Respecting Our Freedom of Speech

couple-argueAt the risk of sounding boorish and repetitive, I would like to share a FINAL thought on the miserable state of politics in this country. The good news is, I don’t think it will take very long. (I’m actually not sure this even qualifies as a post, but here it is anyway.)

Unfortunately, the drama continues in the saga that is the U.S. presidential “changing of the guard.” Performers are deserting the inaugural celebrations almost as soon as they sign on because of fear of retaliation. There were even reports of one artist receiving death threats!? As you might expect, he also has decided to forego this particular performance. Excitingly, Meryl Streep is now a true freedom fighter, at least according to some in Hollywood. On a side note, did Ms. Streep or any of her fellow Golden Globe attendees express similar heartbreak over the brutal attack upon a mentally ill man in Chicago earlier this month?  I can no longer stomach Hollywood award shows, so it is possible I missed a heartfelt speech about this gut-wrenching, sickening crime.

Per standard operating procedure, the delightful bickering between left and right keeps flourishing, much like the weeds in my backyard.  It’s just embarrassing. (The bickering, not the weeds – although they can be embarrassing on occasion.)  Sprinkle in the delusional, arrogant prattling of an outgoing president, add a dash of off-the-cuff, sometimes not completely thought out remarks of a wild-card president-elect, and you have enough S*#T stew to feed you for a lifetime. Eventually, all that toxic twaddle trickles downhill until it inevitably stinks up your personal Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed. There is no escape!

After reading a few stories on the latest political dramas and unintentionally running across others whilst casually surfing the internet, I remember thinking how often we abuse and mistreat the privilege of free speech. I recollected the behavior of We the People before and after the election;  I recalled the over-the-top tackiness we saw on the campaign trail;  I re-examined the slanderous name-calling and accusations; I promptly regurgitated…okay, not really. But, almost.

I began to wonder if we, myself included, really grasp what a privilege we have in freedom of speech. Whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, we are ALL permitted to express our opinions and beliefs, but do we consider the high cost paid by others so that we may enjoy such a privilege? If we did, perhaps we would respect it more or find it easier to exhibit some dignity and etiquette when we disagree rather than resorting to Jerry Springer show tactics. Squabbling and backbiting does not honor a gift purchased with the lives or physical and mental well-being of so many people, past, present and future. There’s nothing wrong with intense disagreement, passionate debates, or even injecting a little humor here and there – after all, we’re only human. However, slandering, threatening, or harassing someone for disagreeing with you is a perverse use of the privilege of speaking our minds.

When we engage in robust debate with grace and respect, we honor the gift of free speech and those who fought for it. Likewise, when we threaten, belittle, slander or shame, we demean, even cheapen, a gift bestowed upon us at such great sacrifice to the true freedom fighters of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.



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