Written March 27, 2015     
 

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© 2015 Bob Lonsberry

 
 
IF OUR SPEECH ISN'T FREE, NEITHER ARE WE

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I’m tired of the gotcha game.

The sharia law of political correctness that chops off your head if you say something that somebody else claims is offensive.

The land of the free has become the home of the afraid as the quaint notion of free speech is replaced by the militant demand for orthodoxy.

Think and speak as the social elites demand or you will be destroyed. You will lose your reputation and your livelihood, and the circling piranhas on social media will strip your bones clean.

In a culture which once enshrined freedom of speech and thought, we condemn speech in order to stifle thought.

There is a predictable cycle. Somebody sends a video or a screen shot to a blogger or the TV news, and something somebody said or wrote is shared and retweeted and copied across the cyber world. Then there are comments and demands and calls to bosses or elected officials and heads roll. Entire careers, the reputations of decades’ making, are judged on 30 seconds of audio or a handful of words.

And people lose their jobs and social standing. They get threats and pink slips and their lives and their children’s lives are damaged or doomed. You destroy a career, and you destroy a family.

And instead of feeling compassion, we feel self-righteous, and our appetite is whetted for more blood. It is the power of savage social condemnation, it is the fury of political correctness. It is the scarlet letter of our day.

The response is to stand for freedom of speech. Including offensive speech. Pretty words do not need protection, they are embraced. It is the harsh words and thoughts, the words that step on toes, that need protection. It takes no courage to defend speech that offers praise or comports to a social norm.

Freedom of speech – as a social value as well as a constitutional right – is defended on the periphery. Those who truly believe in freedom realize that it most demands protection when it is politically incorrect and socially unconventional.

Even when it comes to race.

The claim of racial offense must stop being the every-situation trump card of our society. The claim of racism must not overrule our belief in free thought and speech. One person’s claim that another person’s words are racist doesn’t necessarily make it so.

In the horrible history of lynching, a mob justice inflicted on racial lines destroyed lives. And not to diminish the evil of mob murder through a strained comparison, but in our day a similar mob justice inflicted on racial lines likewise destroys lives.

And it is just as wrong.

The clamor to condemn others as racist is in itself often a form of racism. It is a lynching of our day.

In our clamor for tolerance, we offer none. In our demand for dialogue, we denounce any who are off script. It is not understanding we seek, it is obedience – obedience to an orthodoxy that shouts dissent into silence.

To characterize political and social thought as racist because you disagree with it for fundamentally political or philosophical reasons is an act of oppression – as well as dishonesty. We ought not to empower it by acting as if it is the word of God.

We must reject the ridiculous current belief that the offensiveness of a remark is not in its intent, but in its hearing. You can’t read another person’s mind, and you can’t know another person’s heart, and you can’t superimpose your interpretation on another person’s intent.

As a society, we must also return proportion to our punishment. The realm of political correctness is an off-with-their-heads Twilight Zone in which the slightest offense demands the severest punishment.

You can work a job for 20 or 30 years, be excellent at it, put a political comment on Facebook, and be destroyed and unemployed within days. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what you’ve accomplished, or what you yet have to offer – you’re gone.

Especially, ironically, for those who serve the public. Middle-class working people who wear the fire or police uniform, and who risk the most every day in their service, are the ones most viciously attacked.

The fact you work for the people does not wipe away your rights as a person. If getting a check from the taxpayer restricts your freedom of speech then we’ve got a rude surprise for the welfare and Social Security people.

The rule is simple: This is America, and we are free.

That is not just a part of our law, it is a part of our culture and heritage. And social mechanisms which limit freedom of speech are wrong and oppressive.

And should be condemned by all Americans.

It’s not a contest to see who can pretend to be the most offended, it’s a shared commitment to protect liberty.

And right now, the media-fueled condemnations of political correctness are the greatest threat to personal liberty our country faces.

We speak about freedom, but we don’t speak freely.

Unless we want to get fired.


- by Bob Lonsberry © 2015

   
        
   
 
    

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