As an American, I love our freedom to express ourselves openly. I love that we have comedians who make fun of the president or whomever without fear of persecution. I celebrate the idea that I can vote for one guy while my neighbor votes for someone else yet we're friends at the end of the day. I appreciate the diversity we have in the United States of America. I'm stimulated at the sharing of ideas and different view points; in fact, many of my closest friends have an alternate political ideology than myself and we have amazing conversations.
But lately one of our freedoms here in the United States is being misused as an excuse to abuse and threaten...freedom of speech. You see, that concept only works when respect is present and hate is absent.
Remember when we were growing up and were taught about bullying? Remember when we were taught manners? Remember when we were taught to respect other people's opinions? I do. I remember being taught by my grandmother not to say anything I'd regret because you can't take the words back. I clearly remember my mother telling me, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
Oh, but isn't that infringing on my freedom of speech?!
When your speech causes others to be afraid, to feel threatened, to feel put down or made fun of, are you truly being the best human being you can be? Just because you have the right to tell me that I'm a terrorist for supporting the President of the United States and threaten to stone me in the street...should you really say that? Just because you have the right to spread lies...should you? And for those Christians out there who joke about assassinations...would Jesus approve? (For the record, I, too, am a Christian and I don't think he would.)
As a writer, I appreciate my rights to create what I choose, to write this blog, to post stupid pictures on Facebook or sexy quotes on Twitter. However, as a writer, I also choose my words carefully, respect each one I write and know exactly what it means when I hit "publish" at the end of this post. I am conscious of the power of my words, the impact.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up to a barrage of threats against our president, hate directed at myself as a liberal, rants based on misinformation (hello, people, verify your information...ever hear of factcheck.org?), dire predictions of the future of America...why? Because we'd reelected our president by not only an electoral college majority, but by a popular vote majority as well. Oh, the horror!
I exercised my freedom of speech to object to the hatred I see being tossed about, asked for unity and the ceasing of stereotyping. The result? I had "it's our freedom of speech" tossed back at me. Really? You're going to defend being hateful, misinformed and downright mean? You're going to defend threats of violence against our leaders and your supposed friends because things didn't go your way at the polls?! Try to spin it as a joke?! Hate and violence aren't funny. I doubt that's what the authors of our Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. I doubt they intended to create a nation of bullies.
There are ways to present your thoughts and ideas in respectful and peaceful ways. I know because I do it with many people with opposing viewpoints from mine every day--some of whom I'm going to meet for beers later.
I'm sad to say that people unfriended me over my objection to their hate language. Apparently, freedom of speech does not extend to me saying, "that's offensive to me, that scares me." That's the true tragedy in America today. We are a nation divided...and misguided.
The definition of the First Amendment is as follows as taken from the US Supreme Court: Freedom of Speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without government interference. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously. This includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute and is subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (for example, inciting violence or ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or a threat to national security.
Please note the sedition exemption--inciting violence and hatred. If this country ever has a chance of unifying, people need to get a grip, take personal responsibility for what they say (or write), educate themselves with facts rather than fiction, and start appreciating rather than hating differences.
Just exercising my right to freedom of speech and expression in the hopes of bringing peace, understanding and acceptance to my small corner of the world. However, because this blog is my domain, I operate it like a dictatorship and will delete any comments that spew the very thing I'm writing against. Thank you...may you blessed with joy and peace today.