. Those days are gone, brothers and sisters. America is going fascist before our eyes, and worse: with our tacit consent. We are but one more terrorist attack from giving over the tattered remnants of our liberties to our "protectors."

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