Your Monday editorial illustrates the dance that goes on regarding “private speech” in public places, like vanity license plates and events on “public grounds” like a courthouse square in Tippecanoe County. One court says this, another court says that, so there's a constant tug of war.
The commons area of a town was originally just that. Anybody could stand there and spout his views, and people could choose to ignore and walk by or stop and listen as they saw fit. Maybe there'd be something in the newspaper about it, maybe not.
These days, anything “controversial” is the lifeblood of TV news and the front pages, so the notion of the “commons” has been blurred by media insistence on foisting this stuff on us whether it's really “news” or not.
I wish the folks in Tippecanoe County the best in their quest to find a solution everyone can live with, in regard to who gets to use their courthouse square or not.
We had this debate in Auburn in the 1990s when the Klansmen at Newville wanted to have a rally on the courthouse square. “Lots of things have taken place there,” they argued, “like band concerts and county fair events, so why can't we?”
“No, we can't have this,” said many citizens and the County Fathers, so their attorney was assigned the task of figuring out a way to stop the Klan. Simple: ban ALL events. That way, everybody has to play by the same rules. No more band concerts, no more county fair rides, and, oh gee whiz, it means we also can't let the Klansmen gather on the square, but we're not singling them out unfairly, see?
Then somebody noticed that what's off-limits is the lawn, but not the sidewalks, so Klansmen could not be denied permission to stand on the sidewalks and have their rally — on the courthouse square, just as they intended. Hasn't been a band concert on the sidewalk there since then. On the street, yes, but the court square? Of course not, rules are rules. And county fair rides don't fit well on the sidewalks, either. So nobody EXCEPT the Klan got to use the courthouse square.
And we keep re-electing these people.