In Britain, it’s a crime to display a sign that is “threatening or abusive or insulting” with the intent to provoke “distress”, even if that sign is displayed in your own window. The local constabulary explained that citizens, “in the majority of cases”, can only face arrest if they refuse to take the sign down after being asked by the police.
From a “traditional” American perspective, the possibility of facing arrest for displaying a sign in your own window seems absurd, but, the Brits don’t have nearly the free-speech protections we enjoy. Which is why an elderly pensioner was asked to remove an 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of paper emblazoned with “Religions are fairy stories for adults” from his window.
Rather than decry the British law’s continued descent into an Orwellian twighlight zone, the consistently fantastic Ken over at Popehat asks an even scarier question:
What is the character of a person who sees a sign like that in a pensioner’s window, and runs to the police to complain?
Could a person with such character stand up, against great odds, in the face of the the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt? Could such a person do his duty, as England expected, at Trafalgar? Could such a person keep calm and carry on? Would such a person fight on beaches, on landing grounds, in fields and streets, in the hills, and never surrender? Is such a person capable of having a finest hour?
I ask because of this: societies that make rules like this one, encouraging its citizens to scamper mewling behind the skirts of the government when faced with the least offense, produce people with the character necessary to take them up on the offer. It is hard to imagine how a nation run by people of that character can endure — or at least, how it can endure as anyplace you’d want to live.