Tuesday, September 25, 2007
It often appears that FREEDOM of SPEECH has outlived its usefulness in the United States of America. The First Amendment to the Constitution was added during the very infancy of the country when it was ratified on December 15, 1791. This first of the initial ten additions to the Constitution would be known as the Bill of Rights. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to limit the powers of the central federal government, thereby protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory. This First Amendment was specifically written to guarantee the people freedom of speech, religion and the press.
I've come to realize over the years that people learn significantly more about life from listening than they do from talking. We've evolved into a society that only embraces the principles and philosophies of life we agree with. A classic example of this, is that a great many Americans acknowledge the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is limited to their interpretation of the first two Amendments. For those not familiar with the Second Amendment, this provides for the people's right to keep and bear arms. I sometimes think a certain percentage of our populace interprets the first two amendments to mean they can take out one of their many guns and shoot anybody that expresses an opinion they find objectionable or don't agree with.
The true definition of Freedom of Speech is full acceptance of speech we vehemently oppose with every bit as much as fervor as speech we fully support. The true brilliance displayed by the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights was to afford the same freedom of expression to people or ideas we loathe, as those we cheer. A classic example of this concept is a citizen's right to express his/her displeasure with the country by burning a US flag in protest. Most Americans find this form of protest as an abhorrent spectacle. The First Amendment was designed to protect your rights to feel this way with the same protection afforded the flag burner. Freedom of Speech is not decided by majority vote but by individual expression. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the foundation of American democracy as written in the opening passage of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. This was a more eloquent way of stating that people we don't agree with have the same rights as people we do agree with.
This conveniently leads us into today. I have taken part in and heard television pundits discussing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University in New York City earlier today. Much like George W. Bush and most other American politicians of both major political parties, he was evasive, ignored questions he didn't want to respond to by answering questions that weren't asked and attempted to put himself in only a positive light. A great many Americans cannot conceal their hatred towards Ahmadinejad. Just for the record, I have no use for the guy either. In an earlier post dated September 22nd, I was quite clear when expressing what little regard I personally hold for the guy. So what. Ahmadinejad doesn't live his life hoping to gain my or your approval. He's an admitted anti-semitic, anti-democratic and anti human-rights leader of a repressive regime. This gives him an expansive forum in which to express his hate filled views. Americans, if nothing else, can relate to the majority of Iranians who think their president is a dangerous, semi-literate lunatic. A great many educated people don't like our president or their president. Is that justification for not allowing either one of them to speak? Allowing them the public stage to highlight their own ignorance is the best way to minimize their future impact.
If we only allow people whose views we share to speak out, then our government will officially cease being a democracy and morph into a dictatorship where Freedom of Speech will simply become speech. Instead of ignoring Ahmadinejad, listen carefully to what he says. Base your views on this guy by listening to him speak, as opposed to what you hear other people speak about him. That's what Freedom of Speech is. It emphasizes your freedom, by allowing you to embrace or denounce speech that democracy affords us. Narrow minded people have narrow, childish views. If you choose to align yourself with these people, eventually you'll become one of them. I'd rather align myself with all encompassing, educated views. I'll then be free to decide for myself which views I support and which views I don't.
There's an old saying that tells us "every man is my superior in that I may learn from him". If you don't understand or accept this sentiment, you've probably made the choice that you've finished learning and are now as bright and insightful as you're ever going to be. That's your choice. That's your individual way of expressing your Freedom of Speech. Just don't try to make it anybody else's way of life. I listened to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today. I'm not angry at what he said at Columbia. I'm happy he had the opportunity to demonstrate what a self-delusional, narrow minded dictatorial grape-nut he truly is. The Iranian President metaphorically hanged himself with his own words. I can't quite put my finger on who he reminds me of, but sadly, I'm thinking it will come flooding back to me the next time our American President exercises his FREE-DUMB of SPEECH.........
Posted by Veritas at 12:01 AM