Protected Speech   1 comment

Or, Away with Jingoism

Nonviolent expression–especially protest–is a form of speech the Constitution of the United States protects.  I rejoice for that fact.  Yes, freedom of speech is finite; it does not apply to slander, libel, and any (private) attempt to incite violence, for example.  (On the other hand, during World War I, when the federal government was inciting violence as a policy, some pacifists and socialists went to prison for attempting to cite nonviolence.  That was an abuse of federal power.)  I grasp the reasonable limits–mainly public health and safety–on freedoms.  I may not drive legally on the wrong side of the road, for example.  Professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem do not transgress any constitutional lines, however.  Those who choose to engage in that form of protest are within their rights to do so and should face no penalties, regardless of what the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury think.  Besides, the republic is strong enough to survive some athletes kneeling during the national anthem.  Furthermore, one should cease and desist from making nationalism an idol.

I stand, as a matter of high principle, on the proposition that life in a free society requires a plethora of mutual forbearance from all of us.  To recognize the freedom of those with whom we agree to protest, speak, or write is easy, but how eager are we to extend that license to those whose opinions offend us?  As I tell my students, the test of whether one affirms freedom is whether one extends it to those with whom one disagrees.  This test catches many people on both the left and the right; I stand in the middle and remain intellectually honest.  I note that many people (regardless of their policy positions on a host of issues) who identify themselves as champions of freedom seem quite eager to deny the freedom of peaceful expression to those with whom they disagree, or at least to advocate penalties for that peaceful free speech.  This is rank hypocrisy.  Anyone who does so is therefore, by definition, a hypocrite.  I refuse to make any statement to the contrary.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.  I will do no other.  Besides, dissent is frequently among the highest forms of patriotism.



One response to “Protected Speech

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  1. Pingback: Those Who Oppose Free Speech Are On the Wrong Side of History. | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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