Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gaudeamus igitur: Void where prohibited

So it turns out that Senatobia, Mississippi's high school commencement exercises were interruped by a handful of friends and family who cheered either to loudly or at the wrong time (accounts seem to vary). This, in turn, exercised the district superintendent, who had asked audience members to hold their applause to the end of the ceremony, and who not only had the briefly exuberant family members escorted out, but later filed to have arrest warrants served against four of them for disturbing the peace.

Something superficially similar to this happened at commencement exercises at my little farm-town high school the year before I graduated. As one senior – not known for his distinguished academic record; I suppose you could call him a rowdy – crossed the stage at the end of the gymnasium to receive his diploma, a group of his younger peers cheered his name and clapped briefly. They were laughing; it was disruptive, and they knew it, but no big deal, and they knew that too. The principal – no spare-the-rod disciple of Dr. Spock, he – gave them what I suppose we would have called the stink-eye, but as with the Senatobia incident, it was over in a moment. Unlike Senatobia, though, no warrants were issued and small-town life moved on. I imagine no one who was there has thought about this in all the years since; it only came to my mind because of the Senatobia story.

Today, of course, in an age of weaponized social media, it's easier for things like that to gain a life of their own, and a lot of the seemier parts of the right-wing dial have been all over this story, as Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog documents.

Personally, I think the lesson from the story is obvious: They were cheering because, for the first time in American history, graduating seniors in Mississippi can think "Thank god for Oregon!"

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