Friday, September 19, 2008

Freedom of Speech

One of the blessings of living in this great country of ours is the freedom we have to say whatever we want without government stepping in to limit our expression. Many other countries are still fighting for this freedom and envy what we have.

Unfortunately, as we go about from day to day exercising this freedom of speech, we sometimes forget that having the freedom to say whatever we want does not extend to being rude about it. I enjoy using this blog as a medium to share my thoughts and feelings, and I'm entitled to do so because of the Constitution. However, the Constitution does not defend my right to call people names or blast them for their own beliefs -- that's because I don't have that right.

Freedom of speech does not negate the responsibility we each have as members of the human family to treat each other with respect. I might not agree with my Uncle Herman's politics, and I might tell him so, but that disagreement doesn't give me the right to attack him or his stand. I can tell him how I feel and we can enter into a lively debate about our differing positions, but personal attacks just aren't part of the deal.

Perhaps you know where I'm heading with this, which is to the topic of flaming comments on blogs. I find it interesting that we're all ready to cheer on the cause of freedom of speech until someone disagrees with us. I can't tell you how many times I've visited someone's blog, read an interesting post in which they put forth their thoughts or ideas on a topic, to find a string of commenters saying things like, "You're infringing on our rights by saying this." And when the owner of the blog expresses their belief that they have the right to share their opinions, the commenter replies, "But what about freedom of speech?"

Apparently, it's only freedom of speech if we agree with certain people.

As for myself, I'm a Mormon. I'm a woman. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I homeschool. I'm a Republican. I'm pro-life. I'm in favor of the war on terror. I support the Word of Wisdom, modesty, and driving mini-vans full of children. Yet whenever I speak up in defense of these things, I invariably get comments -- "You're a sheep. You're just following everyone else. You're not capable of independent thought."

On the other hand, when I hear someone talk about their rights to abortion, they are praised for being forward-thinking individuals.

Is it not possible that I decided for myself, as an individual, that I wanted to raise a mini-van full of children and vote Republican? I certainly did -- no one forced me in to that. It wasn't as if there was a flock of sheep running past and I looked out the window and said, "Look! Sheep! Must. Run. With. Them." No, the decisions I've made, I've made with my eyes wide open, my free will intact. And I speak about them. Often.

We're given choices in our lives. We choose, every minute of every day, how to live our lives. Your choices might not be the same as mine. You might choose to say different things than I say. But I hope that one of the choices we can both agree to make is to disagree politely, without attacking each other's intelligence or belitting. We should have more dignity than that.

19 comments:

DEe said...

I have noticed this same trend on blogs that I surf through lately, and I agree. There are many nice ways to disagree. Thank you for reminding us. I just started a blog and already I notice I tend to speak very openly about some intense feelings. It's hard for me to restrain. I hope I never offend.

Jennifer said...

Post on, Tristi! Post on.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Well said, Tristi. As for being a sheep, every one of the things you have chosen require commitment and hard work. If you wanted to be a sheep, wouldn't you just take the easy way out?

lachish said...

Amen, Sister. There is another thing that goes along with this. Americans in general, have become WAY too easily offended. I about puke every time I hear the media report: "Well so-and-so said this, and so-and-so is demanding an apology, because it offended them".

There can be a hundred different reasons why that person used the words they did. Maybe they ARE racist. But then again, maybe they just chose their words poorly. Or maybe they had no idea it would be taken that way. Or maybe they just thought they were being funny, when in fact it was a stupid thing to say.

I remember growing up hearing a family member say: "Well, that cotton-pickin' thing!" whenever they were mad at something, typically an inanimate object. And I always thought it was just an expression used to avoid using profanity. I had no idea the phrase was loaded.

For those who "make a man an offender for a word", I say, get a grip on yourself.

Here is a word for America: CHARITY.

Be nice. Say nice things. But when you think somebody else is not being nice, because you have been offended, do you remember those times when you stuck your own foot in your own mouth? If you do, then let this person remove their foot from their mouth as gracefully as possible. Stop being so easy to offend. You can ignore them, stop reading their stuff, turn the channel, or even leave the conversation. There is no reason to flame them.

My mom always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Sounds good to me.

I completely agree with you Tristi.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

I agree with you with regards to the freedom of speech. We all have the right to our own opinions, and we should all respect each other's opinions. Respect means not attacking each other personally and also not trying to force one's views onto someone else. For example, I'm a democrat, not a republican, and the two of us probably disagree on most political points (except that I'm pro-life) but I would never dream of telling you that you're a glittering jewel of arrogant ignorance, a statement which has been recently applied to "all liberals" on another blog. That statement, I imagine, would go against the idea of our responsibility to treat each other with respect. Why, just because I am "liberal," should I be considered less of a human being? I think statements like that are wrong, and unkind. But then again, I respect that the person who wrote that has the right to say such things. People are allowed to state things that I disagree or don't like. And I like that freedom. I'm proud to have it in our country.

violetlady said...

Thank you, Tristi. So very well said. I actually had someone tell me yesterday that if I loved my grandsons I wouldn't vote for ____. Can you believe the gall??

Dan and Wendy said...

You know, I frequently find that those that most loudly scream that I need to be more tolerant of their views, are the same ones that are intolerant of mine.

Sarah Palin chose to have five children. If she's a good mother, more power to her. I read an article this week that talked about her, "Hillbilly fecundity." Now granted, that phrase has had me laughing all week, but I don't see how pro-abortionists get off with attacking her personally.

Just my two cents.

Keith Fisher said...

Great points. and if I want to be a democrat who worries about obama, I can make that choice for myself too. Seriously, I agree with your points, I would add that some people are not really offended they are just mean spirited and use the offence card because they can.

Lee Ann Setzer said...

The part about all this that drives me up a wall is how easily my _children_ feel they have the right to be offended for a word. I'm pretty sure they didn't get that from their parents--it's in the air they breathe, and it's poison, for them and everyone else.

Stephanie Abney said...

Great post, Tristi ~
Especially during Constitution Week. I'm grateful for the blessings of choice this country still allows us as choice is in harmony with the gospel. Heavenly Father gives us the right to choose ~ and frankly, your choices are right in line with my own, but even if they weren't, we need to allow everyone their opinions and their choices without stooping to such nonsense as calling people who make certain choices "sheep." I'll end with that because you have already done such an eloquent job of writing about it.

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

Well said, Tristi! And whenever I hear the sheep comment, it makes me laugh because, while I don't believe I'm a "sheep" for the reasons they imply--I simply, truly, honestly believe what I stand for--I do WANT to be a "sheep" in relation to who stands on the Lord's right side. Who wants to be the rebellious, headstrong, and disobedient goats (I own goats and know this is exactly what they're like) who occupy the left? Not me.

Josi said...

I don't mind being a sheep when the herd is going the right way :-) Great post, Tristi, we have the right to say whatever we want, but we should have the humanity to say what we want to say with enough kindness that the words are not lost in the anger.

Amanda said...

Ronda, was it really necessary to insult the "left" in order to say what you have to say? What I got out of Tristi's post was that "we sometimes forget that having the freedom to say whatever we want does not extend to being rude about it." It makes me so sad to see people tossing around these insults generically just because they don't agree with the other person's beliefs.

Shellie said...

I totally agree with that sentiment, and we do really have the right to free speech, even if it is RUDE speech, however, those that choose to use rude insulting speech are just tacky.....Is that rude? I didn't MEAN it that way. Lighten up, America!!!!

Framed said...

How do you change a person's beliefs by attacking them or by being rude? It just makes you dig in more and maybe retaliate. It would be nice if we could enjoy the wonderful variety that exists in this country. But I've also learned as a single LDS woman to not be easily offended. And as a mostly Republican (I like Jim Mathison, gasp), I confess a part of my life was lived as a "goat." I'm reformed, but I find goats in every party. What is the criteria to be a sheep?? I was a divorced, working mother, only had two children, didn't drive a mini-van, homeschooling scares me as does the thought of remarriage; but I do try to follow the teachings of the Savior and to listen to the counsel of the prophet. I'm just a nice independent cat.

I also find it interesting that most of the really rude comments I read on blogs are done anonymously. What's up with that?

Jenna Consolo said...

Very well said.

Marsha Ward said...

Amanda, I believe Ronda was referring to a passage from the Bible (sheep on the Lord's right hand, goats on the left), not meaning to be insulting to those whose political leanings are characterized as "left."

Amanda said...

Ah, my mistake. I hope you're right Marsha. :) People deserve to be on whatever side of politics they believe in without being called less of a human being, less of a Christian, etc.

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