The events of the past week, as well as of the last eleven years . . . correct that: the last 236 years . . . are much on my mind these days. Yours, too, I’m sure.
What I’m thinking about is free speech. There may be things this country doesn’t do very well, but free speech isn’t one of them. It is, in fact, the one thing we have done well from the very beginning, and as long as we continue to hold fast to it, we will still be America.
There are those (even in this country) who take offense at hearing what others have to say. Understand that I know as well as you, that not everything we hear said is true, witness the recent political conventions and their political ads. Still, there isn’t anything that stops you from turning off or turning down the volume of what offends you. Nothing, perhaps, except the desire to know what others are saying if only so that you will not be blind-sided at some point either in conversation or in the voting booth. If you know what others are saying you can allow for that in decisions you make.
Americans have not always agreed on everything, nor should we. A nation that has only one voice is a nation of one idea, and that idea will seldom be the one everyone embraces. I don’t mean that it is okay to call people names, or shout down their voices, or kill them because you disagree. That’s not free speech. Especially killing those with whom you disagree. That is simply foolish. It will bring down the wrath of others, and the end of that is death to many, and especially to thinking. If we let our ability to think be controlled by fear, we are undone. We will be no more.
This last week, with the exploitation by our enemies of a film they don’t like, illustrates my point, I think: expressing yourself becomes a risk. But look at it this way: if we decline to express ourselves, even in terrible words, even in horrible images, we open the door to our death just as surely as we expose ourselves to those who will kill us because they don’t like us.You don’t kill a sick philosophy by killing people; you do it by showing a better way. And yes, people will die. But people will die anyway.
As for me, I would rather die knowing it was because I said something, rather than because I said nothing.