The First Amendment must have been uncomfortably stuck in the craw of one North Shore government official for the past 17 years. It seems as though former Wilmette Village President John Jacoby felt a need to cough that annoying chunk of Constitutional inconvenience right out when he read about the vehicle sticker design kerfuffle in Chicago. Why else are we reading an old story about the 1995 Wilmette diversity vehicle sticker in this week’s Wilmette Beacon?
A Chicago motor vehicle sticker design had to be scuttled recently when someone noticed that it could be construed to portray gang symbols. Chicago officials figured out right away that 1) automobiles are private property and 2) citizens cannot be compelled to purchase or display automobile stickers that do not illustrate broadly accepted themes.
A couple of decades ago, Wilmette created a human relations commission aimed at “encouraging understanding among village residents regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, age or economic and educational level.” The disputed vehicle sticker the commission generated in 1994 showed four children of different skin colors holding hands in a circle. Some folks were uncomfortable—not with diversity, but with the connection of the sticker to a larger political agenda, multiculturalism.
But the hubbub that ensued never really was about “political correctness” or even ramming a political agenda down every Wilmette car owner’s throat. It was about a concept that has a familiar ring in politics this election cycle: whether citizens can be compelled to purchase (or publicize) something with which they fundamentally disagree.
Jacoby reprosecuting the 1994 vehicle sticker dispute is both odd and revealing of his tenacity in going after old political enemies. His comrades have moved on to other causes, it’s time that Jacoby does too.