by Conor Friedersdorf
Over at Ricochet, Adam Freedman expresses alarm at a news story from Europe:
A high school geography teacher in Spain recklessly told his class that the region of Tevelez in Granada Province has a cold climate that favors curing ham. A Muslim student complained on the grounds that the mere mention of “ham” is offensive to Muslims. Okay, high school students often say intemperate things. But here the student talked it over with his parents – and the parents filed a complaint with the National Police and the Court.
According to sources, the complaint isn’t likely to go very far. But the high school and the teacher will nonetheless have to spend time and effort in getting it dismissed. The very fact that adults seriously think that the word “ham” should be banned in Spain – in Spain! – gives us a glimpse of the tyranny of “cultural sensitivity.” (h/t Volokh Conspiracy). Calling Mark Steyn – help!
Obviously I share the opinion that this sort of complaint is absurd. (Full disclosure: jamon serrano is one of my favorite things on earth.) But as I've watched this story bounce around the Internet, I can't help but feel like it's much ado about nothing. Find a teacher, buy him a cup of coffee, and ask about absurd complaints filed by parents. They're legion. There's no sense in scaring ourselves everytime an absurdity that occurs all the time originates from someone who happens to be Muslim, particularly when the matter is promptly dismissed by authorities.
Among my fondest memories of living in Spain: the fact that practically every restaurant and grocery store in the country has legs of cured ham dangling from the ceiling. They're as ubiquitous as hamburgers in the United States. I don't at all want to pick on Adam, who is one of dozens who wrote posts on this topic. In another mood, I might've written a similarly eye-rolling post myself. But let's not cry for help, even as a cute rhetorical device, as if our freedom to persist in core cultural practices is so fragile that unsuccessful complaints filed by a single family threatens them. If nothing else, that attitude hands too much power to anyone inclined to file a frivolous complaint. When Mark Steyn engages in that sort of alarmism – as distinguished from his good work on speech codes and other matters – he isn't helping to bolster our freedom. He's just needlessly frightening credulous people in a way that doesn't at all increase our vigilance or ability to combat the actual threats we face.