On Freedom, Liberty, and Being an Old Racist

Wednesday’s horrific shooting at the the US Holocaust Memorial Museum casts some light on a stark reality of our world: there are still people out there who are bat-shit crazy.

James von Brunn shot a security guard at the Museum (only blocks away from the White House) before being gunned down by other security guards. Apparently, he was convinced of a Jewish led conspiracy allowing the government to take away his guns. Von Brunn, a holocaust denier, left a note in his parked car that read “You wanted my weapons — this is how you’ll get them.” Luckily, his insanity didn’t hamper his refined sense of humour.

With the recent election of B-Rock (now the world’s largest car salesman [1]) and the wave of liberal warm and fuzzy feelings pervading our world, many had thought that domestic racism around the world, internal racism had died. But, like Sylvester Salone’s career, just when you think hes gone for good another Rambo comes out. Is there anyway that we can put an end to it? The short answer is no. Violent acts perpetrated out of racism and hatred are more likely to be a result of a complete loss of marbles. That hasn’t stopped some countries from trying to make being nuts illegal.

Holocaust denial is currently illegal in 13 counties, often with strict penalties (in Austria, denial can land you up 10 years in prison). These ‘thought-laws’ pose an interesting dilemma. The holocaust happened and was one of the darkest chapters in modern history. It is important that we educate the public and future generations (who will have no living links to WWII) about such atrocities so that we can prevent them in the future. But that’s on a large societal level. Is it right for the government to actually make laws that tell us what we can and can’t believe? If von Brunn wants to deny the holocaust then that is his choice. We are pretty much helpless to stop him save for social alienation and telling our children to stay away from Brunn’s shady house on the corner because he’s a little unstable. The reality of living in a pluralistic, liberal society is that we have to accept other people’s points of view as crazy as they may be.
To place laws against what citizens can or cannot think limits the ability of a society to have intellectual conversations on difficult and explosive topics. These are exactly the discussions we need to be having to prevent future atrocities. Simply silencing the public on an issue doesn’t change what people are thinking in their heads, only how they express those thoughts. Banning holocaust denial is akin to prohibiting people who claim to have seen UFOs.

Please oh government on high – stay out of my head!

I don’t want you finding out how crazy I am.


[1] – The plan is for the federal government to take a 60 percent ownership stake in the new GM. The Canadian government would take 12.5 percent, with the United Auto Workers getting a 17.5 percent share and unsecured bondholders receiving 10 percent. Existing GM shareholders are expected to be wiped out. – My next writing project. More here.

Related Topics


Geoff is a 5th year student who studying a double major in Integrated Science (Evolutionary ecology, virology) and Political Science. He was the 'Wish' speaker at the 2008 Terry Talks and is passionate about university education, especially when it comes to interdisciplinary experiences. After graduation Geoff wants to find a job that allows him to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and share stories. If your savvy enough you can follow Geoff on Twitter - user: gcosteloe.