One of my favorite things about living in America is our freedom to openly express ourselves through many different mediums.
I love that Americans can protest policies, write to our senators, worship our own gods, disagree, debate and discuss. This incredible freedom we have was really brought to my attention recently through all the discussion of the SOPA and PIPA bills. Through tools such as the newspaper, Internet and television, it has never been easier to broadcast one’s ideas to a wide audience.
I was suddenly aware of what an opportunity it is to be able to express ourselves however we want whenever we want. This in turn led to my thinking about limits to free speech and what people should be allowed to say and what should be censored.
I think freedom of speech should not be inhibited by anyone in general communication. However, there are certain atmospheres, such as when posting in a forum or newspaper or entering into certain buildings and environments, where you need to abide by certain rules, such as no hate speech or vulgar language.
For example, if one were to enter a church or place of worship and begin spewing hate speech, you would be subject to removal. I do not think this is an infringement on one’s rights, as you are surrendering those rights when you enter private property, where people can set their own rules of behavior and speech.
If a person does choose to roam the streets shouting hateful language, that is his or her own choice; however, that person needs to be prepared to face the consequences of his actions, such as retaliation. We all have opinions and are entitled to them, but as soon as you voice your opinion you open yourself up to critique and counterattack.
I’m not saying that’s the appropriate response, or that hateful speech should give way to more hateful speech, but I also don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility to be listening in on our conversations to make sure nobody says any bad words. We as Americans, or even we as humans, should have enough respect for each other by recognizing the intrinsic worth in each human to not speak in a way that is highly offensive to others.
Does this mean I approve of the words and actions of Neo-Nazis, military funeral protesters, sexists, racists and the like? Not remotely. However, as a functioning part of our society, I believe every individual should have the right to say whatever he or she wants without the government stepping in and taking things into its own hands. I cannot even imagine the oppressive horrors that would ensue if the government decided it was illegal to swear or say a certain word or phrase.
Honestly, I believe the only thing we can do about hateful speech is respond in a positive manner. That doesn’t mean you have to lie down and take it, but disagree with someone in a positive manner. We need to realize that sometimes people can be cruel and our options are to live with it or speak up. I think the best way to honor all the freedoms we are privileged to have in this country is to be respectful to our fellow man and leave a legacy of love and tolerance.