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Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Speech Should Be Free From Attack

Free speech may be one of the greatest gifts that this country offers. In fact, it is sacred and our very survival depends on it. Without free speech, quite frankly, our way of life will die.

Protecting free speech is a serious responsibility. I feel so strongly about this that I'd be willing to put my own life on the line to protect our right to free speech. With no reservations.

None. That includes pornography, witchcraft, racism, political opinions, bomb making, insurrection. Virtually everything "judged" bad or tainted. Why?

Because I take nothing personally. And every one of those bad things gives us an opportunity to examine the subject based on facts and merit. To seek the truth. To examine, collect facts, offer advice, discuss and teach our family members that it is ok to talk about racism or any other topic that may come up. Emotionally free people are not cowards. We are not tied in some closet somewhere, engulfed in fear, afraid to express our beliefs and ultimately the truth because we don't want to talk about pornography, racism, or some other difficult topic. This in fact was the whole intent of free speech. To form a collective belief system by exchanging facts, insight, and opinions. That is how it works. If people would just let it work. Protect the process above all else.

Free speech cannot work in an oppressive environment. It cannot work when an opinion or belief is offered and the speaker is attacked. Or the subject is attacked. The net effect of this peer review and attack is censorship. Free speech erosion. If you attack people, diminish them, they are simply going to be afraid to say anything. Would you want to work and live in that kind of environment? Surrounded by fear driven and mute fellow co-workers and hostages? Many people do.

Let me give you a perfect example. A month or so ago, I was on a nationally recognized, politically conservative blog page and the topic of Guantanomo Bay and what to do with detainees was being discussed by anonymous commenters. Guantanomo Bay represents some of the most severe nationalism I have ever witnessed. Nationalism is the unwavering belief that everything your country does is correct and justified. It is a collective belief and opinion that as you know by now, is inherently flawed-an opinion, possibly correct or incorrect. Nationalism has nothing to do with patriotism.

So in a wave of emotion that descended on us after the 9/11 attacks, we essentially kidnapped suspected terrorists, interrogated them, imprisoned them, denied them due process. Only three of hundreds were ever brought to trial in the seven years Guantanomo has existed. We denied those people every right that we as citizens take for granted. I could care less if every one of them is guilty or not. Or whether torture was warranted.

What I am concerned with, first and foremost, was the lawfulness of our actions. Just who gave us the right to violate every conceivable human right and the laws and protections of our country? We talk a great collective agenda of human rights, don't we? We tell Russia and China how to behave, don't we? But we don't really do a very good job of examining ourselves, do we? Perhaps we think our actions are justified but China's are not. That is the insanity of the planet. And as I commented to that effect, other commenters labeled me and attacked me personally. Thus I witnessed the fear and egos of collective insanity. They completely missed the point. The point was simple. Before you point the finger at everyone else, you probably ought to apply a little rigorous honesty and examination to ourselves and our country first. We aren't very good at that. It has nothing to do with politics. But you see, they think it does. Another flawed and collective belief system.

It is overwhelming. Many of us have lost the art of communicating civilly and we are reduced to launching attacks. It is a sickness. We are losing our right to free speech by censoring someone who doesn't agree with our inherently flawed and opinionated egos.

I can't change the way the world is evolving. All I can do is apply the same rigorous honesty to myself. Try to safeguard free speech. I am not required to get angry. I accept that the world is riddled with self seeking and ego driven people bent on diminishing others. It is an unconscious state that held me hostage for 46 years.

All we can do is be responsible for what we say. Set an example. Try to be civil and not damage others. If they in turn, try to damage us, we must accept that they are simply reflecting who they are. As more and more of the good folks drop out of public conversation, the implications are clear. The only ones that will have a voice are the ones who shout down everyone else. That does not bode well for the future.

I had a friend that said once, "Never argue with the unconscious or idiots. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."

Amen, brother.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real Life

I have a friend who's significant other has cancer. For the fourth time.

I need to digress a little here and offer an opinion and a belief that I have acquired over the years. One day, someone else, is going to be you. You are going to be someone else for the rest of us one day. That's how it works. We plan and envision all the good things in life. We ignore the bad things. When the bad things come we are lost in a desert of negative emotions.

Failing to plan, or ignoring the bad things will not make them go away. They will still visit you with or without a plan. Your ability to accept them, fight or no fight, and overcome them quickly will depend on your emotional preparation.

I cannot tell you how demoralizing it must be to fight cancer with radiation and surgery three times and survive it. Then get diagnosed with it a fourth time. This time around, she has selected a different kind of approach to combat it. Since the first three battles were won, her significant other believes she should stay with the method that has worked.

He is distraught and a little angry. To stay vigilant and emotionally free takes hard work and effort. This is real life and while its not always pretty, it is somewhat predictable. If we can predict emotionally difficult times-then we can plan and prepare for them. We can risk manage them as they occur. This situation is no different. It's a very serious situation with possible adverse outcomes and death.

We cannot control the exterior world. What others do is up to them. When we cannot get others to do what we want we are experiencing a lack of control. Loss of power and control is fear based. We fear the outcome if people do not behave in a way that we see fit. Loss of control thus manifests itself in many fear based emotions such as the very emotional fear my friend is experiencing. He may fear a lot of things, but he fears loss. And because he fears the loss of a loved one, and he is unable to control the course of action, he is frustrated.

He has a belief system. That's it. He believes what has worked three times must work four times. That is simply not always true. It may or may not be true in any given instance. We just don't know. We never do until its time for the last analysis.

Control is an illusion. We are never really in control of anything other than ourselves. Sure, there are times when you may feel some sense of power and control over your children, or your spouse, or your employees, or your work product. A sense of order and productivity. Teamwork. But the real devastating news, life altering and life changing, is often beyond our control. At those times, we feel guilt, sadness, inadequacy, remorse. We feel emotional pain. If only we could have done something different. If only we had control, the result would be different. It is illusory, brought on by all the little things we have control over.

What others do, has nothing to do with us. Often the best we can do is offer love and support. We accept life on life's terms. We accept the decisions of our loved ones. It does not require our agreement. But it does require understanding that it's ok for others to make good decisions and thus to make bad ones. And for us to get out of the way. We can offer some suggestions or advice along the way but we don't get personally hinged to someone elses decision, despite their standing oin our lives. There is no right or wrong way, smart or stupid way. Different ways perhaps. We make choices. It is not personal. It virtually never is.

I hope that my friend understands this. I hope that his gal wins another battle.