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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.