I’ve been mulling over this post for a couple of days now. I want to write about how the right of free speech needs to be protected at all costs, even if we don’t like the views. However, free speech is only protected from action by the government. It’s not totally free of consequences. I was chatting with Kathleen about this and overnight she sent me this cartoon. It shows how difficult free speech is. If only everyone used the same definition of what’s right.
I thought the post was dead in the water until I, just now, read a BBC interview with a woman attending yesterday’s march in Boston.
What is Free Speech?
There’s been a lot of confusion about the right to free speech. It’s not that you’re free to say anything to anyone, like many claim. It’s only in the United States (a few other countries have their own versions but definitely not all countries) and it only protects you from government persecution.
Therefore, visiting an anti-Trump website cannot have consequences from the White House administration (despite their best efforts). However, James Damore’s manifesto how women aren’t in tech because they’re biologically incapable of the work resulted in his legal firing.
A massive point to remember is that this is speech, and speech only uses words not fists or other weapons.
Why We Need Free Speech for Everyone
With all the political rhetoric of the last year, and especially in the last week with the white supremacist movement being more vocal and violent, freedom of speech has become something we must protect, for everyone.
When the US constitution was written, it was intended for equality (OK, so that’s still coming but still), but free speech for all, not just those we agree with. If we suppress the voices of those we don’t like, what’s going to happen when we’re the ones they don’t like? If the white supremacists gain the numbers, they can suppress the progressive voices of equality. So we need to respect each person’s right to freedom of speech, even when it’s hard to hear. Who knows, you may learn something from them.
I may find your ideas abhorrent, but I’ll (non-violently) fight for your right to say it.
How to Ensure Free Speech for All?
This is the quote from the BBC interview that convinced me to finish this post.
“They were never going to learn anything by being surrounded and screamed at by 30 people. Even though one of the Trump supporters wasn’t innocent and definitely instigating, the better lesson was getting him to the other side of the fence where he and other alt-right sympathisers could look out at all of us and see how few they were versus how many we were, and come to terms with how many of us were willing to stand up against hate.”
In the midst of the march, Imani Williams helped several Trump supporters (assuming they’re white supremacists considering that’s the march they were at, but the article doesn’t state that) away from intimidating crowds. She showed caring and understanding when others were reacting negatively and to people whose ideals are horrible. Imani Williams is a hero we should admire.
It’s things like that we can do. We can encourage conversation. we can remove the divide and be friends based on things we have in common. We can nicely show that we have a lot more in common than different. That’s how we can make America and the world great and heal.
Intolerance and the white supremacist ideals are shrinking, and we can thank the exposure to others via the internet and wider travel for that. But we need to go further than that.
And we can.
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