Our Freedom of Speech comes with responsibilities by Glenn Schuckers
I often wonder what the framers (exclusively men unfortunately) would think about how their first ten amendments to the Constitution have evolved today, beginning with the First Amendment that guarantees our right to free speech.
I have always been a strong advocate of free speech going all the way back to columns I wrote for a local newspaper under the title “Curmudgeon’s Corner.” I argued then that the speech with which I disagree is the speech I most need to defend. It is easy to protect the speech I agree with, but it can be a little harder to stand up for points of view that run contrary to mine. I still stand by that opinion.
But lately people seem to have forgotten a few things about free speech.
That right is not without limits. Saying things that will endanger the health and safety of others is not protected, as in the cliché “You can’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater if there is no fire.” The result could be a stampede in which people could be hurt. And advocating for committing a crime is not protected by the Amendment either. But what about saying or writing things that are not popular?
That has been a hallmark of America since its beginning, from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine to Nat Hentoff and Charles Krauthammer. Saying and writing things that were not popular have been ways that we have become “a more perfect union.”
But something has gone very wrong with free speech today.
People have come to believe that the First Amendment give them the right to say, write, and promote ANYTHING.
There is nothing in the Constitution or the system of English law on which our legal system is based that gives anyone the right to be vulgar, obscene , rude, and disgusting. It totally ignores the other side of a right, and that is a responsibility.
I have to be responsible to the rights, feelings and views of others when I express my views and opinions. That sense of responsibility seems to be something some people have completely forgotten.
I have a responsibility to respect the feelings of the people with whom I come in contact. I have responsibility to respect the opinions of my community, and by that I mean the whole community, not just the people who live next door.
I may have the RIGHT to put any slogan, any saying, any flag, any sign I want to on my own property. It is my property and I can fly any flag and post any sign I want. But what about my neighbors? And by “neighbors” I don’t mean just the people next door. And a brother is not just someone who is related by blood.
Jesus told a parable that explained what he meant by that. A man had been beaten by robbers and as he lay on the road many people of his own nationality walked by and did nothing, but then a man that was from another country, an enemy actually, came by, took pity on the man and took care of him. The man was a Samaritan, and the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that all men, not just the ones who look like us, talk like us, and worship like us are our brothers. So anyone who drives past a house with an offensive flag is our brother.
In the past year I have seen a number of signs hanging out in public for everyone to see that state in large, easy-to-read letters, “F**K Joe Biden” and I sometimes just shake my head, not in anger or in frustration, but in sorrow.
I am sad that this is what the American Experiment has become, a sanctuary for the vulgar, disgusting speech that seems to be getting more prevalent. I don’t disagree with anyone’s opinions about politics and politicians, but can we not disagree without being disagreeable and disgusting? Can we take issue with a policy without degrading the people who promote that policy?
Being ugly, being vulgar, being rude and obscene is not what America was designed to promote. It is not what the First Amendment protects. Perhaps we need to teach our children better about their rights with a strong emphasis on their responsibilities, too.