Guest editorial: A conservative student at Park City High School shares his story
I am one of the kids who was sickened by bear spray at Park City High School on April 1. The Park Record reports the suspected perpetrator is a fellow student who has been charged by the Summit County Attorney’s Office with 18 criminal counts.
I am Jewish and gay, and also a conservative who is a member of the group that was scheduled to host an event in the PCHS lecture hall and may have been targeted by the release. I would like to share my story.
My mother is Jewish. Her family escaped persecution by socialists in Germany and communists in Russia, luckily before World War II. My father’s family is from a poor, rural area in Alabama. His grandparents were sharecroppers. His parents grew up picking cotton and didn’t have electricity or running water. Many people might call them rednecks or hillbillies.
My mother became an orthodontist by paying her way through school, borrowing $250,000 in the 1980s. My father finished his high school’s math curriculum in 10th grade. His parents, even though my grandfather never graduated from high school, encouraged him to continue to learn through other means. My father aspired to go to the best engineering school in the world. His family thought this was crazy. When he was 17, my father got on a Greyhound bus alone and took the 24-hour trip to Boston to enroll in MIT. He went on to a top business school, started a business on Wall Street, and became one of the youngest partners at a prestigious investment bank. My father survived the 9/11 attacks only to die eight years later from what some have labeled a “9/11 related illness,” although we will never know that for sure.
My parents are the poster children for the American Dream. They paid their “fair share” of taxes and paid it forward by giving significant donations to educational organizations (including here in Park City) to help underprivileged kids. We believe we are good people, and, I think, most people who know us would say the same.
Yet my brothers and I have been called racists and Nazis in our respective schools, including here at PCHS. Why? Because we believe the United States is the greatest country in the world. Because we believe capitalism, while not perfect, has lifted hundreds of millions of people around the world out of poverty, and hundreds of millions have been oppressed or murdered in the name of socialism and communism. Because we believe that people should be rewarded for hard work and perseverance, not handed things on a silver platter. Because we believe that the 1st Amendment applies to all speech, including those who call Jewish-Americans like ourselves Nazis. Because we believe that the 2nd Amendment is a right, and most gun owners are law-abiding citizens. Because we believe that there is a crisis at our southern border. Because we believe that radical Islamic extremists should be called out by name. Because we don’t believe illegal immigrants should have the right to vote. You get the idea.
The thing that hurts me the most is not my throat from the coughing. It is not my chest from the bear spray. It is not my stomach from the vomiting. It is the possibility that a student sought to stifle free speech at PCHS by targeting a club hosting a conservative speaker at the lecture hall that evening. The high schoolers who put this event together worked tremendously hard. The parents who donated to this event were extremely generous.
Kids make stupid mistakes all the time. I have made mistakes myself. I invite the student and his family to spend some time with my family and me, and perhaps with some of the thousands of other conservatives who are his neighbors and classmates in Park City. I think that would do more to “teach him a lesson” than anything the courts could order.
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F. Joseph Feely III writes in a guest editorial that he is concerned about the “likely impact of the extreme policy positions” Democrats will pursue if they win control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.