FREEDOM OF SPEECH
According to the wall poster that my friend posted, a liberal “believes in free speech; unless it offends him or her.”
Once again, I will remind any reader that I am a liberal and have been hurt by the erroneous claims that are part of a gallery of wall posters that a friend of mine displayed on Facebook recently.
These words were written over two hundred years ago, and still make my heart pound when I think about what the words mean.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Those noble words are the First Amendment to The Constitution of The United States of America.
I wonder how many of us realize just how fragile those freedoms, granted to each of us via our constitution, are.
In 1798, The Congress of The United States, a congress in which many of the men who voted to ratify The First Amendment reconsidered and voted to enact The Alien and Sedition Acts. The debate over these laws was along party lines, just as today’s debates, with the Federalists controlling the congress and the upstart Democratic-Republican Party fighting to be heard. These acts consisted of four laws, three of which dealt with the possibility of aliens in the United States stirring up trouble in the young nation but the forth was an attempt by the Federalists to eliminate any criticism of them or their office.
That forth law, the Sedition part of the act made it illegal to speak out against the government or its elected officials, to publish papers, or books that were opposed to the government. There was, of course, a lot more but that is the basics.
The act expired in 1801 without ever having a case reach The Supreme Court. In those few years numerous journalists, authors, members of congress, and private citizens were tried and convicted. All were pardoned when Jefferson became President.
This very short history of the early war on free speech is just a reminder of how long we have all been fighting to preserve our precious freedom to speak our minds.
I am offended every day when I turn on the radio and hear some of the garbage that is going out over the airways. The language is worse than I ever heard while serving in the military. Sometimes I hear the “f” word several times in what I suspect was meant to be a sentence. Now even the “f” word with the “m” modifier is acceptable speech in the world of radio.
I am offended daily when I go on the Internet and get and have my senses lambasted by the smut and filth that is there for all to see and hear. Although we try to blame parents for what a child might view while on the Internet, I can tell you all that the only way to protect a kid from the kind of perversion that fills cyberspace is to move to a mountain hideaway where Internet, phone, television, and radio content cannot reach them.
I am offended every time I walk into a reputable bookstore and find adults only sections with teenagers rummaging through the books, or worse when those books, clearly meant for adult minds, are mixed in with all the other books on the shelves.
I am offended when I turn on the television and am exposed to “family” programming that in my youth would have been considered pornographic and would never be acceptable.
I am offended everyday when I hear statements that are clearly untrue proffered as truth. I am not referring strictly to political statements here but those are included.
I am offended by the magazines that serve to convince out daughters that in order to be beautiful they must possess a body that looks like an emaciated ghost or a body that looks like some celebrity that has the “perfect body and perfect life.” I am equally offended by the magazines and videos that convince our sons that they must have the perfectly sculpted body to have a meaningful life, and by-the-way, if you need help, buy this HGH to give you an edge. The obituaries of those that felt they could not achieve perfection and either took their own lives or were killed by the junk they put in their bodies trying to become lovable offend me.
I am offended when people deride me for my political positions, or when others are bashed for theirs. The whole political conversation, if one can call it that, that demands that one is all right or all wrong offends me.
There are a lot of other things that fall under the blanket of free speech that offend me, as it does most Liberals and Conservatives I know.
BUT, the alternative to hearing and seeing it all is much worse. There are laws on the books that limit some speech and most libel or slander cases are civil court issues. Essentially we enjoy a level of free speech not found anywhere on earth or in the pages of history.
Although I may not agree with your point of view on some issue, I welcome the chance to debate, and to be permitted by law to hold that debate in a public forum. In many nations, if I were caught writing this essay, I could be imprisoned or worse.
I cannot speak for every Liberal, and the person who made the poster I referred to cannot speak for all Conservatives, but I can say that I believe most all Liberals and Conservatives will fight side by side to protect this very fragile freedom, no matter how often or severely we may be offended.
So, in response to the poster that proclaims that Liberals only believe in free speech when it does not offend us. That has to be one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard, or in this case read. It deeply offends me, a person who has fought for the freedom of speech for all. But, I will defend to the death your right to speak your mind, however uninformed it may be. This Liberal believes in free speech all the time because the alternative is no free speech at any time.
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