Thursday, July 16, 2015

Free Speech, if you can afford it.

I think we all get the feeling that free speech is not free.  We can choose to accept the overall premise of what our constitution proudly proclaims or we can actively demonstrate against the reality of what has happened, speaking our minds have consequences and often can cost us dearly.

Free speech too many used to mean the right to say or express ourselves in any way we wanted with the old exception of yelling fire in a crowded theater.  No one really cares if you yell fire when no one’s around, just like no once cares if you scream wolf if no one hears.  What people do take exception too is the reality of such statements when there is no reality in their proclamation.  I might add that not too many care if there is a wolf if they don’t have to deal with the danger themselves.

If we take an inventory of what can be said and to who without consequence we might be surprised at how limited our ability toward free speech really is.  Let’s all agree that yelling something that incites a riot or panic without cause is probably not good, but what of proclaiming a personal truth of warning?  What about the insensitivity of disagreement when one party believes something different than another and the other wants to make a point of pointing that out?

Another example is the use of the “N” word.  It is a disparaging word of no value but it was used and is still used frequently.  A few weeks ago while filling my car with overpriced gas in Barstow California I was the recipient of a barrage of ugly words that were dispersed freely with the “N” word. Another patron buying gas had his windows down and stereo up playing a particularly offensive song.  The young man was African American and seemed to take great pleasure making the rest of us endure his right to free speech. 

I toyed with the idea of playing Spock and giving him the Vulcan Grip to put us out of our misery but realized that if I said anything or did anything I would be the one who would be in violation of his civil rights and constitutional rights to “free speech”.  What of my rights to quiet and what of my rights to be protected from his offensiveness, does not free speech go both ways? 

Another example comes from the growing movement of separatism and exclusionary rights that are meted out to some and excluded from others.  The separation of protected groups by race, sexual preference and nationality (I freely admit I do not know or understand all the groups who fall into these categories) seem to be growing and dividing our country to such a degree that there is a protected class of people who can say what they want, do what they want over and above what others can do or say.   I used to think that royalty was one of the reasons we had elections and that “all men were created equal…”

Equality and free speech used to go hand in hand with the mitigating forces of society and law to balance the rights and privileges to keep us all equal.  (I don’t want to hear about our past atrocities, no one alive today ever had “legal” slaves, nor has anyone today been responsible for the choices of the past) With the new level of protections based on preference and usually based on who can scream the loudest the ideals of equality are now rewritten toward those who are now more free to speak their minds than others.  I cannot use the “N” word under any circumstance but there are those who can use it freely.  I cannot oppose or disagree with those who disparage my definition of marriage so that they can turn around and demand to be married.  I cannot even take a stand against the education of my children when they are being taught “things” I don’t want them to learn and in recent cases the schools have even refused to allow parents to opt out of such educational programs forcing parents to adhere to morals not accepted.

Free speech has become a very expensive proposition.   I want to make sure that my ability to speak my mind is still valid and available.  Let me make a few points very clear:
 I believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.  There are other words to use and other ways to achieve a loving relationship, and yes I know the Supreme Court ruled against my belief. 

There are words that are disparaging and offensive, either make them all free to use or make them all unavailable.  If I want to use the “N” word let me use it just as freely as the young man getting gas.  I don’t think I would use it nor do I believe anyone should use it but when you allow protected groups more freedom of speech than others than the concept of free speech is gone.

Offensive, disparaging, hurtful and hateful language creates a serious problem with society but an important aspect of having “free” speech is letting every one know that free means free and not regulated, as it has become.  We need to stop protecting some over others.  As a country we have always moved toward freedom and always moved toward equity and balance without the regulatory efforts to curb god given rights to speak our mind.

It may seem cruel to some to suggest that we stop protecting gays, or blacks or Indians or whatever group thinks they need special help from the law and constitution but when we finely realize that by establishing protections we move toward segregation and away from freedom and toward dependence and away from exceptional-ism.  I want to be considered exceptional, I want to earn my way,  I want to be able to say what I want when I want but have the courage to moderate my speech on my own and I want others to do the same.