The Romney T-Shirt and Philadelphia’s Campaign of Hate

by Christopher Paslay

When it comes to tolerance, the Samantha Pawlucy incident reveals our city’s glaring double standard.

“All animals are equal.  But some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm nearly 70 years ago but the novel and its themes of hypocrisy, corruption, and double-standards are more alive than ever.  Ironically, this week I will be starting a unit on Animal Farm with my students and over the course of the next month we will be analyzing Orwell’s text as an allegory for the atrocities of communism and the Russian Revolution.  We will also be taking a look at how the novel’s themes apply today.

A current event we will cover is the recent “Romney T-shirt” incident involving Charles Carroll High School student Samantha Pawlucy.  Last week Pawlucy, a white 10th grader, wore a pink Romney/Ryan T-shirt to school on dress-down day and was allegedly ridiculed by her African American geometry teacher and a school aid for being disloyal to the Democratic party; Pawlucy’s brother also wore a Romney T-shirt to school and was harassed by classmates.

According to the Inquirer:

Samantha Pawlucy (borrowed from the Inquirer under fair use clause)

Samantha Pawlucy, a sophomore at Carroll, said her geometry teacher publicly humiliated her Friday by asking why she was wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt and going into the hallway to urge other teachers and students to mock her.

“I was really embarrassed and shocked. I didn’t think she’d go in the hallway and scream to everyone,” Pawlucy said. “It wasn’t scary, but it felt weird.” . . .

Samantha Pawlucy said that after going into the hall, her teacher called into the classroom a nonteaching assistant who tried to write on the T-shirt with a marker. She allegedly told the teen to remove her shirt and said she would be given another.

Pawlucy said her teacher told her that Carroll was a “Democratic school” and that wearing a Republican shirt was akin to the teacher, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt.

Lynette Gaymon, Pawlucy’s teacher, apologized to Pawlucy and her family during a school meeting the following Monday, although the Pawlucy family has stated that they question the sincerity of Gaymon’s apology.  Apparently, the black geometry teacher and the school aid were just joking when they made the alleged comments about Pawlucy’s Romney T-shirt.

Yesterday, the Pawlucy’s went to Carroll High School to file an official complaint, where they were heckled by students who shouted obscenities at the family.  For the past week students have been threatening Samantha, and the girl currently fears for her safety.  The Philadelphia School District is currently investigating the situation, and Gaymon, who made no comment to the Inquirer, is still teaching at Carroll although no longer teaching Pawlucy’s class.

The “Romney T-shirt” incident is a perfect tie-in to the Animal Farm theme of “The Abuse of Language as Instrumental to the Abuse of Power.”  As put so astutely by SparkNotes:

One of Orwell’s central concerns, both in Animal Farm and in 1984, is the way in which language can be manipulated as an instrument of control. In Animal Farm, the pigs gradually twist and distort a rhetoric of socialist revolution to justify their behavior and to keep the other animals in the dark. The animals heartily embrace Major’s visionary ideal of socialism, but after Major dies, the pigs gradually twist the meaning of his words. As a result, the other animals seem unable to oppose the pigs without also opposing the ideals of the Rebellion. By the end of the novella, after Squealer’s repeated reconfigurations of the Seven Commandments in order to decriminalize the pigs’ treacheries, the main principle of the farm can be openly stated as “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This outrageous abuse of the word “equal” and of the ideal of equality in general typifies the pigs’ method, which becomes increasingly audacious as the novel progresses.

This theme fits perfectly into the “Romney T-shirt” incident, as well as the collective effort by Philadelphia liberals to manipulate language in order to demonize and vilify all those who oppose Democratic policies as well as the Democratic party.  When I say “Philadelphia liberals” I mean teachers, parents, the local media, and any other entity that works to indoctrinate youth and kill freedom of expression.

In other words, teachers (Lynette Gaymon equating a Romney T-shirt with the KKK), local columnists (Annette John-Hall equating voter ID laws to the violence and opression of Jim Crow), and parents (mothers and fathers who teach their children that wearing a Romney T-shirt is racist) are abusing language in order to intimidate and bully others into following their politics and world view; they are using language not as a means of freedom but as an instrument of control.

Just as the pigs twist and distort Major’s visionary ideal of socialism to keep the other animals in the dark, so are the media–and now, incredibly, schoolteachers–distorting Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of equality and social justice to keep children and citizens as a whole misinformed about Romney and the Republican party.  As a result, because of the manipulation of language, students like Samantha Pawlucy and her brother are no longer able to oppose the politics of the Democratic party without opposing the ideals of MLK and being labeled “racist” in the process.

My wife and I live and work in Philadelphia, and we see this on a regular basis.  In the high school where I teach, the anti-Romney, anti-Republican attitude is so deeply embedded in the culture it has permeated the drinking water.  Just mentioning Mitt Romney’s name causes many of my students to cry “racist” and “bigot” and “hater,” and for what?  Because he’s a Republican?  Because he’s a Mormon?  Because he believes in traditional families, a free market, and small government?  Because he wants to cut entitlements, cut taxes, and believes that people should be the captain of their own ship?  This makes him an intolerant racist devil?

Me and my wife in our Romney T-shirts

Last night, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden on City Line Avenue in Bala Cynwyd.  Because of its approximation to Wynnefield, the restaurant is both staffed and frequented predominantly by African Americans.  As we entered the restaurant, we immediately picked-up on the fact that we were receiving dirty looks from other patrons eating their dinner.  Interestingly, my wife happened to be wearing her Romney/Ryan T-shirt.

This thinking and behavior, both verbal and nonverbal, is dangerous for a couple reasons.  First, it is an assault on free speech and democratic ideals.  Shutting down other’s opinions and calling them names (and using grossly inappropriate hyperbole such as “KKK” and “Jim Crow”) is the ultimate example of intolerance and hate speech.

Second, it is divisive and shuts down the avenues of communication.  Instead of teachers, parents, and the media promoting teamwork and teaching our youth to listen to the views of others and exploring alternative viewpoints, today’s youth are being taught to close their minds to opposing viewpoints and are being conditioned to call names.  Put another way, our city is preaching hate and intolerance.

Tragically, there seems to be very little public outrage.  If the situation were reversed (if a black student were ridiculed by a white teacher for wearing an Obama T-shirt), there would literally be protests in the streets (think of the Valley Swim Club debacle or the Don Imus Rutgers joke).  Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or both would be on a plane to Philly, and the local chapter of the NAACP would be circling the wagons.  The Philadelphia School District would have issued a formal apology by now and you can bet the teacher in question would be at the very least on administrative leave.

To show support for Samantha Pawlucy and freedom of speech in general, I will be wearing my Romney/Ryan T-shirt next week as I teach my lesson on Animal Farm.  Because this is not an official message of the school or district, because I will not use this to indoctrinate my students, and because I do not feel it will cause a disruption in the classroom or school, I feel I am well within my rights to publicly show support for Samantha Pawlucy and for freedom of speech in general.

It’s time to bring back America’s democratic ideals, and to speak out against the campaign of hate and intolerance being promoted by parents, misguided teachers, and the local media.  Please visit the “Support Samantha Pawlucy” page on facebook to show your support.

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20 Comments

Filed under Free Speech

20 responses to “The Romney T-Shirt and Philadelphia’s Campaign of Hate

  1. PattiMae

    Good for You !!!!!! This incident is a DISGRACE !!! To Country and the Education System !!!!!!

  2. Joshua

    Great Article. Made me think that if ppl act like this with an Obama administration then he really should be voted out. I want a Romney T-Shirt now and I want a Romney Button. I want a Romney Bumper Sticker.

  3. Chris

    Very well wriitten, and unfortunatley very true.

  4. LIsa Haver

    Chris,

    You use teachers, plural. although there was only one teacher involved.

    The students’ heckling was in part because they had lost a teacher they liked to another class. They were not being told to do it by adults. As a high school teacher, you know that teenagers do not always act an in understanding and considerate manner towards each other.
    There’s not a lot of public outrage? Then why am I seeing this student and her family every day on the front page?

    Annette John-Hall is far from the only African-American who equates this round of voter suppression with previous ones. When she observes the rush in Harrisburg to pass it (explained by Rep. Turzai’s comments), and the same laws being passed in so many other states, I understand how she comes to her conclusions, whether I agree with them or not. In any case, a columnist giving a point of view is very different from a group of teenagers ostracizing a girl and one rogue teacher whose reprehensible comments represented her opinion and no one else’s.

    Philadelphia has been overwhelmingly Democratic for many years. It would be naive to think that most people, especially African-American, would not be supporting Obama. Most people, in my experience, are tolerant of those with other points of view. But there are always exceptions, unfortunately. An outlying Democratic in the Republican heartland might now be welcomed with open arms either.

    I cannot see how this incident can lead anyone to conclude that “out city is preaching hate and violence”.

    Best,
    Lisa

    • Wrong answer, Lisa. TWO teachers were involved: Lynette Gaymon, the teacher who violated the student’s civil rights and humiliated her in front of the class — and another teacher that Lynette Gaymon pulled in from another class to compound the humiliation and intimidation against the student.

      Stop making excuses for intolerance from Left Wing teachers who abuse their positions by harassing and intimidating students.

  5. phillystyle71

    Hi Lisa,

    For the record, I said that our city, by condoning such poor behavior, was preaching hate and intolerance. I never said they were advocating violence, but this is a small quibble. I use “teachers” plural because it isn’t limited to one teacher, and anyone who teaches in the city of Philadelphia knows this (and you know it too). Teachers are agents of the state and are supposed to remain neutral when it comes to things like religion and politics (I personally remain neutral in the classroom and never disclose my politics to my students, even when asked . . . and my wearing a Romney T-shirt this coming week in support of Samantha is about free speech not politics), but I know of many, many teachers over the years who flat out indoctrinate their students, and it’s always against Republicans; I remember in 2004 a number of teachers showed Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 in class and spoke out against Bush. And this is just on the K-12 level. In colleges and universities the anti establishment quasi Marxist mantra of eradicating White privilege by any means necessary is everywhere . . . I just got an M.Ed in Multicultural Education and I saw this firsthand.

    But teachers in Philadelphia don’t have to overtly preach Democratic politics to their students because it’s already embedded in School District curriculum (I could give a dozen examples in English literature but I want to get to my next point).

    Philadelphia is traditionally Democrat and I respect traditional Democrats; I actually am a registered Independent and agree with Democrats on a number of issues. But the culture of Philadelphia in the 21st century is shifting away from the traditional Democrat, and in my opinion this is coming from a national narrative being dictated by a biased media, a divisive president, and those groups interested in using race and identity politics to grab power (again, I’m not going to get to specifics here).

    Too many students in my classes are indoctrinated—programmed—to dislike Republicans. Unfortunately, some hate them. This is a fact that I see on a regular basis, which is why I try to steer away from politics in my classroom when a discussion goes down that road. Occasionally, I’ll simply question a student and ask why they hate Republicans? They give me the same stock answers: Republicans are racists, bigots, haters. They want to make Black people slaves, they want to bring back segregation, and on and on. Where are they getting this from? I’ll tell you: their parents, the media, their teachers, and the president (think Joe Biden “Back in Chains comment”). Don’t think so? Read the Inquirer, Daily News, Time, Newsweek, Yahoo, Washington Post, Huffington Post and The New York Times. Watch ABC, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, the Daily Show, and the View. What is the narrative? What stories do they cover and what stories do they ignore? Take a look for yourself. How is the information presented? Not in favor of Republicans, I can tell you that.

    There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for Annette John-Hall to equate voter ID laws to Jim Crow, and doing so is irresponsible and a slap in the face to true Civil Rights leaders, like MLK. In PA, 91 percent of registered voters have an acceptable ID. The 9 percent that don’t can get one FOR FREE. This has been in the works for over a year now. Comparing taking a bus to the DMV and standing in a line to the Jim Crow South (people getting lynched, beaten, and intimidated) is a gross manipulation of language and power. So is comparing a Romney shirt to the KKK. And this is not an isolated incident. This anti-Republican mentality, the vilification of Romney and Republicans is REAL and I see it in my classroom, in the restaurants I go to, in the supermarket, etc.

    As I said in my post, there is a very real culture of intolerance and yes, hate. And instead of making excuses, we teachers should speak out against it.

    Chris

  6. Ally

    “as well as the collective effort by Philadelphia liberals to manipulate language in order to demonize and vilify all those who oppose Democratic policies as well as the Democratic party …” This claim doesn’t sit well with me, Chris. It implies that all liberals are guilty of these charges, which isn’t true. The Carroll teacher’s behavior was unconscionable, but is not representative of the entire party. Would you prefer that your students watch Fox News for a more “objective” narrative? That’s where you’ll find anti-Democratic mentality, the vilification of all things Obama, and hate. Maybe the anti-Republican intolerance you claim to have witnessed was from the 47% of the country that your party’s candidate has written off.

  7. Guest

    Your wearing a Romney t-shirt to school is all about politics and “thee protest too much” to the contrary. Unless you plan to wear an Obama/Biden shirt the next day, you are clearly advertising your political preference to your students. This is no surprise. Looking back at some of your older blogs, it is more than obvious that you have a problem with President Obama. To call him “a divisive president” is your skewed opinion, not fact. The divisiveness can be attributed to the Republican sector of government that vetoes all things Obama. Karen Heller is correct that the incident at Carroll HS is a teachable moment. Instead of teaching our students to respect everyone’s beliefs and opinions, whether we agree with them or not, you choose to flaunt your Romney shirt with pride and arrogance, clearly demonstrating your political views and your disdain for all Democrats. You should be ashamed.

  8. phillystyle71

    Hi Guest,

    It’s no surprise you are hiding behind a pen name, as you don’t have the courage to stand behind your convictions. Your comment just exemplifies my point about intolerance and the attack on freedom of speech. I will not be bullied by you and your lack of principles.

    Chris Paslay

  9. Burt Lancaster

    Ally – The authore is suggesting that there be no indoctrination by any ideology… There is a huge difference between biases exemplified on cable news, and biases TAUGHT in the classroom. It never ceases to amaze my how liberals do not have the capacity to make simple connections that outline there own hypocrisy!

  10. Burt Lancaster

    Guest – You have, in typical democrat-clown fashion, used this article to baselessly attack the other side instead of facing the problem.

  11. Terri

    What an excellent, insightful and intelligent article.Thank you.

  12. Jim

    What happend to that student is horrible, and actions should be taken against that teacher. However, I am seeing a lot of stereotyping of Democrats, liberals, and Obama supporters into a category reflecting inferior moral values. Chris, you lose some credibility with your response, stating that Guest has a “lack of principles,” while ironically in the same statement critzing him for an attack on free speech. You state in your article: .” . . are abusing language in order to intimidate and bully others into following their politics and world view; they are using language not as a means of freedom but as an instrument of control.” It appears to me that you are guilty of that in some of your responses to critisisms.

    I would challenge you to bring back another democratic ideal, that of civil discourse and tolerance,

    Chris, I have followed your blog off and on, and you have some great insights on the state of the educational system today, and it is clear you are a dedicated and passionate educator. However, it seems in this article your are letting your passion for your politics cloud your passion for free speech and a respectful dialogue amongst people who disagree, and are classifying all “liberals” into an negative sterotypical category, while at the same time complaining that conservatives have been wronged in a similar fashion.

  13. Jason

    Great Article. It is so unfortunate that you are dead on with the way our society is today!!
    God Bless You and your family Samantha!!

  14. Steve

    As educators, we’re always looking for those teachable moments beyond the standardized curriculum, and this incident is an ideal way for students to connect with real-world situations that they can relate to. What concerns me, Chris, speaking as neither a Democrat or a Republican, but as a teacher, is that by wearing your Romney/Ryan shirt, your support for those candidates is implied without having to say a word. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, I believe the school district has rules about teachers displaying anything of a religious, political or sexual nature. Perhaps these rules are not always enforced in all schools, but I know of Muslim teachers who have had to make clothing adjustments because of it. At any rate, wouldn’t the case for freedom of speech be more effective by wearing an Obama shirt the next day to equalize the point? There are other examples of t-shirts that could be used, although I don’t think many teachers would feel comfortable wearing a “Free Mumia” or “Legalize Marijuana” shirt, but I do think the “freedom of speech” teachable moment would be better balanced by giving both parties equal representation. That makes it less political/biased and more educational.

  15. The treatment of the Pawlucy’s, by teachers as well as students, is a disgrace. But I suppose it’s a sign of the polarized times we live in. I’ve found myself to have become increasingly short-tempered with conservatives, after roughly 12 years of listening to liberalism being equated with socialsim, communism, nazism, and the president i voted for being dragged through the mud. We live in an era shaped by fox news, where disagreement is treason and political views are either sacred or satanic. But the teachers in this case should be disciplined, or fired. And if this sort of treatment is widespread, there should be some kind of lawsuit against the city and school district for allowing it. On the other hand, linking this with opposition to the current crop of voter id laws is an illegitimate connection, especially when we have the tape of the Pennsylvania republican stating that the purpose of the voter id law in that state was to guarantee victory to romney. And judicial review in the laws state by state has concluded that just about all of them are blatantly discriminatory.

  16. 2 TEACHERS are involved in this crime to deprive the student of her civil rights: political speech (the shirt). The other matter involves holding the student against her: Lynette Gaymon (the teacher) got another teacher, illegally detained the student, and proceeded to intimidate her.

    This is a clear-cut violation of federal civil rights laws.

    18 U.S.C. § 241 : US Code – Section 241: Conspiracy against rights

    If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or
    intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth,
    Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any
    right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of
    the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;
    or
    If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the
    premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free
    exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured -
    They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
    ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in
    violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an
    attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit
    aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined
    under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life,
    or both, or may be sentenced to death.

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