Should Rush Limbaugh Be Banned?

Normally, I try not to wade into partisan politics. Spirituality is above and beyond the mundane world of party affiliations. One can be a Democrat or Republican, capitalist or socialist, left-winger or right-winger and still discover bliss and spiritual truth.

Recently, however, Rush Limbaugh has ignited a firestorm of controversy over his ridiculous, disgusting comments that unfortunately have also sparked some equally awful responses. Today's article on CNN by Gloria Steinem (whom I deeply admire) and Jane Fonda calling for Rush to be banned from the airwaves is exactly the wrong way to address Rush's hatred and intolerance.

To be clear: I've disliked Rush Limbaugh since the first time I heard him. I remember it vividly. This was in the early 90's, not long after Rush started his radio show and before he was universally known. I was visiting my very right-wing uncle in Florida, who was driving me somewhere. His car radio was tuned to Rush and my uncle almost giddily implored me to listen closely. He clearly thought Rush was a great truth-teller who would set me straight on any number of issues. Not only was I not persuaded, I was appalled at the mean-spirited and inaccurate portrayals that he continually spews. And the scary thing is, this was when Rush was comparatively mild, in the years before Clinton scandals worked him up to new levels of frothing.

So it gives me no joy whatsoever to declare that Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda are not only flat-out wrong in their recent quest to ban Rush from the airwaves but what they propose is dangerous and even against the highest forms of spiritual awareness and truth. Even great people like Ms. Steinem, who have done so much good, can sometimes get it very, very wrong.

That in itself is evidence for why her suggestions to ban those with whom we don't agree should be resisted. No one, not even Gloria Steinem or Jane Fonda, has a monopoly on truth. The idea that one person or small group of individuals--all of whom are themselves imperfect--should be given the power to determine who is allowed to say what is against every genuine and lofty spiritual principal to which I adhere.

This connection to spirituality might not seem obvious at first. Allow me to explain.

We each must be given maximum leeway on our own quest to find enduring meaning and truth. Sometimes, we will turn down blind alleys, pursue wrong ideas or practices, but as much as possible, genuine spiritual growth comes from making those mistakes and then being allowed to find our way out of them through our own free-will and understanding, not by having our opinions and actions forced upon us by others, whether by governments or religious organizations.

We can't start banning things that we don't agree with or seem dangerous. I know for a fact that any number of things I believe--especially spiritual beliefs I hold-- are not only outside the mainstream of the power holders but could be considered dangerous to them.

Many great ideas are indeed filled with danger: to the status quo. They can even be twisted into seeming "hateful" because by evincing a clear distaste for the status quo or the current holders of power, they can be frightening and threatening to those whose world views are under siege. For example, I'm sure many white conservatives felt like Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and other civil rights leaders "hated" them because they wanted to overthrow their centuries-old social system. Should we give our government the power to declare that Malcolm X be banned just for speaking? His famous and brilliant speech (which I personally consider one of the 10 greatest of the 20th Century), "The Ballot or the Bullet" was absolutely as incendiary in its time--probably much more so--than anything Rush Limbaugh has ever said.

At one time or another, all important minority views were seen as threatening, even hateful to the mainstream power holders. Empowering any government or institution to ban ideas and opinions with which it doesn't agree is a very dangerous and slippery slope, indeed.

The genuine spiritual solution to a problem is never to ban, silence, or suppress ourselves or others but to overcome hatred and intolerance with reason, compassion, and above all, love. The ideal is to win others to our point of view--even if slowly--by creating a positive, uplifting magnetism that inexorably attracts sincere truth seekers. We can't just squash and silence those we don't agree with. We can't meet hatred with hatred or someone else's desire to oppress us with our desire to oppress them.

This doesn't mean that we can't personally boycott Rush Limbaugh--and anyone like him. We can and we should. But there is a profound difference between exercising our individual free choice to boycott Rush and the governmental or institutional prohibition of a person or set of ideas across the board. To use the full force and weight of our government to ban someone for ideological reasons is not only dangerous in the precedent it sets but spiritually immoral.

Instead, we must work to win over those with whom we emphatically disagree. Patiently, if need be. One conversation at a time, one person at a time. This is the hard work of the spirit. To reach for the highest, deepest, and most enduring truth, one that can only be found not through hate but love; not through fear but reason; not through misery but bliss.