How to be Invisible While Defending the Constitution

A woman in California, Wendy Gonaver, was hired as an adjunct professor at the University of California in Fullerton, but refused to sign the loyalty oath that's still part of the orientation package for new hires.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”
Gonaver says she has no problem with the Constitution, but saw the oath as coercive and therefore contrary to the Constitution it was meant to protect. No tickee, no washee, and without signing that last piece of paper (a more humane bureaucrat might have shrugged, slipped the unsigned paper into Gonaver's folder and worried about it later) they wouldn't give her the keys to the classroom.

It might have been a tempest in a teapot, except for California history, where the oath has been used as a club to enforce conformity. In 1950, thirty-one professors who refused to sign-- there was no other complaint against them-- were fired. It was ongoing protest against this McCarthyism on campus that led to the Free Speech Movement in Berkely and the subsequent social protests of the early Sixties.

There comes a time, even for the orneriest contrarian, when you have to ask yourself which points are worth arguing. I might have issues with some aspects of the laws of gravity, but if I question every point of existence, I turn into Brian Wilson and never get out of bed. When I had to sign one of these for a previous employer in the state of Michigan; I just shrugged, assumed it was a holdover from the McCarthy era, crossed my toes and signed the thing. I have no problem defending the Constitution against its enemies, since most of them are domestic anyway and there's very little travel involved. If the people who demand a show of loyalty are themselves enemies of the Constitution, they're asking me to sign an oath that calls for their own destruction. It's like Daffy duck insisting, "Shoot me NOW!" Mental reservations? Evasion? You bet, but I'm not stupid enough to tell them that. I needed a job.

The wise fool Nasrudin and his followers were walking through a crowded marketplace when a student asked Nasrudin, "what do you mean by the concept of "invisibility"? Just as Nasrudin was about to answer, they were surrounded by heavily armed soldiers-- there was another religious pogrom in progress, with the government intent on ferreting out unbelievers.

The soldiers pointed their weapons at the Sufi literature under Nasrudin's arm, and their leader demanded, "What's that you've got there?"

"A piece of atheistic trash, which I now burn," Nasrudin answered without a pause, and he ripped the book to pieces, set fire to the pages, and stomped on the ashes.

After the soldiers had left, Nasrudin turned to his students and said, "That's what I mean by invisibility."

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