Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ozzie Guillen and the First Amendment

I am often asked by my students why people can get fired for making outrageous comments when the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects "freedom of speech".

Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Miami Marlins might be wondering the same thing right about now.

In case you missed it, Guillen has been suspended from his job for five days (costing him about $150,000 in income) for giving a Time magazine interview where he said he "admires" Cuba's Fidel Castro.   Guillen, a native of Venezuela, tried to crawfish his way out of trouble yesterday in a lengthy apology that included his assertion that he was stupid and naive. 

The Constitution protects the stupid and naive from being imprisoned by our federal government when they say things that reflect their stupidity.  Fortunately for Guillen he does not live in his home country of Venezuela where an equally stupid man (Hugo Chavez) would have no problem having him manage a prison baseball team if he said the wrong stupid thing and the right time.

Here in America, people like Guillen can rest in their beds at night knowing that any number of stupid acts, words, thoughts or deeds will not result in moving into a concrete bedroom so long as no other person's rights to life, liberty or property have been violated.

Yet, what Mr. Guillen has learned - and my Facebooking, party-loving students are also learning - is that the First Amendment does not apply to our employers, prospective employers or institutions of higher learning.

If those who pay our salaries or admit us into graduate school do not like the stupid things we say or do in public they do not have to employ us or accept us in any shape, form or fashion.    My students are learning this the hard way in some cases by rejection letters from universities that were not impressed by Facebook postings of lewd behavior under the influence of a bottle of Jack Daniels.

In a society armed with picture and video-taking phones and Youtube accounts it is not wise - if you are naturally an imbecile - to let people see how much of an imbecile you are.  The Founding Fathers would recommend that if you have something idiotic to say you might want to say it in a way, or in a place, or to a person that puts you at the lowest risk of becoming gainfully unemployed.

Given the number of dumb people I hear talking every day, I would say that the resulting silence would be a welcome change.


  1. Your post made me think--as it often does--but did you HAVE to put that last sentence in about all the dumb people around you every day?
    It is a good reminder that we are given freedom from jail, not freedom from consequences. However, sometimes we are going to say dumb things, even around you. I disagree with your indictment that saying dumb things makes us dumb people. (by the way, the same sentence has a typo...which does not make you dumb, but it was a dumb mistake)
    Erik Segalini

  2. Nordic-Guy

    A typo is not even a dumb mistake if I actually know how to spell. It is a careless mistake. HUGE difference between a typo and a 50 year old man not knowing enough about Fidel Castro to keep his mouth shut when he is managing a baseball team in LITTLE HAVANA!!!!!!!!! Guillen, I should have mentioned, has said many things over the years that indicates that he is not very bright. In fact, I stand by my assertion that he is dumb in many areas other than baseball. That, in and of itself is no sin or crime. It is as o.k for him to be dumb as it is for me to be to dumb to repair household appliances or work on a car. Not everyone is smart, or athletic, or artistic, etc. However, when someone is dumb in an area they need to keep their mouth shut and try to learn something about a subject (like the history of Cuba) before they say something that will rise up and bite them.

    Finally, I am around dumb people all day. That is o.k. too - as long as they don't talk about things they are dumb about. That is why when people ask me about any number of subjects I say, "I am sorry but I am pretty dumb when it comes to ____________, so I can't discuss that."

    Recognizing dumbness is a good thing.