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The Right to Free Speech When it Offends
Should All Be Allowed to Speak Freely?
Freedom of Speech is a basic right we all agree on; in theory. We find ourselves struggling with the fair application of this right. We want to speak our minds but we also feel we have the right to determine to what extend others may speak their own.
The current debate over flying the Confederate flag, the debate over how far Westboro Baptist should be allowed to go beyond the bounds of common decency are prime examples of when we feel that others abuse the right to their freedoms. But, should we bemoan their use of an inalienable right or should we celebrate the fact that they have it?
“America's greatest contribution to the world is its concept of democracy, its concept of freedom, freedom of action, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.
Freedom of speech is not a concept that supports the idea of strict parameters. Freedom of speech allows each of us sovereignty over our thoughts and how we choose to express them. We must also live by the consequences of our words and actions associated with this freedom.
With the advent of the internet those who maintain points of view which deviate drastically from our own possess the ability to find each other, to band together and create a semblance of unity of voice. We can, at times, believe that these divergent opinions are becoming main stream. We can feel they are gaining a level of acceptance which we find abhorrent. But, that is the beauty of this freedom.
We can speak. We can advance our point of view. But, so can everyone else. There is a symmetry in this right. Freedom can only exist if it is universal. And, freedom drives positive change because we can, as a community, discuss these points of view. Without the ability to share ideas we cannot, as individuals, grow. We cannot grow as a society without hearing all of the voices which are a part of it.
We must also live with the horrors. The young man who stormed the church in Charleston was a victim of his own prejudices which were fed by the words of another. A dark side to our rights to speak. Yet, the call to ban the ability of citizens to display symbols of this hatred is counterproductive; in my opinion. We cannot talk about what we can’t see. We can’t attempt to bridge gaps which are hidden from our view. We cannot find ways to heal open sores with the band aid of restrictions hiding them from us.
We attempt to ban the things we find offensive; yet we cannot understand that banning anything will not make the causes of the offense disappear. It’s a whitewash of a dilapidated fence. It is an attempt to divest ourselves of our responsibility to speak out against the views we find offensive and to attempt to put forth our ideas on the causes and cures. This ability to speak and act is not as simple as two opposing views. When something such as the horror in Charleston is brought to our attention we find that many disagree on the causes and cures. We find more gaping wounds. We find those who lay blame, those who make excuses and those whose compassion is frustrated by an inability to understand how such a thing could happen. But, without the ability to freely speak we would know none of these things. We would be trapped within our own minds without the benefit of input from others in our community and throughout the world.
Those whose voices rise in an attempt to abrogate our basic rights are simply attempting to rise to positions of authority over the rest of us; as if their point of view takes precedent. We should all, no matter our differences, stand against such calls and celebrate our rights by demanding those rights for all.